Thursday, March 25, 2010

Through Pores and Sinews

Sit out by night within the tall grass and listen to it grow. There is a fire within all things and you may warm yourself before it. Sit with your back upright and behold in silence. Bathe in life-force (hael) and feel the good of the creatures about you. Watch diligently and ward off any evil powers.

We were taught these truths by our First Teacher. Observe the heavens, watch the stars. Imbibe wisdom, craft gnomic proverbs that hold good sense in their pithy riddles, and share them with each other. Ride into the forests and lie still with the birds.

Within all things is a spirit pledged to the All-Mother. Your community is wider than you think. Veiztu, ef þú vin átt, þann er þú vel trúir, ok vilt þú af hánum gótt geta, geði skaltu við þann blanda ok gjöfum skipta, fara at finna oft, Havamal 44. "Know thou, if thou hast a friend, whom thou trusteth well, and thou wishest to get good from him, thou shalt blend minds with him and exchange gifts, fare to meet often." Sifjum er þá blandat,hver er segja ræðr einum allan hug, Havamal 124. "There is a blending of affinity, where one can speak all the rede of one's heart." Blend your mind with those spirits who surround you, the náttúra, and wisdom shall seep up through your pores and sinews.

World-Renewal Ceremonies in Norse Tradition

"We never had any "world-renewal ceremonies" in Norse tradition."


Þat ræð ek þér it níunda, at þú náum bjargir, hvars þú á foldu finnr, hvárts eru sóttdauðir eða eru sædauðir eða eru vápndauðir verar. Laug skal gera, þeim er liðnir eru, þváa hendr ok höfuð, kemba ok þerra, áðr í kistu fari, ok biðja sælan sofa. (Sigrdrifumal 35, 36.)

"Ninthly, I advise thee, help the dead (by giving them last services), wherever you find them on the earth, whereever they are dead from sickness or the sea or from weapons. A bath shall be made [some read "Haug" instead of "Laug", making this, a mound or tomb shall be prepared] and they shall be laid therein, their hands and head washed, combed and dried, before they fare into the coffin, and pray they sleep in happiness."

Þá verðr ok þat, at Naglfar losnar, skip þat, er svá heitr. Þat er gert af nöglum dauðra manna, ok er þat fyrir því varnanar vert, ef maðr deyr með óskornum nöglum, at sá maðr eykr mikit efni til skipsins Naglfars, er goðin ok menn vildi seint, at gert yrði. (Gylfaginning 51.)

"Then it happens that Naglfar loosens, that ship which is so called. That is made from the nails of dead men, and because of this it is worth guarding against, for if a man die with unshorn nails, such a man carries much material for the ship Naglfar, which Gods and men want long-delayed before it is said to be made."

Whenever the dead are found, no matter where they are found on earth, men are to help them by bathing them, combing their hair, cutting their nails, placing them in a coffin, and wishing them a blessed sleep.

Whenever this is not done, whereever men are so evil that they show no reverence for the dead, foe or friend, material is laid for that great ship which will carry Muspell's Sons across the waters to Ragnarok.

En þegar eftir snýst fram Víðarr ok stígr öðrum fæti í neðri kjöft úlfsins. Á þeim fæti hefir hann þann skó, er allan aldr hefir verit til samnat. Þat eru bjórar þeir, er menn sníða ór skóm sínum fyrir tám eða hæli. Því skal þeim bjórum braut kasta sá maðr, er at því vill hyggja at koma ásunum at liði. (Gylfaginning 51.)

"But immediately after Vidarr turns forward and trods his other foot onto the lower jaw of the wolf. On this foot he has that shoe, which all men/ages has gathered together. Those are the triangular cut-off pieces of skin which men cut out of their shoes from the toes and heels. Because of this, any man who wants in his heart to come to the aid of the Aesir shall cast off these cut-off pieces of hide."

As many know, castoff leather can be made into a decent material for shoes or clothing, and the term "castoff" or "castaway" has long been a name for second-hand clothing. So apparently here we realize that those who give away their scraps of leather to the less fortunate strengthen and thicken the shoe that Vidarr will place in the mouth of the wolf.

Here we have two practices whose prevalence or negligence directly affects the outcome of Ragnarok. Were people to always treat the dead with respect, Naglfar would never be completed, and either would not be able to set sail, or would sink midway. Were people to always be charitable to those less fortunate, and Vidarr's shoe would be so thick he would never suffer injury, and who knows? perhaps be able to actually pull his father out of the belly of the beast.

In my last post I spoke of "hints" in the lore that illuminate it and open up new windows that have become dusted over. These are such hints. These hints directly speak of practices which preserve the world from destruction. The word siðr encompasses both practices and ceremonies, tradition and religious customs.

Thus, there was a tradition of world-renewing practices within old Norse faith, and thus the category is not the null-set. Because the set has more members than zero, and at least two, our eyes should be open to other hints that may whisper at us about renewal and world-renewal inherent to our ancient ceremonies.

Vilhelm Gronbech has suggested that the sacrifice at blot recapitulated the original sacrifice of Ymir that began the creation of the world, and thus replicated its hael. As he puts it, "The sacrifice brought about a rebirth of life; the worshippers renewed their hamingja or luck, and this renewal implied that the world was created afresh, that the “usefulness' – benevolence, fertility of nature – was called into new life. Through the blot this fair earth with its leaping and flying and growing beings and the heavens with sun and moon, light and heat were saved from falling into the hands of the demons and turning unheore; in the language of myth: the world is won from the giants, rising fresh and strong out of their death." More specifically, he points out, "Ymir's death is an ancient sacrificial myth that reads like the programme of a creation play; the wording of the legend still bears the impress of its dramatic setting: the gods carried Ymir to Ginnungagap and placed him in the middle of the vast abyss....a general statement of a symbolical creation ceremony implicit in the cutting up of the victim and its preparation for being cooked."

Lo and behold, truths begin to blossom out from their enfolded place within the lore, implicate but ready to emerge. When we hear other indigenous folk speak of world-renewing ceremonies, we can nod our head and know of what they speak, for our good deeds also make the difference, and the cheer we share with the Gods at our feasts cheers them as well and gives them strength to knock down and keep bound the monsters who would tumble this world back down into the abyss. And with frequent cheer and celebration, solemn and mirthful, we must come.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Give the Hints their Proper Measure

Occasionally, I have read someone, puffed up with their knowledge, and in contemptuous response to someone making comparison with another indigenous tradition, say, "We didn't have that in the Norse tradition."

How the fuck would you know?


Return to reality. Glosecki quite accurately points out that our literature postdates the migrations, and thus represents echoes, not firsthand reports, of the worldview of our ancestors. These are real but oblique glimpses of the truly shamanic, animist reality our pre-migration ancestors were immersed in.

There are technologies now whereby a distorted and distal reflection in someone's sunglasses, or on a plate of glass can be computer-enhanced and reconstructed. Within a crime scene photo, such details may be very subtle and quite dwarfed by all of the rest of the detail which is relatively insignificant. But that one, small glimpse may be the key to reconstructing something which happened in the vicinity.

The shamanic echoes we find in the lore are precisely analogous to that. If you tried to put them statistically in their place --- "These are minor tidbits compared to the rest of what has come down to us" --- you would be making the same mistake as ignoring the distorted reflections in favor of the rest of the mundane, insignificant details at the crime scene.

Indigenous systems worldwide share many common characteristics. They are not all the same, but on a broad scale, if not the level of detail, there are many commonalities. There is absolutely no reason to assume that Norse-Teutonic tribal culture, pre-Roman and pre-Migrations, was any different. In fact, the only reason for even presenting such a laughable, pitiful case of special pleading would be a remainder of 19th and early 20th century racist nationalism, which attempted to argue the absolute uniqueness of one's own ancestors over and above those of anyone else. That is the only bias which could blind one's eyes to the obvious realities.

We have enough hints to know things were a part of our ancient culture in common with other indigenous peoples, and these hints are the gold we're panning for amidst the sand. We know that women observed the eddies of rivers, and listened to the murmurs of the streams, and from this divined what was happening in their world. We know this because Plutarch tells us in his Life of Caesar.

You may say, this is a small detail in a vast sagaic literature, and by a foreigner, no less.

But it is that kind of small detail which is the key to unlocking a vast treasure hoard that otherwise remains closed and opaque to us. From that single detail alone, an entire world of color and vibrancy opens up. If that had been the only detail that had survived, it would be the only detail we need.

Fortunately, it's not the only detail. We find these kinds of echoes all throughout the literature, foremost of which, in case you really needed to be slapped across the face with it, is the fact that our All-Father underwent a classic shamanic ordeal. Shamanism -- yes, let's say it, shamanism -- is written all over this tradition, and what that means is that the mundane remembrances of heathen times recorded by Christians in the 1200s, 1300s, 1400s --- two to four hundred years after heathenism had been overcome by Christianity --- valuable as they are, do not accurately reflect the full animism of our fully tribalized, pre-Roman, pre-Migration ancestors. Rather, the Icelandic Sagas are one more stream that has flowed down to us, but must be interpreted properly (and not literally) in order to be placed back into their native place. Besides, the Sagas themselves contain hints enough.

We can collect these hints and place them in an indigenous context. We should do so according to a principle of concentric rippling, beginning our comparisons with other Indo-European cultures such as the Vedic and Avestan cultures, while also taking into our sweep the Saami and Finnish neighboring non-Indo-European cultures, and rippling out from there. At the farthest ripples, we will still find resonances that embrace cultures far and wide. That is good! That allows our particularity to touch our universality, of which we have both!

What this means is that many people who are presently ridiculed as "Wiccatru" or derided as "mere" "Northern shamans" may actually be more on the right track than those who puff themselves up as more "historically accurate". Why?

Because those fetishizing "historical accuracy" are coming almost entirely from a completely externalist approach which is Roman in origin and modern in full development, and is foreign to our ancestors, who combined the external and the internal. These pompous would-be scholars attempt to imprison our tradition within wordloc, a type of logic that is not native to our folk, and which approaches things entirely from the outside. These people so distrust intuition and imagination that they confuse well-developed, properly tested imagination with the juvenile flights of fancy of novices, and thus end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

On the other hand, those who trust their indigenous intuition and run with their hints might not precisely match portraits drawn up by Christian descendants of heathens three hundred years after their temples were torn down (and really? how much detail about temple life has passed down? how much about what happened at sacrifice and ceremony? A couple meagre paragraphs at best? whose accuracy is certainly not guaranteed, as many scholars think these may be the fancies of Christians?), but they may accurately reproduce the spirit of the tribal animism of our ancestors.

"I can prove that Vikings were not tribal animists!!!" Can you, now? Well, what would that prove? The Viking period is a late one within the pagan history of Scandinavia, impacted by Rome, stimulated by Carolingian and possibly Muslim influences into internal political turmoil, and represents the end-point but not the Golden Age of the heathen culture. It thus preserves for us remnants of what these people could preserve --- mainly in their mythic forms (and the Poetic Edda preserves quite an archaic and powerful mythic system) --- with other pictures of everyday life being remnants of remnants : again, recollected after the fact by descendants of a different faith. Now this is not to impugn the fidelity of an intact oral tradition, but the change in faith hardly made it completely intact. We still are astounded by how much was preserved, and ought to be grateful, but not in order to become literalists, but to take the hints as riddles, and solve them the way a riddle ought to be solved -- animistically!

I'll be the first one to agree that the UPG of many heathens is wildly unlikely and represents first babysteps of fancy elevated to some kind of Gods-given dogma, when it really ought to be taken as mere first steps on the path towards authentic intuition. A lot of this deserves the frankly baffled raised eyebrows it receives. I have heard things that seemed wildly unbelted.

Nevertheless, this does not mean it is valid to eliminate the spirit from our reconstructions of the faith and folkways of our ancestors, because their ways cannot be understood from an entirely externalist standpoint, nor from a standpoint which exclusively begins with externals and tries to infer its way inwards. That is one necessary direction, but the other direction is to move from within outwards. Unless both motions are made, the results will not be faithful.

This is not about throwing out rationality and evidence. It's about knowing how to use rationality and evidence from a more wholistic perspective which puts things in their proper place and proportion.

There's going to be times when you see something in another indigenous tradition, and you're going to know, to know, in your heart, that your ancestors did the same thing, or at least something very similar in spirit. Ignore such messages to your peril.

All of this is meant to awaken something within you, not to bridle your nose like a monk to some parchment. There are times a resonance is going to touch you, and bring something alive within the tradition that no scholar can trace, because that scholar is working from fragmentary records. Now this doesn't mean a free-for-all, nor does it mean that first impressions ought to be taken as final facts. There is a way to test intuitions over time and let them fully mature. I have explored that before in a post about gnosis and will likely do so again. But the only way for those intuitions to mature is to not dismiss them, and to take them as important, to understand that they are hints that lead somewhere, or seeds that will sprout into something significant.

Once the truly indigenous ancestral tradition, of which we have only traces, hints, and remnants, comes alive within us, our heathen ceremonies and culture will likely look much different than they do today, and undoubtedly different than the blurred half-mentions in the sagas, and yet, they will be fully authentic, and moreover, we will have an opportunity to take them to a new blossoming, for we are not condemned to be a cargo cult repeating over and over the words of Icelandic scribes, but have been blessed with the potential to grow and develop these seeds into a lush and fragrant garden that matches the dispensation of wyrd in our time. Some of this will match our records, much of it will herald back to that pre-Roman animism grasped obliquely in the records, and some of it will be entirely new, and completely genuine.

Tradition is about life. It is not about collecting fossils into museums. If you do not hold the fossil in your hands and let your spirit soar, so that the spirit that once inhabited those bones may speak or squirm or somehow become present, what will you have? Did our ancestors bow down before stones? Or before that which was within and inherent in the stones?

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Heimdall

Heimdall sits upright, always awake and watching, against the end of heaven, listening to grass grow and wool grow on sheep. There, watching, he is peaceful and at ease, and sees everything in front of him. Once, he came amongst men and gave them good counsels, raising leaders familiar with spirituality (runes of eternity) and pragmatic wisdom (runes of men). Because of his formative influence on religion, he is said to rule the temples, where an eternal flame always sits.

It would seem the pragmatic wisdom related to agriculture (the sheaf of grain he brought), artisanship (the tools he brought), homemaking and the hearth (the fire he brought), and defense of the folk (the shield he brought).

Three of Heimdall's epithets (Heimdali, Veður, and Hallinskíði) all refer to a "ram", which strongly suggests he was imagined in terms of a ram. A ram is the leader of a sheep-pack, the natural shepherd of the herd. He is thus a kind of good shepherd of men.

Heimdall is the Warrior Buddha of the Norse tradition, the Surak who brought us logic, the Father of all, High and Low. He is the presence in the fire, the watcher behind and within the sacrifice, the first Gothi of men in times of old.

Teacher, Counselor, Shepherd

We were in darkness and he brought light. Cold and near witless, he warmed our souls with reason. Before he came, we saw only dimly ; after he arrived, we began to see with clarity. Always watching, he taught us to watch as well. Full of blazing glory, he bridged the gap between heaven and earth and taught us how to speak with Holy Powers. Before his arrival, we wondered at every thing in the world ; after he came, he brought us true knowledge of things. From the most ancient of songs we call upon him in every public assembly, for light, and logic, and lore he taught and established of old.

His ways were forgotten by many who have fallen into darkness, who have called upon the monsters of the marsh and frost in despair, who have deformed themselves through fear, through greed, through angst and envy, and we were told, these fallen brothers must be brought back into the fold, for they too have the divine spark, although they have obscured it ; therefore, they will serve, and in serving win back their honor and burn off the dross which has covered their inner light.

He came to us over the sea, bearing tools, and grain, and fire. He walked amongst us and raised leaders. Long he lived and lingered amongst us, then down to the sea, long life over, and upon the waves we sent him back to the holy Gods of the West who sent him long ago.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Recels : Teutonic Smudging Customs

Did the Teutonic tribes smudge themselves with incense and smoke to ward off ill and bring about healing? Indeed they did. Our references are sparse, but very real. We find, geréc þone man mid þám wyrtum, "smoke that man with the herbs" (Bald's Leechbook, III.62), and recelsa hine, "fumigate him" (Bald's Leechbook, III. 61.)

Amongst the plants mentioned for fumigation are fennel, wormwood, hops, vervain, bilberry shoots, betony, leeks, garlic, enchanter's nightshade, and burdock. (Henbane and corn cockle are also mentioned, but these could have powerful toxic effects and are probably best avoided except by a skilled pharmacist.) Vervain, leeks, garlic, betony, fennel, and wormwood are all herbs traditionally used to ward off negative entities and sorcery. Enchanter's nightshade has strong associations with magic. Hops is a sedative (usually used to flavor beer) which smoked brings a slight euphoric effect. Since this mixture was recommended for those bewitched or subject to nightmares, it was probably a powerful warding-off fumigation ; less potent mixtures could be derived for lesser conditions.

These are the plants mentioned for encounters with elves and other night-goers, but this is probably a small sample of a much larger base. Indeed, within the leech-books we find many other herbs that would be suitable for smudging. Wormwood points to the Artemisia family which includes mugwort, one of the nine holy herbs of Woden, as well as the American sagebrush. Since many of the plants are warding-off herbs, one might well substitute local herbs known for this purpose as well. Nothing prevents one, for example, so long as one is respectful to the plant and to the land, from using white sage as a smudge. Rosemary was also used. The Stockholm Herbal of medieval provenance states that rosemary "kepyth hym fro thresse", "protects him from thurs", malicious giant-folk. St. John's Wort, most probably an herb of Baldur, was burned to purify and strengthen animals at Midsummer. The possibilities are only limited by the wisdom of your leechdom. Utilize rede and care in selecting your best choice.

There is a specific procedure mentioned in Bald's Leechbook, III.62 for preparing the smudge : do aelcre handfulle . bebind ealle þa wyrta on claþe bedyp on fontwaetre gehalgodum þriwa . Eft wit þon, lege under weofod þas wyrte laet gesingan ofer, "Take a handful of each, bind all of the herbs in cloth, dip into hallowed spring-water three times. After this, against that (illness), lay these herbs under an altar and let them be sung over."

So, when a smudge is to be made, a handful of each of the herbs is to be bound up within a cloth, and then dipped into hallowed water three times. Then they should be laid upon a horg, an altar, and galdur (prayers, hymns, enchantments) should be sung over them. They are then ready to fumigate.

Both the individual and the entire house may be fumigated. In fact, an almost sauna or sweat-lodge like procedure is described. 7 þonne he restan wille haebbe gleda þaerinne lege stor 7 alfþonan on ta gleda . 7 rec hine mid þaet he swaete 7 þaet hus geond rec, "And when he wishes to rest, have coals brought in there and lay incense and elfthon on the coals, and fumigate him with that so he sweats and fumigate around the house."

Since fire is being utilized, Heimdall in particular ought to be invoked, with the prayers and intentions being carried up to the rest of the Gods in the smoke, and Heimdall's warding powers to keep away ill wights, and enhance discernment and perception, specifically called in. In my experience, smudges have powerful Qi or maegen, and you might be surprised as you pass the smoking bundle over your body how prominently you feel the energy or power passing over you.

Smudging can be a powerful way of consecrating and warding a space. We know that fire was often carried around a piece of land to hallow it and banish ill wights. Thialfi, Thor's servant, is spoken of as carrying fire around an enchanted island that constantly sunk into the ocean, and in so doing, preserving it from that witchcraft, and rescuing it from the realm of utgard to a place of inhabitation. Many Teutonic temples kept an eternal fire burning. Thus fire and smoke have hallowed associations in Teutonic lore, and are most appropriate for healing.

Models of Health

It's really important in life to surround yourself with models of health. This doesn't mean putting your head in the sand and ignoring that which is bad. But when it comes to the point that most of what is coming before your eyes are examples of the sad, the broken, and the wicked, it can have a tremendous demoralizing effect. Sometimes modern life can be so degenerate it can be quite a challenge to surround yourself with models of health, but surround yourself you must if you hope to be healthy yourself.

This doesn't mean perfect, of course. We're not discussing puritanism here. Just healthy.

News and doom-sayers often conspire to surround us with examples of degeneration. There is a legitimate place for prophetic critique and calling-out, but far more important is to praise, emulate, and admire that which is going right, that which is doing well, that which abides in good. Too much immersion in news of crime and corruption can poison you. Standing in the shadow of great trees a small tree can grow well.

Go where there are pockets of good. Even if at times it seems as if only pockets remain in the world, go where it is good, because from good places, a dessicated world can regenerate itself. That is how physical ecologies are regenerated. That is how spiritual ecologies are regenerated.

When I am around good people, I feel better myself. I am reminded of the value of good. I am reminded of good's power in this world. Remember, where there is good, the Gods are not far away. Surround yourself with models of health. It will make you healthier.

On Original Nature

That we have an original nature (orlog) is of the greatest import.

How we meet events (wyrd) is also of import. Those events we are able to meet with the force of our orlog, so they co-shape each other in activity rather than passivity, bring out our original nature in better ways than when we are passively molded. This factor makes every bit of difference --- thus, the emphasis on daring, boldness, etc. The attitude with which you meet events is decisive.

Some say events are mirrors of ourselves. This is not precisely true. Often they are distorted "fun house" mirrors, and must be reshaped by our hands, our cognition, our memory, to take their proper shape. Events reflect not only our personal history, but the history of those to whom we connect ourselves (friends, family, neighbours, associates, region, nation). This is the realm of the influence of lineage. Wyrd is elliptically concentric in its flow-forms, and thus both personal and collective.

It is important to keep returning to the original layer (orlog), or original nature. If we return only to events, we remain superficial. Recollection and reminiscence may serve us if we recall empowering times and good events to glean not only their developmental history, but the quality with which we met these events, and how our own nature touched, shaped, and made these events the good experiences they were. In this way, events may lead us back to our original nature rather than orienting us as entirely externally-locused beings. Good times were not just times that happened to us -- they were times when we were able to bring a good quality of ourselves to events, and in so blending, to make them somewhat our own. True, some events and people allow or welcome this to happen, and some don't, but those who don't reveal themselves as foreign to us in the strictest sense, and therefore those with whom we have no business interacting.

Learning those boundaries --- where we belong and where we don't (and assuming we belong everywhere is an imperialist folly) --- would seem to be essential in cultivating luck. Events or people who are truly foreign to us (not in an external sense, but an internal and essential sense) therefore come to us as tests of discernment, to see whether we will alienate our own natures in meeting them.

We often blend with others. The chemical combinations, if you will, can be empowering, interesting, and altogether enhancing, or they can be destructive, corrosive, and subtly but gradually disconfirming. The experience of difference itself, therefore, is not inherently alienating, although sometimes we must shift our perspective or preconceptions in order to meet it properly. Difference may change us in a transformative sense, drawing out new qualities in our original matrix we never knew or faintly suspected, and these can be wondrous. This is an example of becoming (wyrd) birthing or greening our original matrix (orlog). But if we must actually alienate our own natures in order to meet something or someone, then it is too foreign, and we have put ourselves into peril. That we have a nature does not mean we are inflexible, but it does mean we are not infinitely elastic. Things have their limits. Some things are too far for who we are.

Things that are foreign to our very nature are not bad in and of themselves per se, but they are bad for us, and to be kept at an appropriate distance, even if intriguing, alluring, or in fact lovely. Some things were fated for us and some were not, and if we violate our own nature out of coveting --- a desire to grasp that which is not essentially or properly our own --- it is we who will suffer the consequences, and they can sometimes be severe.

How will we know? The little voice, those slender, subtle feelings spoken by the fylgia. That inner sense we so often, so habitually and regularly ignore, suppress, explain away. It is not the sense of good or evil per se. It is the sense, to sound a little stuffy in a modern context, of propriety : of belonging or not-belonging. Our ability to sense and navigate boundaries is highly relevant here. Event-potentials foreign to our own nature may be lovely, but not for-us all the same. Therefore, the other may not radiate ill intent or ill nature, but the outcome may still be ill for us (or both of us) if we do not listen to that sense of belonging or not-belonging. Things co-belong or they do not co-belong. The proper perspective here is that expressed by Captain Kirk : "There are a million things you can have in this world and a million things you can't. It's no fun that way, but that's the way it is." This is the proper perspective precisely because it expands our sense of all that truly is waiting out there for us to discover, which is within our proper and lawful grasp, while at the same time separating us from that which is not in our lawful and allotted grasp. Here our concept of "lawful grasp" connects to the sense that orlog is our original law, laying out what is lawful for us and what is not, what belongs and what does not, which is the nature of having a nature.

Now when we find those with whom or which we do co-belong, there is a synergy which is very akin to what we call luck. Mutual enhancement of powers and possibilities takes place. This has aptly been called "mutual aid". Gronbech, rightly in my opinion, points out that this synergy could be formed with animals, plants, stones, indeed, the very land itself, and in fact, it might be said that luck with the land is the very character and essence of odal, the strongest land-rights known to the Teutons, kindred-land subject to no superior power or taxation. When beings synergistically share their properties, their powers of fruition become greater than the sum of the parts.

The guiding animal whispers, "This is your nature." She sings, "This is your song." This will be your nature (orlog) : can you cleave to it despite the vicissitudes of experience (wyrd) which will test you? Can you hold to it so wyrd brings out rather than warps your true nature? And can you heal from hapless happenings that warp you? And if you will listen to her soft, still voice, she will guide you to those beings with whom you belong, where you will find your luck. It may take time, but if you follow your original nature, you will prosper eventually, in that way meant just for you, and those with whom you belong, for nature, if we will follow her (we, the easily distracted and enchanted), is bounteous.

What Can One Learn From Saxo?

If no other mythological records existed, and we had to derive all our knowledge of Norse mythology and cosmology from the records Saxo Grammaticus left us in the Gesta Danorum, it turns out that we could learn a great deal. Witness :

1. The Gods consist of a divine senate led by a magistrate or priest, first of equals, named Odin, a tall, old man with one eye and a flying horse, skilled in the arts of war and sorcery, who is married to Frigg, his queen. The Gods include Thor, Baldur, Hodur, Frey, Ullr's mother, a champion of great rank who is an expert in duelling and always victorious (Tyr), and apparently Syr (Freya), Odr, and Lytir (Heimdall).

2. The Gods' enemies are giants, against whom the Gods, who were tremendous sorcerers, once fought great wars, but eventually won the sovereignty. The Gods' enemies include one Loki, who is associated with ravenous beasts, a trickster who is in cahoots with evil sorcerors, and a handmaiden of Freya's who was secretly working for the giants, to whom she betrayed her. Thus both Frey and Freya ended up in the hands of giants at one point in time, while their father fought great naval battles in search of them. There was a time when great famine and change of weather came upon the land for some time, and the jotunn King Snow ruled over the land. Eventually Freya was rescued by her beloved Odr, whom she married.

3. The Underworld is divided into two parts, a place of punishment for the monsters, centered on a foggy, smoky city of the damned filled with giants and ghouls, and guarded by fierce dogs (in which can be found the giant Geirrod and his daughters, slain by Thor, as well as Utgard-Loki), and a place of sunlight and nobility, fields of bliss. The places of punishment include a house filled with snakes (Nastrond), and in the places of bliss warriors stage a tournament each day. The Underworld includes a well surrounded by great treasures. Travel to the Underworld requires a journey North by ocean to places of ice, down through darkness and fog into a great abyss. There are places of resurrection there where the dead receive new life. The Underworld experiences opposite seasons to those on earth. The Underworld is filled with delicious foods and beautiful women who erase all memories of sorrow.

4. Kings ruled by the consent of the people, and were installed to protect their lives and property. The people were quite jealous of their rights and freedoms.

There is no reason to think Saxo's contribution incomplete. In fact, it completes much of what is missing in Snorri, and indeed, Saxo seems to have had access to poets and writings that Snorri does not, because while Snorri seems to think that the Underworld is a gloomy, cold place, Saxo clearly differentiates this one half of the Underworld from its sunnier portions. In fact, in this sense, if Saxo had been the only record to survive, our picture of the heathen afterlife would be far more accurate.

All of this is just skimming the surface of the rich material Saxo provides. When one applies the principle of polynymy to a comparative analysis of variant tales within his work, a history of the first patriarchs from the time of Scef may be constructed, a rich description of the Van-As War revealed (clothed in folkloric storytelling), a background of supernaturally-stirred strife between Hodur and Baldur exposed, and the entirety of Freyr's mythology uncovered. Saxo's work is rife with heathen proverbs and poems.

Many who neglect Saxo or dismiss his work as incoherent folklore vainly becry all of our lost stories, yet herein many may be restored. Saxo is not a source secondary to Snorri ; the Gesta Danorum, properly interpreted, remains a source of prime value, second only to the heathen poems of the Elder Edda.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Freya's Odal

Freya has a large, landed estate in heaven called "The Meadow of the Folk" [1]. This is a tremendous farmstead surrounded by an enclosure of flickering flame that it itself alive and intelligent [2], letting in only the deserving, and as it gleams against the golden walls spreads a golden sheen upon all the lands therein. Here she ræður og ríki hefur, "rules and holds power"[3]. Within this immense meadow is a mountain, upon which grow healing herbs [4], and considered beloved to Freya. Upon the mountain sits a grand and beautiful palace with broad and ample seats [5] which is called "Good Cheer" [6] and brightens all who see it with smiles [7]. She chooses which of the fallen shall come and sit in this regal hall of hers [8], although amongst the living it will forever be known only by hearsay or as in a dream [9]. In this palace, she sits fast upon a throne [10], below which powerful goddesses, including the herbal physician of the Gods named Eir, sit at her knee and attend her [11], meeting in council to help settle disputes [12]. Here she is known as "The Bride Praised by All the Nations" [13], and glows bright like the sun [14]. The mountain upon which her Palace of Good Cheer sits is filled with such healing herbs that it is a delight to all who are sick or sore, and those women who can climb it are made whole no matter what ails them [15]. It is implied that women might send forth their souls in seid to visit Freya here and learn healing herbs to make sicknesses whole [16]. The Goddesses who attend Freya in her palace are capable of saving any one who worships them by delivering them from perilous situations or out of the bondage of ogres [17].

The Goddesses who attend her have names which indicate their qualities and that which they rule over. Their names include Protector, She-Who-Shelters-the-Rageful, She-Who-Wards-the-Nation, Bright, Blithe, Peaceful, and Mild [18].

Freya is not to be gainsayed. She shares half the dead with Odin himself, powerful goddesses sit at her knee and advise her in council, and even Thor cannot tell her what to do. In Thrymskvida 14, when he tried to do so, Reið varð þá Freyja ok fnasaði, allr ása salr undir bifðisk, "(So) wrathful did Freya become that she snorted with rage and all the halls of the Aesir shook beneath her." Where she rules, let none try to give her command, for she is undisputed here. So shall it be till the end of things. And for all time shall she be praised. Blessed are they who glimpse even in dream those wondrous halls! Blessed are lovers who find their mates beneath her loving gaze!


[1] Gylfaginning 24 : Hon á þann bæ á himni, er Fólkvangr heitir, "She has that estate in heaven, which is called Folkvang ["Meadow of the Folk"] ; Grimnisal 14, Fólkvangr ... þar Freyja ræðr sessa kostum í sal, "Mead of the Folk ... there Freya rules, choosing seats in the hall."

[2] Fjolsvinnsmal 31 : salur ... er slunginn er vísum vafurloga, "hall which is encircled by the wise wavering-flame".

[3] Fjolsvinnsmal 8.

[4] Fjolsvinnsmal 35 - 36 : bjarg heitir ... Lyfjaberg, "the mountain is called ... The Mountain of Healing Herbs".

[5] Gylfaginning 24 : Salr hennar Sessrúmnir, hann er mikill ok fagr, "Her hall is Ample/Spacious/Broad-Seated, and it is mighty and fair."

[6] Fjolsvinnsmal 31 - 32 : salur heitir ... Hýr, "The hall is called "Good Cheer" / "Friendly" / "Pleasant" / "Mild" / "Smiling"."

[7] Ibid.

[8] Gylfaginning 24 : á hon hálfan val, en hálfan Óðinn, "to her half the fallen, and half to Odin" ; Grimnisal 14, hálfan val hún kýss hverjan dag, "half the fallen she chooses every day".

[9] Fjolsvinnsmal 32, auðranns þess munu um aldur hafa frétt eina firar, "This wealthy-house shall forever be had by hearsay alone amongst people." Frétt can also refer to inquiring of the Gods about the future, and thus has a prophetic or dreamlike sense to it ; thus, "shall forever be had by hearsay or prophecy alone amongst (living) people."

[10] Fjolsvinnsmal 35, bjarg ... er eg sé brúði ... þruma, "the rock ... where I see the bride ... sitting."

[11] Fjolsvinnsmal 37 - 38, meyjar ... er fyr Menglaðar knjám sitja sáttar saman ... heitir ... Eir..., "maidens ... who in front of Menglad's knee sit together peacefully ... are called ... [amongst other names] Eir" ; Gylfaginning 35, Eir ... er læknir beztr, "Eir ["Mild/Gentle/Honorable", cognate of Anglo-Saxon ár, "honor/respect/reverence/kindness/mercy/help/favor"] is the best of (herbal) physicians".

[12] Fjolsvinnsmal 37, meyjar ... er fyr Menglaðar knjám sitja sáttar saman, "the maidens ... who in front of Menglad's knee sit and settle disputes together". Sáttar can mean that they sit together peacefully, or that they settle disputes together ; the word literally means to settle or come to an agreement.

[13] Fjolsvinnsmal 35, brúði á þjóðmæra, "Bride By Nation(s) Praised".

[14] Fjolsvinnsmal 42, hin sólbjarta brúður, "the Sun-Bright Bride".

[15] Fjolsvinnsmal 36, Lyfjaberg það heitir, en það hefur lengi verið sjúkum og sárum gaman; heil verður hver, þótt hafi árs sótt, ef það klífur, kona, "Mountain of Healing Herbs that is called, and it has long been comfort and joy to the sick and sore ; any woman who climbs that will become whole (well), even if she has the year-sickness." (Year-sickness can mean sick for a whole year, but obviously alludes to pregnancy and having a good labour. It should also be pointed out for the record that while the main meaning is probably referring to midwifing that brings about a successful labour, in context, a woman sick with the year-sickness of pregnancy may also refer to a woman who is pregnant against her wishes, in which case there may be an implication that some of the herbs growing on that mountain could be abortifacients ; it certainly would be in keeping with the dual function of folk-midwives, who delivered wanted babies and aborted unwanted ones.)

[16] Ibid. Since the mountain of herbs must be klífur, "climbed", we think here of the seið-hjallr, the "hill of incantation". Hjallr, related to hjalli, "hill", "shelf or ledge in a mountain's side" (and here we might think of Hlidskjalf, Odin's throne from which he can see out over all the worlds : Gylfaginning 17, Þar er enn mikill staðr, er Valaskjálf heitir. Þann stað á Óðinn ... ok þar er Hliðskjálfin í þessum sal, þat hásæti, er svá heitir, ok þá er Alföðr sitr í því sæti, þá sér hann of alla heima, 'there is a mighty stead which is called Valaskjalf. That stead belongs to Odin ... and there in this hall is that high-seat which is called Mountain-Ledge, and when All-Father sits there in the seat, then he can see over all the world." [Valaskjalf may mean, "Ledge of the Volvas", or even "Ledge of the Fallen", but it can also mean "The Shaking Volvas" ; Hlidskjalf almost certainly means "Mountain-Ledge or Bench" and is cognate with our word "shelf", but it could also mean "The Shaking Mountain"]), is a kind of artificial hill or elevation created with a frame of timber to erect a scaffolding on top of which witches climbed to perform their spells. Thus, if women are urged to climb the mountain of healing herbs in order to heal themselves, this may allude to the seið practice of climbing up onto a high scaffolding which was supposed to represent a hill or high place. If this is the case, then it would follow that Lyfjaberg is the archetype for the Brocken or Blocksberg Mountain in Germany. "The best-known and most frequented Sabbath was undoubtedly that held on the Brocken, or Blocksberg, in the Hartz Mountains. This region forms part of the Black Forest, and is one of the wildest and msot savage of Northern Germany. ... The renown of the Brocken Sabbath was so considerable that, in the middle of the eighteenth century, geographers who drew maps of this region never failed to show witches riding on broom-handles on their way to the central point upon the dedicated mountain." (Grillot de Givry, Witchcraft, Magic, and Alchemy, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931, Orlando, Florida, p. 72.) "Walpurgis Night, on the Eve of May Day, was when the witches held their mountain revels ... The Brocken peak in Germany ... was a favourite rendezvous." (Venetia Newall, An Egg At Easter : A Folklore Study, Routledge, London, 1971/1984, p.88.) "The scene of this well-known legend, the Brocken, or Blocksberg, is the loftiest summit of that range of mountains on the confines of Hanover, called the Hartz, extending about seventy miles in length, and twenty in breadth. On this spot, according to the story, the witches and sorcerers of the whole earth hold their sabbath once a-year, upon the eve of May-day." (James Hamilton, Excelsior : Helps to Progress in Religion, Science, and Literature, Volume 5, James Nisbet and Company, London, 1856, p.18.) In Sweden, the mountain was called Blakula or Blokula. In 1669 at Mora, in Sweden, a board of inquiry investigated a number of alleged witches, who confessed (under torture), that, "...They rode through the air to Blokula ... They rode through the air on all kinds of animals, and sometimes on men, or on spits and staves. ... After which the banquet began ... cabbage broth, bacon, oatmeal-porridge, milk, butter, and cheese ... After the banquet there was a dance ... play[ing] all kind of beautiful pieces on the harp ..." (Joseph Ennemoser, au., William Howitt, tr., The History of Magic, Volume 2, Henry G. Bohn, London, 1854, p. 180.) "'They ride up Blocksberg on the first of May, and in 12 days must dance the snow away; then Spring begins,' Kuhn in Hpt's Zts. 5.483. Here they appear as elflike, godlike maids. ... Witches' Mountains are : the Bruckelsperg, Wolf's Zts. 1, 6 ; several Blocksbergs in Holstein, Mullenh. p. 564 ; Brockensburg, Dittm. Sassenrecht 159. GDS. 532 ; the unholdenperg near Passau occurs already in MB 28b, 170.465, 'At the end of the Hilss, as thou nearest the Duier (Duinger) wood, is a mountain very high and bare, named uf den bloszen zellen, whereon it is given out that witches hold their dances on Walpurgis night, even as on Mt Brocken in the Harz,' Zeiler's Topogr. ducat. Brunsv. et Luneb. p. 97...." (Jacob Grimm, au., James Steven Stallybrass, tr., Teutonic Mythology, Volume 4, George Bell and Sons, London, 1888, pp. 1619 - 1620 ; Grimm goes on listing these witches' mountains ad nauseam for another large paragraph.) "The Blocksberg, where German as well as Norwegian witches gather for their great Sabbaths on the Eve of May Day (Walpurgis Night) and Midsummer Eve, is commonly identified with the Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz mountains. But in Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and probably elsewhere, villages have their own local Blocksberg, which is generally a hill or open place in the neighbourhood ; a number of places in Pomerania go by the name of the Blocksberg.": (Sir James George Frazer, Balder the Beautiful, Volume 1, BiblioBazaar, 1913/2006, p.331.) And what of Walpurgis Night, May 1, on which these witching ceremonies were to take place on the high mountain? It is named for Saint Walpurgis or Walburga, a name which means "Mountain of the Fallen" or "Mountain of the Prophetess" (cf. Valaskjalf), and her folklore is worthy of note as well. Walburga is described "as a white lady with long flowing hair, a crown upon her head ; her shoes were fiery gold, and in her hands she carried a three-cornered mirror that showed all the future, and a spindle..." Pursued by evil assailants, a farmer took compassion on her and hid her in his grain. "The next morning the farmer found grains of gold instead of rye in his grain stook. Therefore, the saint is portrayed with a bundle of grain."(E.L. Drei Gaugöttinen Rochholz, Walburg, Verena und Gertrud, als deutsche Kirchenheilige. Sittenbilder aus germanischen Frauenleben, Verlag von Friedrich Fischer, Leipzig, 1870, p. 26-27.) This miracle-story is exhaustively documented in Pamela Berger's The Goddess Obscured : Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint (Beacon Press, Boston, 1985), and virtually identifies Walburga with a Patron of Grain. Indeed, we find her associated with crops."Through the intercession of Walburg full barns are secured..." (Lina Eckenstein, Woman Under Monasticism : Chapters on Saint-Lore and Convent Life Between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1896, p. 26.) "Walburga ... Patroness of Crops ; Invoked against Coughs, Frenzy, and the Plague. ... Walburga was a Woman of Power, skilled in the practice of medicine and a bit of an herbalist. She once cured a girl possessed of a ravenous appetite by feeding her three ears of grain --- with which she is depicted in sacred art." (Sean Kelley, Rosemary Rogers, Saints Preserve Us!, Random House, Inc., New York, 1993, p. 287.) The folk-figure popularly invoked in the saint has little to do with one of Boniface's female colleagues. "This woman Waltpurgis has been the subject of many conjectures ; writers generally do not hesitate to affirm that the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald is identical with the saint who was so widely reverenced. But St Waltpurgis, popularly called Walburg, is associated with customs and traditions which so clearly bear a heathen and profane character in the Netherlands and in North Germany that it seems improbable that these associations should have clustered round the name of a Christian woman and a nun. In the face of the existing evidence one of two conclusions must be adopted. Either the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald really bore the name Waltpurgis, and the monk Wolfhard who wrote an account of a saint of that name whose relics were venerated at Eichstatt (between 882 and 912) took advantage of the coincidence of name and claimed that the Walburg, who bears the character of a pseudo-saint, and the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald were identical ; or else, desirous to account for the veneration of relics which were commonly connected with the name Walburg, he found it natural and reasonable to hold that Walburg had belonged to the circle of Boniface, and identified her with the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald." (Eckenstein, op cit., p. 139.) "It is sufficient here to point out that there is little likeness between the sober-minded women-missionaries of Boniface's circle and the woman-saint who is localised under such different aspects, sometimes as a saint whose bones exude oil of miraculous power, sometimes as a valkyrie who anoints warriors for battle, sometimes as a witch who on the first of May leads forth her train to nightly riot on hill tops." (Eckenstein, op cit., p. 25.) It is interesting to note that a potsherd from the 2cd century A.D. mentions, after a list of soldiers, a Waluburg. Se[m]noni Sibylla, "Waluberg, Prophetess of the Semnoni tribe." (Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology.) The folk-figure was certainly not named after her, but she may have taken the name in fact after the folk-figure. The first part of her name is most certainly cognate with volva, and thus her name, Waluberg, may be completely cognate with Valaskjalf, in both instances meaning Mountain of the Volvas. The folk-figure, however, has been solidly connected to patronage of agriculture as well as healing, and additionally demonstrates prophetic power in her mirror which showed the future (as well as her spindle, which is an implement of the Norns). A figure with a heiti which meant the Volva on the Mount, who was connected with agricultural fertility, healing, and prophecy, amongst the Gods at least could only refer to Freya, who is pictured on a Mountain of Healing Herbs, who is the sister of Frey who ræðr fyrir ... ávexti jarðar, ok ... árs (Gylfaginning 24), "rules over the fruits of the earth, and good harvests", and who is known to practice the Art of Seiðr. The magical mountains of witchcraft, on the other hand, remind us of the Venusberg. Geiler of Kaiserberg gave a Lenten sermon on witchcraft in the late fifteenth century that makes explicit reference to the Venusberg. "Geiler also discusses the Venusberg in his sermon on the Furious Horde in the Die Emeis. There he claims that the ride to the Venusberg, where one is said to find the good life, beautiful women, dancing and the lady Venus, is in fact nothing other than a product of diabolical imagination ('Teuffels gespenst'). And he quotes a passage from Nider's Formicarius, in which Nider tells of a knight who thought he was travelling to the Venusberg ; and when he awoke, he found himself 'in a lake of shit'. That, claims Nider, was the 'fraw venusberg'. ... As Sach's Florentine doctor imagined that he would be carried on a black beast to the Venusberg [in his Der doctor in Venus-perg, a popular poem that was either an reflection or an inflection of a similar story told by Boccaccio in 1353 (Decameron VIII.9)], so the vagierer [wanderers] were described as travelling through the air on calves to the Venusberg in the Cimbrian Chronicle of 1565. Indeed the so-called Heuberg, the place where witches were said to meet in much of southern Germany, was often identical with the location of the Venusberg." (Charles Zika, Exorcising Our Demons : Magic, Witchcraft, and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe, Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2003, p. 367.)Carlo Ginzburg evinces testimony from Zuan delle Piatte, a man sentenced as a witch in the early 1500s, who alleged that he had gone to the "'mount of Venus where lived Donna Herodias', to be initiated into the society of witches. ... Together with ['Donna Venus'] Zuan delle Piatte had gone to the Sabbath, where he had also found the 'woman of the good game'. ... Zuan declared that he had gone 'with that woman (Venus) and her company on a Thursday night of the Ember week of Christmas riding black horses through the air and in five hours they had circled the entire world.'" (Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies : Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath, Random House, Inc., Chicago, 1989/1991, pp. 108- 109.) Ginzburg correctly points out that with this, the narrative of the Venusberg has flowed into the Canon Episcopi trope, the foundation of medieval witchcraft and the core around which the diabolical stereotype of the Sabbat was constructed. "A century later, in 1630, an enchanter from Hesse, Diel Breull, confessed that for several years he had gone in spirit, during the Ember weeks, to the Venusberg, where 'fraw Holt' (Holda or Holle, another of the goddess's personifications) had shown him the dead and their sufferings, reflected in a basin full of water : splended horses, men engaged in banqueting or sitting among the flames." (Ibid.) Holda is demonstrably Frigg, but as Frigg summons all the spirits of things to her as in a seid ceremony where the nattura are called up, and as Frigg is Freya's mother, it is natural they would be connected in this regard. What matters in this connection is the perennial theme of visionary and prophetic experiences associated with a mountain belonging to the Goddess of Love. All of this we find folded up here in Fjolsvinnsmal, as all Eddic poetry enfolds encyclopedic folk-knowledge.

[17] Fjolsvinnsmal 40, [Bjarga] sumar, hvar er menn blóta þær á stallhelgum stað; ei svo hátt forað kemur að hölda sonum, hvern þær úr nauðum nema, "Some protect any people who worship them at the holy altar-stead ; ever they arrange it so the sons of men escape dangerous-situations/abyss/pit/ogres/monsters, everyone of them taken out of their desperate and dire straits."

[18] Fjolsvinnsmal 38, Hlíf heitir, önnur Hlífþrasa, þriðja Þjóðvarta, Björt og Blíð, Blíður, Fríð, Eir...,"They are called Protector/Shelter/Cover/Shield, the second Protector-Rage [thus, Protecting the Rageful, or Ragefully Protective, like a lion with her cubs], the third Nation-Warder [amending varta to varða ; if varta, then "Wart of the Nation" (?), a not very complimentary name, although varta may be related to vartan, the threads that hold together the woof in a loom, which would make this asynja something like "She Who Holds The Nation(s) Together" ; vartari is a kind of fish, rendering "Nation-Fish" (?). Varta can also represent the gunwale of a ship, in which case her name is equivalent to someone who has got the back or rear of the nation, defending it from attackers], Bright and Blithe, Blithe, Peaceful, Mild..."

all translations copyright 2010 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Freya's Return

They gather around her. Talking. Eating. Immersed in conversation about normal things, very normal things. She is included, but she is not the focus, unless she needs to be. Ordinary things : taking care of things, chores, hopes, what's happening in the world, recipes, brewing, looms and new lyrics from galdurs, matters of interest and inspiration. Her folk. Her people. The tribe.

They gather around her. She is in their midst. They want to be close to her. She can feel their warmth. Slowly their talk and presence begins to weave a web, a cocoon of normalcy, a shield-skin against all the ill that captured her mind.

Her mind drifts off still. The cold, the poison, the terrible threats. The captivity. Yet here she is. Their voices bring her back. They know exactly how to be. She feels their love, yet they are not fussing over her or burdening her with their worry. Rather, they are confident. Now that she is back, they know all will be well. The family can restore itself.

She has trained this team well. They are the best of healers, peace-makers, house-makers, world-blessers. She has taught them to find root and to let forth wing and fly. She has been their mistress and their inspiration. And now they return the favors. Now she is weak. Now she is the student, relearning how to be herself. The web of safe routine dispels the sudden flashes of nightmare. Slowly she begins to disbelieve them, those words she dreaded, those images she began to believe, those distorted mirrors of herself that surrounded her in the horror show, when she thought she'd never, ever come back.

She will need to be here for a long time. Here, in the circle. Here, in the midst. Not teaching. Not leading. Just being. Being near the bodies of her comrades. Caressed by their melodic voices conversing about things dear to them. Feeling their reassuring hands on her thigh or shoulder, the eyes that welcome, welcome back, the nods that say, you belong. And she needs this.

There is no burden here. They are grateful to be so honored as to be able to help her who led them. And most healing of all, they know she will come back. There is no doubt of it, and this slowly helps to dispel the doubt that still grips her yet far-away eyes.

There is not yet hope for her. But there is stability. For brief moments. She can feel it. The roots say, the terrors were lies. Someday she hopes she will believe them. For now the company of friends and comrades. The structure of healthy tribe to hold up the fort, to buttress the rafters, to feel the strong pillars and walls. In time, in time. The hope will return in time.

And maybe then someday love will return. Once her mind and heart fully have. She has not been herself. She has not been herself for too long. The winter stretched on forever. Now she is back. She is back. She repeats the words to herself beneath her breath, deeply sighing, feeling the marble-lined granite of Sessrumnir's floors. They are solid. They are real.

She looks out down Mount Lyfjabjorg, healing herbs surrounding on all sides, running down in golden and violet-green lanes throughout Folkvang. She will run through these fields, barefoot, as she used to. She will run through and let the spirits of those blooms and worts sing and scent her back to life. To life, to mind, to heart ... someday, perhaps, again, to love. Yes. In time.

See Fjolsvinnsmal 35 - 40 and Voluspa 25 (ætt jötuns Óðs mey gefna, "Od's maiden had been given to the race of Giants") for the background on this tale. Freya has been returned from the grip of the giants, through Od's help. But now, forlorn, she struggles to regain her mind and heart, with the help of her handmaidens. This piece fills in how that healing happened.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Away From Abstractions!

Mind and heart are one. Odr is a single word encompassing all the inspired mind may gather. It is where feelings and thought come together and share. Their feast, that juice fermented, is inspiration and wisdom found.

Our lore therefore is one with heart and mind. The wordloc mind of Western scholars will never penetrate the fullness of lore. Their analyses may be helpful, their takings-apart interesting, their external comparisons even insightful. But lore is not the letter. Lore is what happens when odr meets the letter. What blossoms therefrom is lore.

This is not the same thing as wild fancy. It is not immature imagination gone bizarre. It is the meeting of mind and heart with letter and leaf, world and soul in close communion, finding their words, sifting their meanings.

Away from abstractions! If your Roman-trained wordloc mind seeks boxes within which to entomb the Gods, call that folly, not religion. True worship is mind and heart joined to spirit in ecstatic communion that steps away from all norms towards the sacred, that allows you to step out of your own box to look at life if but for a moment from a shifted perspective. To box the Gods and Alfar is perverse. Yet many do it. Patience, patience, we must have patience. This path is slowly being relearned, true. Yet corrections must come and scoldings given lovingly when needed, for the path back can be perilous, and tracing its scent requires proper attunement to the sinuous byways by which it meanders. Wordloc is prison-mind trying to cage wyrd in words grasped, letters lined up, paragraphs catalogued and collated. You will not find world's squirmy organic order there.

Heathen scholarship is important, but if it scholarship locked in wordloc, it will fail in its essential heathen task, for it will lack odr. Heart must take its essential place, for thought truly gathers there. There is too much dry shuffling of papers and dead leaves, not enough attendance to sap and green shoot. From whence did the leaves fall? Look up and see the Tree. There lies your wisdom.

We are becoming indigenous or we are becoming stuffy shirts gathered in tomb-lairs repeating silly rites that keep us city-spellbound, mockeries. Go beyond the page. Where is your heart? What does your heart say when your mind welcomes it into its midst? For we must have separation of neither. They must blend and make mead together. That is wholesome drink to sup and sate. It is their cleaving which is unnatural.

Heathen wisdom must be real earthy, even musty perhaps, the must of the wine-cellar, with its blacksmithed hoop-bound oak barrels, holding that special vintage of home, hearth, field and pasture. The mountain speaks in the mead. These are not abstractions. Poetry is the closest truth to be found.

Practice speaking more poetically. You may not have the skald's gift, but you must speak from the heart. Where will your sumble be if you cannot speak the only speech Odin utters? Cultivate your poetic soul, your mind-and-heart mix, where world gathers in inspiration. This means engage world. This means let world speak in silence. Why was Rig our first teacher? The guardian of the hearth-fires watches and listens. So when we sit round the flames and let world utter its seeming-incoherent mutterings and murmurs, eventually our mind finds pattern in the chaos : its language we learn, slowly over time.

Mind and heart are one. Make your practice the same. Only in this way will heathenism mature. And mature it must, if it is to thrive and prosper, and nourish the generations. If you would become indigenous, you must dare a little. You're welcome to dare -- it is a heathen value. Dare and step out from the written rite, the shy cityself bravado beer-toasting in circle, and find wild self, poetic self, self in world beyond categories, beyond definitions, closely in tune with nuances of living, pulsing life, and ask questions. Ask questions from the depth of your being, and listen. Keep listening. Watch as the answers transform over time. Take not the first batch and set it up as dogma. The answers mature as wine does. Give the brew its time to vintage. Then we shall drink together, friends. We shall drink deeper than you have ever known, and our hearts will know joy unending. Away from abstractions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Heathen Humility

Things are not always as they seem. They say humility is foreign to heathenism. Bullshit. Humility is the very heart of heathenism, the ground from which we brag.

It is Rome that is arrogant, in its imperial and its religious forms. It is Rome which constructs a great chain of being with human beings at the top, little lower than the angels.

We are heathen. We are of the earth. We humble our humanity before weeds, trees, rivers, stones. Teachers reside there. Great elfin beings of shine and marvel tend these flocks. There is grandeur in a simple field of corn and grass. The wind blows, and we know Odin's thoughts wander about the earth.

We are beings of the heart. Our hearts are not debased by bowing before the humble things of this earth. We are trees transformed. We are bread and meal and milk drawn up through earthen flesh into bone and blood bodies spiralling with stars in our heads. God is mad, wild, uncanny. Enchantment lies deep in the heart of things. This is how it belongs. This is how it should be.

Because we have roots, we have crowns as well. Because our trunks stand firmly in the ground, our branches frame the blue swept heavens. We may nest in the mustard and oats and speak great soliloquoys, often of silence. Guttural sounds and gurglings of rivers emerge from our throats, and we are proud to speak them. We too have wildness within us in our hearts.

The old ones said, cities are web-lairs of tomb-beings, crafted by giants of old. They hold no ancient wildness. They are warp, not wyrd. Only faintly wyrd whispers in such tomb-lands. If you would know the guardian who wards you, you must find her at the edge, beyond the hedge, out in wild lands where she roams free. You must roam free to see her. Her beastly guise speaks in growls and chirps your original nature (orlog). How has happenstance (wyrd) brought forth or warped that nature within you? Your city-self obscures your true nature.

Out into the woods -- it may be a mere patch of vacant land where unwanted herbs grow -- sit out. Sit out and silent begin to woo. Woo her who watches. Woo her who sings softly in the distance. Woo her who knows, and shed city-self layers like petals from a dead and dried blossom, like husks from old corn to find the green beneath.

Herbs and worts say, we are real. They say, we speak. Herbs and worts say, come to us. You could hardly think them unholy. Once they gathered in force and gave oaths, oaths to never harm the best and brightest, the cleanest and most pure, the wisest and most just. They were there and you were not, to have honor to give such oaths, and they held to them. When Beloved Mother Earth called from her high seat in the heavens, where she and her husband sip mead over atmospheric billows, faithfully they came. Faithfully they swore. Faithfully they upheld. Such honors they are still proud of. They have won their merits and have pedigree beyond your imagine. Blur eyes and see medals and heraldry totemically stretching back in great pride of heritage and story long before humans melted out of the trees. We are real, they say. We speak, and this is no "metaphor". This is no quaint little story. This is spiritual reality. We are embodiment and process of powers. Heed us.

That will make you humble your city-self. It is but a skin, with brightness beneath if you would dare. You may feel your sanity peeling. Beneath that underneath madness lies sanity cleaner and more vibrant than you have ever known. Such humility is befitting a heathen. Its heritage is something of which to be immensely proud. May you be as whole as your hearty humility!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Svipdag Forlorn

Long have I gnawed with tusks
foreign to my own form
these runes I hardly recall.
Through heart's tempests and dark clouds,
the mysteries from mind have been shrouded.
Tossed by the seas, forlorn rolling
in currents barely fathomed, how
from my noble hue far
have I fallen, concealed within
a dark and shameful shape, a
brute monster of the seas, whose furies
merely glimpses through fog-laden dreams
of glories once held in my hands, beheld
with high browed eyes, now frightful
flashes of terrible torment. I gnash
my tusks, and tumble in the waves.
Love once held me, and I, true to her,
held wide kingdoms, warmth
of companions, jewels made
marvel in the purity of love.
Now all that is gone. I am exile,
seems to beastly mind the fair
face of love I'll never know again.
Will the waves will her grasping
that apple-bough I gnawed so crudely?
If water wills, will understanding
greet her heart upon her read?
Or will it float forever, never found,
or found, discarded, left with scorn?
Such awful animal cries of moan
rasp out strangely from my throat.
I wish a bettering might be bought,
if only mind would let recall
teach me how to pray again. I'd pray,
each and every day, in barks
and howls of salty raspings.