Thursday, August 18, 2011

Odr, Anthropologist

"If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear."
- Gene Roddenberry

Some anthropology is shamanic, because it requires a leap of faith beyond the forbidden of one's culture, beyond the dogmas that have taboo written around their edges, in order to fully enter into and understand another culture. Cultures that are like us require less effort, and such study may receive modest applause by those who are not too xenophobic, but to immerse oneself in cultures who have undertaken projects whose goals and values are distinctly different than our own is a social risk that requires strength and flight of spirit. Beyond the edge of our own culture and its values lies a thick hedge of prejudice and stereotype, unable to appreciate the virtues of the dangerous other, and more than willing to catalogue its vices.

Anthropology is the effort to understand the universal in humankind through the exploration and investigation of the diverse and particular cultures of the world, culture by culture, slowly, carefully, and cautiously building our notions of universality through faithful attention to the textures of the particular. In order to venture this, the very lenses which our native culture lends us to view the world must be doffed, and temporary blindness and disorientation risked, to try on the new lenses of the exotic culture, and come to know it from within.

This is the province of Odr, the great traveler of Norse tradition, who had such a hunger to know all of mankind from the inside out, that he journeyed to every known people and explored all their wonders and peculiarities. As such, Odr may be called the quintessential viking, who dares the oceans and cold expanses of the world in order to satisfy his insatiable curiosity, a curiosity of such passion, and such intensity, and such integrity of iron innocence, that it won the heart of the Goddess of Love despite the implication that he would therefore often be away on long journeys, for Freya had faith that their love would transcend such gaps. If we can discover that passion for humanity within ourselves, that unstoppable desire to explore the furthest pockets of humankind's ways and means and festivals, we may also be able to discover that faith in love which Freya fosters.

As the mythological figure who embodies odr, the furious, seething mind of poetry, the soul in its intellectual and emotional inflagration and illumination, his travel is both physical and spiritual, and he inspires both literal travel across the physique of the world, and spiritual penetration through shamanic flight. Both are integral aspects of Odr's journeys.

Odr goes behind the Iron Curtains of the mind, crossing over the line into the forbidden zones, and gets to know the personhood of those who live there, however rough, however uncouth, and flocks to their courts, their places of flowering, to imbibe and share what poetry may be had there. He, of course, goes, in no small part, to share the glories of his love, and proclaim her queenhood throughout the nine worlds, seeking through poetic diplomacy and impassioned song to inspire and sow the native heart with longing for that love he firmly holds.

If we go out, with love in our hearts, and the faith that love can bridge all gaps, and immerse ourselves in the feasts and elegies of other people, we can discover our full humanity, which is never found, despite the importance of the tribe, entirely at home. The world stands broad and bright as an enticement beyond the parochial, and all that is required to achieve it is the affirmation of our adventuresome spirit, and a heart that never loses its fidelity to love. In this way we will discover and affirm what Odr already knows and is in the very matrix of his mythological genetics : that our own humanity transcends any race, any clan, any tribe, and even any nation, and beyond that, interpenetrates even into those beings who are not themselves human. As central as clan and tribe are to us, we are concentric beings, who in order to affirm our full selves, must ripple out to the farthest edges of being and back again. That is the promise of the Viking ; that is the embodiment of Odr, who, through a careful investigation of Skirnismal and his genealogy in Hyndluljod, shows himself to be a soul who intermixes human, elfish, dwarvish, giant, and divine lineage of diverse clans. That sublime miscegenation is our destiny and our future, and we have everything to gain through it.

Those who go beyond the edge will always be judged as going off the deep end by the parochial, but it is in the deep end, over the ocean itself, that we find who we truly are. And Odr teaches, through his spur to anthropology, that we only find who we are through the Other.

Let us praise the fine husband of Freya, whom prophets declared the Gods were willing to accept into their own courtyards and embroider with divine honors! Let us praise the image of soul that has attained its full humanity through wide exploration of its diversity! Hail Odr, Frey's friend, Wide-Traveler of the Gods!


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