Aesir, Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan

Requiem, by Elf Queen

Elf Queen’s new album Requiem is available for preorder now at Bandcamp

Hauk Heimdallsman gave me a preview of this gem, and the vocals of Kelsy make work what ought to have been a tough stretch, bringing the poetry of the Voluspa into modern English and a musical shape that both calls to those just discovering it, and echoes with the traditions it springs from.

For those who do not know Norse Mythology, these are the sagas sung by the peoples that founded the nations of northern and western Europe, whose history shaped lands as far away as England, Ireland and Iceland to Russia and the Byzantine Empire. The Voluspa is perhaps the most sweeping of all those poems as it takes the form of a disguised god, Odin, seeking out the hall of the most wise and most ancient seeress of the giants. He asks her to tell the tale of the beginning of all things, how the world came to be, and how it will fall. To speak the shaping of the world, the setting of order, and the rise of the conflict that would shatter both that order and the whole of the nine worlds.

A poem that sings of the hope of the worlds forming, the sorrows of the mistakes that sink it into conflict, and the rage of its fall, the twilight of gods and men, cannot be anything but an emotional journey. To attempt to take such a powerful and important work and bring it into the language that is accessible to the casual listener, as well as those who both know the lore, and revere it still, is no small challenge. To weave it into music that carries the listener along through the heights of rapture, the sorrow and fear of the oncoming storm, the howling fury of the battle of Ragnarok, and the very thin strand of hope found in the echoes of its aftermath is not a challenge, it is magic.

Elf Queen has woven this magic. I received a copy of it as a sample, but even having it already, I pre ordered my paid copy today. I was taken by its magic so strongly I could not accept it as a gift, and must instead treat it as the work of art it is, and offer fair price. A gift for a gift is our way, and this is without a doubt a very great gift indeed.

The album itself can be listened to as individual tracks, but it is most powerfully and deeply experienced as an album, as that allows you to follow the unfolding of the whole Voluspa poem, to see the Nine Worlds take shape, the rise and fall of gods and men, the coming doom, in all its majesty and tragedy.
Track by track here is my experience of the album.

Track Overture: Haunting and mediative moving into introspective. Moves you into a headspace to truly be open to experience something that unfolds on more levels of your mind than simply the analytical.

Track Voluspa 1:
Opening soars with both rock and opera elements to build the emotional depth, stirring the body and mind for what will stir the soul.

Ah to hear the poetry sung! This is not the language it was written in, nor the music of the folk who first spoke them, but they are the words that ring in our ears, and the music that moves those of us who dance those ancient paths to modern ends.

Roughly covering 1-16 Voluspa with decent fidelity. Don’t worry, they didn’t go overly dwarfy and lose a few minutes testing everyone’s memory for Durin’s sons.

Track Voluspa 2:
More somber, more layered, more confrontational. The truth that the old witch knows it is Odin who asks is hinted at in the hostility of her answers when she speaks of his own deeds. The first war is sung in tones of discord and strife. Haunting and doomful, yet the music lilts with the rushing tide of a history that cannot be denied, a fate that cannot be escaped, a storm that carries the listener along into the world of conflict that begins. There is hope woven in the bitterness, an eagerness that is not fully hidden in the spite.

Roughly covering Voluspa16-26

Track Voluspa 3:
Ethereal and somewhat sad, the old witch sings her sadness. She curses Odin for forcing her to sing of this, to remember this. She asks him why he stirs such doom filled visions, and sings of his own secrets, that he may suffer for what he asks her to see.

The music turns dark and evocative, a rising tension of emotion and rage. The Valkyries mass to ride the winds for the dead of the field, the doom of Baldur is woven in deceit, the tragedy of vengeance and destruction is spun. Mothers weep, wives weep, brother kills brother, children are murdered for crimes of their fathers, and the tragedy is only beginning.

You can feel the sorrow, the pain, the rage in the seeress towards Odin who bids her see this, to live this, to sing this darkness into being.

Track Taking up the Runes.

This is sung not in the voice of the seeress, but the harsh tones of the Tree Hanger, the Gallows Lord. Father of magical songs as his sacrifice of himself to himself on the world tree steals for gods and men the knowledge of runes. It is easy to sink into, easy to lose yourself. Close your eyes and feel you heart hammer to its beat, feel your soul come loose. Feel the harsh bark of the tree upon your skin, feel the hunger and thirst of the tree hanger, feel his madness flow through you, feel his inspiration take you to places the sane dare not go. This is music that is not for the weak, this is music that is not for those who must hold onto self and sanity, to remain inside their head to listen. This is madness, this is the storm. Follow it, flow with it. There is truth here, but you will not find it inside your comfort zone.

Track Hymn to Heimdall.

Song of hope, song of redemption, the song of Heimdall reminds us that through storm and war, through treachery and despair, there is one who holds true. The prayer offered to him is heart breaking, for what comes is not fair, and prices are paid a hundredfold by others than who made the choice.

Track Voluspa 4 Ragnarok
It is the doom of mankind that the most powerful, most stirring of all passages are these, the song of the twilight, the sound of the endings. Sword age, wind age, axe age, wolf age, the world tree trembles, Fenrir snaps his fetters, the wolf courses the sun, and the song sings in the blood.

Heart hammering, the mind on fire, the song carries you to a vision of the ending of gods and men, the hand fumbles for the hilt, what say the alfar, what say the alfs? The doom of men sings in the bright soaring voice of the seeress voice, and the gates of hell swing open as your own teeth bare in the barely contained ecstasy of the song.

Voluspa Chapters 35-58

Track Voluspa 5

In the aftermath of the storm, in the wreckage of war, and a world swept clean of the order that was, the gods and horrors that framed it, the music stirs softly as the wind upon new grass, gentle as the opening of the first flower.

The land is renewed, the animals return, the gods return to rebuild, Baldur the bright returns from Hel’s cold halls to the shining lands. Hoenir casts the lots in Odin’s place, the sons of Thor raise halls where their fathers had stood.

The song rises in hope, voice soaring and music swelling slowly from the soft and quiet promise of new life, to the defiant song of glory. The corpse dragon flies, for no age is without shadow, but the seeress will sing no more. The song ends with the soft warning that while the future will dawn bright, it too will have shadows and strife. The song ends, but not history.

Chapter 59-to end of Voluspa.

Track Cattle die (drawn from the Havamal, another of the more important sacred poems of the North)

The warning of the Havamal, the counting of the costs, the warning to remember those lost, to be worthy of what was paid for those who remain or follow. The music soars, a mix of classic and rock because the truths are ancient and timeless. There is hope in the pain, promise in the price, of brighter days if you learned from the sacrifices that got you here.

Overall impressions:

This album I could listen to a hundred times, well that is a lie. I will probably listen to it a hundred times this month, but I could listen to it for twenty years and still feel it carry me away. Rarely can you find someone who can take the ancient poetry of our faith and set it to modern music.

This was not the language of the original spoken lore, this is not the language it was first written in. This is not the music of the folk who spoke or sung it in ancient times, but neither are we that people.

There are probably going to be purists who argue this is sacred lore and shouldn’t be treated like a rock opera. I respectfully direct those people to read the lore, if they can say that again with a straight face they never read the lore; they cherry picked it.

There is a spirit to the lore. This is the living lore of a living people, a people who believed with every fiber of their being that their soul lived in their breath, that the spoken word, the song, was more than simply sound, it was magic, and it was sacred.

I am a poet, that is the only part of the skald that is mine. I can know that the words Odin has inspired should be sung, but I cannot put them to music, nor should anyone who has not had a few horns be subjected to my singing them. What I can tell is when a true skald has taken the poetry that we accept was inspired by Odin and put it into a song, woven into it the music, that make it live, make it soar, and let it carry us away to the places words alone can never take us.

Poetry does more than prose, for it weaves messages between the words; meaning not just in what is said, but in the silences. Song can do more, it can take the truth of the words and weave them into a tapestry that evokes what was, weaving the emotions of all that strove to bring it to the events the poet speaks of, and leaves echoes of the costs, hints of the hope, or shadows of despair only hinted at in the bare words of the poem itself.

Requiem has taken one of the most powerful poems in the Poetic Edda, and set it to music that not only brings it to life, but builds heights of inspiration and depths of despair that will leave your soul flying to the heights of the World Tree, and down the roots to Hel’s own gates as the poetry at last achieves the fullness translation to a new language and new culture had lost it.

Asatru, Current events, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan

Comfort Zones or Safe Spaces?

Time to call us our bullshit:

TMI (too much information!) is code for “Why don’t you have the grace to be ashamed enough to die in silence so we can share thoughts and prayers at your funeral?”

I am old enough come from the stoic back woods west bumfuck area of the world where we sucked it up in silence and put a good face on all the bad things. There was nothing wrong, everyone kept up a good face, a stiff upper lip, and makeup hides lots of things. Especially when you are trained to not notice, like you are trained to pretend not to hear.

Now we come to the internet age, the age of the overshare, the “oh my god don’t you have any boundaries” age. The Age of TMI, too much information.

While I have said it often enough, it really is possible to have a meal that doesn’t get its own Instagram account, it is possible to have bowel movement without giving a play by play, somewhere in all the OMG, TMI I started to spot something.

I am a veteran, I am a Heathen, I am parent to an LGBTQ+ child, so I see a lot of similar posts, different languages from the different subcultures, but the same sort of waves of very public group sing bullshit affrimations in general go out, followed by specific depictions of what not doing OK feels like today that are met with, OMG, TMI, and the very real sense of offense for ruining peoples comfortable world view.

We need more Not Okay, and this is how I am coping. We need more, not okay and settling for surviving because I can’t pretend to cope posts.

We do the suicide prevention dance every year. We set up hotlines for strangers, we tell you to check your buddies, especially the ones who stopped talking.

Here is the thing, how about we encourage them to talk when it isn’t okay, and listen to the things that make us feel uncomfortable when they need to talk.

Normalize uncomfortable conversations. Normalize conversations that end with you saying “Shit man, I’m sorry, I never knew.” The cost of your comfort zone is those who you want to help being taught that on days they are not good, they will upset you and hurt you by telling the truth.

I am not virtue signalling, It shouldn’t be a virtue. WHO THE FUCK DOESN”T HAVE BAD DAYS?

I don’t care how much your life is in order right now, your physical and mental health, your family situation, your employment, your feelings of personal safety, all of these can go from shiny happy invincible to flaming wreckage in a heartbeat.

At some point, that will be you. At that point, who can you really talk to? Who are you okay with being vulnerable in front of? Who isn’t going to make you feel ashamed because they always thought you had it together and when the whole of your life is shit, feeling them decide you really weren’t a strong person worth knowing but actually a loser who can’t deal with their own shit?

Ugly Truth, the reality of who you could talk to is larger than your fears paint it.

Second Ugly Truth, a lot of people who say all the right supportive things in general want nothing to do with any of your weakness because their image of you is more important to them than the reality of you. Your needs threaten them. That one will hurt when you hit it.

You know what does help?

Not the hotlines, sorry, but maybe one percent will ever bother, and more than half the time they get dumped in ER psych for another round of “ignore your history and diagnosis, take a pill, take a seat, and oh my god why are you still taking up my space, fuck off.” For the purely medical problems they get the pamphlet level have you tried (yes for six weeks until doctors told me it wasn’t working, no initial screenings said it would harm me, not applicable, not workable, directly contraindicated by my diagnosis, and holy shit idiot, I have been doing this for five fucking years, do you even read the chart?).

What helps is the TMI posts.

When you are in your good days, reading the TMI posts of people you respect lets you stick in your head, hey, they have bad days too. Hey, I really respect them, admire them, but they aren’t always Okay either. Hey, they went through a really bad patch, but they got through it.

Maybe you can help, maybe you can at least relate, but even if neither of those is true, you are aware of it. You are getting the idea that people you respect are not always OK. That being not always OK is not something to be ashamed about.

You read the TMI posts about people who had a handle on their issues, but their control regimen stopped working, or needed to be changed. You read TMI posts from people who inspired you who had that bad day when they just gave up and quit coping.

Then a few days later they post again, back on their feet (more or less) and ready to keep going.

You don’t just normalize the idea that sometimes strong people are not okay, but you get a sense for who among your own friends understands, and is willing to talk.

Those TMI posts establish that thing conservatives hate. Safe space.

Funny, conservatives love to mock it. The Veteran Community has two distinct faces on the subject, the suck it up buttercup, chest thumping bullshit crowd, and those who are actually dealing with their shit, and want to make sure their buddies reach out for help, rather than eating their fucking gun on the nights they just aren’t up to it anymore.

The difference is that phrase, safe space. A place, a community, a forum, a group of people that they feel they can say things they aren’t proud of, things they aren’t sure of, and not have to worry about either somebody telling them to man the fuck up and shut up, or sending the police to murder them on a “wellness check”. Honestly, if you ever think you need to, don’t. Don’t ever send the police to check on someone in crisis, you will be responsible for what follows. I shit you not.

Safe places are those where you can say not only you aren’t doing well, but what among your coping mechanisms isn’t working. What among your struggles you aren’t up to facing. It is a place where others who have been there and done that can share with you without shame.

Shame kills.

Shame kills kids struggling with gender and sexual identity, shame kills people struggling with chronic medical conditions or mental health issues. Shame kills people dealing with family breakdowns or grieving. Shame kills sexual trauma survivors and PTSD survivors.

Shame kills, so we can fake smile at each other and pretend its okay. You know what? Fuck that.

Comfort zones and safe spaces are mutually exclusive. Comfort zones use shame to keep you from sharing things that bother people to hear. Comfort zones convince you to stay silent, keep your problems to your self and die in the fucking corner quietly so we can all posture at your funeral about how we were all there for you; why didn’t you reach out?

Safe spaces are uncomfortable. Safe spaces leave you being told that some of what you have told them hurt a lot and some of your own defensive responses to your issues are making you lash out when they need to share something you don’t want to hear. Safe spaces are uncomfortable by nature, they are ugly.

We take off the bandages and look at the wounds. We stop pretending, and speak truth. Ugly, it won’t be okay, but I guess we can figure our something, kind of truth.

Safe spaces require courage to enter, because you won’t be clean or pain free when you leave. It isn’t Disney, you won’t solve problems by some My Little Pony power of friendship bullshit, but you can and sometimes do make it through the night, and share enough of the burden or find a resource or application of a tool you didn’t know about that might make you get through the night you might not otherwise have had the strength to get through.

Overshare. TMI, normalize not being OK because the 1950’s myth was powered by valium, alcohol and domestic abuse. It wasn’t a shiny happy time where everyone just coped, it was a time of suffering in silence and lying about cause of death.

We can’t afford comfort zones. So how about we get on with the overshares, and normalize having conversations where we aren’t ashamed to say “Not good” when someone asks how it is going?

Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry

She was clad only in plot-armour, our Diana

I swore I would not let this be an obituary, that I would say the words while she lived, and while people understood this is how I think when all who know she whom I speak about are free to argue without more than the usual rancour. I would speak to you of Diana Paxson.

You know how common it is to complain about someone who thinks they are “holier than thou” or acts like they are somehow better than you, well every once in a while, or in this case, once in a lifetime you come to realize both that someone is holier than thou (or me in this case) but largely hasn’t a clue she is. Diana is that person.

A whole lot of years ago Christianity tried hard to wipe us out, root and branch as a faith. They stole what they wanted of our warrior ways to supply them with sword and later cannon fodder, but they destroyed almost all the lore of what we were and how we lived. Particular care was taken to first demonize and then destroy all traces of our magical arts, our sacred wisdom, and their importance and role in keeping our communities healthy and whole. It isn’t hidden, it isn’t one Rosetta stone away from known, it was destroyed and all who knew its secrets butchered long ago, even those who ordered it done long dust.
The need existed when our community began to reform for these arts to return, but they could not be taken up again, for they literally existed no more. They were gone. Odin is a thief of knowledge a seducer of women, a deceiver of men, a rat bastard of a boss, and really really good at his job. He saw the need so he stole what he needed, and set out to seduce a witch.

Enter Diana. She sees us as peers in a funny way as Odin found us not too far apart in time, having seduced her during the writing of Brisengamen, even though he waited to seal the deal until she was tempted to go looking for a guide between the worlds and lost an argument with a raven who could care less that ravens were dime a dozen in the pagan community, almost a trope, and she had her own guides thank you very much, now run along and let me use my own guides. The raven cared not, and she could go no further unless she followed said raven. Raven oddly enough led her to our mutual boss and Diana entered into a “one time only at festival” hookup that turned into an outright marriage with the Father of Magical Songs because he needed him some signing done and liked the look of her lungs. Perhaps indelicately phrased, but cut right to the heart of it.

What we had was gone forever beyond recovery. The ways between the worlds to the places our ancestors knew are dangerous, without the proper guides, mad is the best you could hope for and lost is far from the worst. For those who do not know the path it is suicide to venture deep, yet someone must chart the paths, someone must learn the ways to sing open the gates, to build the relationships with the guides upon the ways when centuries have gone between the covenants of our ancestors were broken, and those of our folk today had yet to be forged. Only a fool would dare those reaches without guidance, for to step too deeply along those paths is to encounter unknowing things that can destroy us, and things that we lacked the wisdom to treat with safely.

Enter our maiden of the plot armour. She thinks she is one of us, her intrepid Odin kids that she leads into our journeys upon the winds between the worlds down roads to Hel and back with cheerful unconcern and raven bright acquisitive curiosity. Where she walks she maps, stopping to look into a shadow and see it yield its truth that she will casually note to the rest of us as the path behind her firms to hard rock and firm root. Into the darkness she steps to find a bone bridge beneath her feet, and in front of the rest of us a yawning abyss over a river of serpent venom flowing over the weapons of all our wars….as Diana notes the signpost that falls naturally at her left hand, “Note the guide post, its important not to get lost” she notes casually unnoticing that the blinding darkness flies before her every step, and while those who follow her could see the path, we all stood one step from the abyss all unknowing.

She summons forth in ritual aspects of the god that should leave the walls dripping with the blood of others, as what I and those like me learn to spend every effort to suppress for fear we cannot contain or control it once Odin’s battle frenzy is unleashed, when she calls it in us in her presence we feel the transformation take hold and sweep us before it in the full storm of his fury, yet she stands before us rooted in his protection like literal plot armour, making safe simply by being there what we long lost the lore to dare to learn to control. She is like control rods in a nuclear reactor, what ought to run wild without its controls and threaten us all simply glows brightly while she looks at it from all sides with that raven curiosity and notes that you could grab it thus and so to direct it, and my favourite, “wouldn’t it be interesting to” as she proceeds to muse half a dozen ways to turn things you mastered for other purposes that turn out to neatly control what was ever and always beyond you.

She stands clad in plot armour, for Odin has willed all those things that he worked so hard to steal in the first place should be ours again, and he has seduced him the woman to do that work for him. Diana does not have the deal the rest of us know. I love her dearly, and she will never see it, but he is not so caring of the rest of us. I love Odin, but neither of us have any doubt he will expend me without thought, and will cheerfully leave me to the results of the choices I make. I am a soldier of the Feeder of Raven’s, and as far as he is concerned will serve him until I am bird food, then serve him as bird food, he’s OK either way. Diana……is different. She is tasked, fated and warded to bring back what was stolen.

We are not doing things the way our ancestors did, because that was stolen from us and lost. We are in fact cheerfully stealing from others, and collecting as ravens do, choice bits of loot from our lore, choice bits of loot gathered from travels beyond the worlds, and choice bits of inspiration to weave a new thing that comes to our hands as the old thing came to our ancestors. We didn’t have centuries of patient guidance to learn like the first time, so Odin, god of cheating because he that damned clever, wrapped her in plot armour and set her upon the course to replace all that was stolen, and map all the places we must send our wise ones upon the needs of the people.

Diana speaks of us as peers, noting that she wasn’t even Heathen when she wrote Brisengamen. It was her book Brisengamen that clued me in to who it was that had recruited me in basic training. He began with Diana, and recruited others of us in short order, placing us on paths to bring what was needed to her he had chosen to bring the full knowledge back to the folk. She calls us peers, but I am a soldier, and I know when I have been tasked as a spear carrier, as support column for the schwerpunkt, or as military strategists would put it, the main thrust or battle decision point. She is his banner woman, his chosen trail blazer, her trail has been the schwerpunkt of Odin’s returning to us the core of our Heathen tool chest. You don’t let on your schwerpunkt while your enemies have a chance to respond to the true threat in time to stop it, but its too late, she has won.

She walked clad in plot armour into trackless darkness where death and madness stood to all sides, but those who walk beside or behind her walk upon paths we can see, in worlds we have again the words to describe, the wisdom to judge, and her knowledge to guide. Those who come after will not need such protections, and will doubtless walk farther than we can dream, and unlock things we don’t even yet know we need, but they will do so because Diana was sent ahead, and walked with Odin’s spear above her in protection, as it simply hallows the rest of us as his chosen when our fool asses get killed doing what seemed wise at the time.

I am honoured to have known her, honoured to have been instructed by her, to have practiced with her, and to have brought such gifts as Odin has given me to her so that those who follow after us can skip the costly learning curve this generation had to go through. I am an arrogant man, and own no man my better, but I will say this without any doubt or shame. Diana is holier than any man or woman I have ever met, I look into her eyes and see my god blazing back at me, wrapped in protection around her in ways and for reasons it took me decades to understand.

We don’t do prophets, they are more trouble than they are worth, we don’t do scriptures, because quoting replaces thinking way too quickly. Having said that, sometimes the gods push hard enough their hands become visible, even if it takes someone else to point it out. I know Diana is no where near as arrogant as I am, and it would never occur to her that she is anything special, that any one of us who Odin likes to mess with are all members of the same odd little one eyed fraternity, but she may be the only one who doesn’t realize how very special her bargains with Odin are, how very differently he cherishes her, or how much her gifts to the community have restored what it took centuries to take from our ancestors.

Diana Paxson
Aesir, Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry

Rede of Choices

I rede thee, child
and hear well my rede.

Profit thou hast if thou heareth
Great gain you hast if thou learnest
Wisdom there is in my teachings
For the time and the place I offered
Victory fell to who followed
On the field and in the fight
that I spoke of.

I rede thee, child
Profit thou hast if thou heareth
Great gain you hast if thou learnest
Strike not one blow at my urging
Nor turn from thy duty to mine

Worth do I find in your struggle
Wisdom do I seek in your choices
Never my will on your weapons
For never my hand red with blood

Profit thou hast if thou heareth
Great gain you hast if thou learnest
Call to me to inspire
Call to me to bear witness

Choose of your own in your struggle
Choose of your own right and wrong
The price is yours, as the cost is
Surrender that choice not to me

—Thus were the words of Har, the whispers of the Wise Counsellor, the ravings of the Hanged One as I dangled upon his tree, and ravens took from me their fill, as he gave his words in payment.
Ours is not the path of blind faith, of obedience, of ignorance. Choose for yourself, and own it. To choose yourself and fail is better victory than to dance like a puppet to a prize unearned.

Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan

When the gods go remodeling in your head.

There are definitely problems with my lifestyle. I have chronic back pain and left torso and leg spasm issues from some stuff back in 2009. I have traumatic brain injury and neck spinal issues from some stuff most of a decade later.

I work seven nights a week, sleep maybe three days in five and can keep food down about three days in five, but the footprint of the eat vs sleep days doesn’t match up very well. I get by on lots of coffee.

The chronic pain, spasm, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus are a pain in the ass and energy drain, but you can get used to anything. Well, as long as the balancing act works, and you can keep robbing Peter to pay Paul in the symptoms sweepstakes. A few months ago I lost some ground I won’t be getting back. My ego wrote a check my body failed to cash and my brain shut down all the coping mechanisms running in the background.

One out of five stars, do not recommend.

Post crash, I had a lot less energy to bring to the table and I recovered slower. I needed more down time by a lot, and got a lot less out of it. I was losing coping ability and my brain was honestly turning into a terrifying swamp I sometimes got lost in. I really did my best to hold it together until I ran out of the energy to do so.

Then I found out something interesting. Someone has been remodelling in here.

I love Odin dearly, but trust him far less than you would think I ought to. Fine, you do you; I will remain skeptical for reasons having to do with being played more often and more easily than I am comfortable with. His understanding my motivations better than I do and my having reservations about how much of what I think I know of his being deliberate disinformation makes for a fine little mental merry go round I no longer have the energy to waste on.

I had many bad experiences when I ran the batteries too low and could not run the coping mechanisms while I rested. It gets ugly. They physical is brutal, but throwing up gives you wicked abs, and the bleeding thing is totally sustainable as a three hundred pound carnivore. I can cover the blood loss without my liver really noticing. The bad part is the mental. I lose body position sensing, I lose control of memory, and basically fall into nightmare while my body is bracing for the fall it is sure I am in the middle of. I was expecting that was waiting for me as my new energy budget is way lower than it was, and my recovery got less efficient.

And yet, someone has been remodelling in here.

When the time came I lost my own control and I waited for the usual abyss, I found myself caught up as in a storm of thoughts and inspiration. Riding winds of vision and wonder, taken so far out of myself only the bond to the Tree, the awareness that on some level I am always and forever bound and hanging on it, kept me from concern I might not find my way back.

I am not driving, but someone is. I am not lost in my head, but carried on winds that blow from my mind and out beyond, following chains of reason and research I no longer have the bandwidth for as if I was still in my prime, only not the prime I actually had, but the one I always thought I should have had. Then I find myself diving deep inside to places where there is no thought, no reason, only primal frenzy; creative and destructive, ecstatic and bestial, both thoughtless and inspired. I know I am not driving but at that point, lost in the frenzy I don’t care. There is always this, my reason has cause to fear him, but my rage trusts him more than me.

I come back rested mentally, refreshed, calm, focused. My body is still a wreck, but somehow I stole recovery from wherever I was riding.

Here is where it gets weirder. I have echoes of that inspiration still tripping through my head like eight legged horses and butterflies chasing themselves through the scar tissue and “file not found” notifications in my brain. I write a lot. Odd stuff, not anything I could choose, it just bursts random and full flower into my head, retrieved or inspired from gods only knows where.

This too returns energy to me. Returns both mental and physical energy I can use to power the coping mechanisms that had previously been failing due to my worsening conditions lower energy budget.

Net effect? I am functionally almost where I was work wise, and emotionally a lot better off.

I look into the machinery running these functions in my brain and here is where things get murky.

A whole bunch of unrelated “magical” techniques. I say magical because they are learned from heathen disciplines, from the lore of Aesir, from the modern practice of seidr and galdr, from some things learned in journeys and ordeals that I won’t waste time asking anyone else to believe because you weren’t there, and secondly I don’t care. I got stuff, it works, and on a practical level if I’m wrong and it still works then how cool is that?

The thing is, they all had their little boxes in my head where they were kept. They all had their own pathways for me to access them and a structure I had to use to make them work. This stuff isn’t easy, and it consumes a fair amount of juice on its own, because nothing is free.

Someone has been remodelling while I wasn’t looking.

All these unrelated bits I picked up for good and specific reasons as part of my Heathenry, and some things picked up from the army, some from Wiccans and Hermetics I have practiced with over the years, have been woven into something I don’t recognize that works so much smoother than any of the bits I used on their own. It is also not using power from my depressingly low reserves, but feeding me a nice low key stream of energy I don’t have to direct. Well, honestly, I can’t seem to direct it, but I can’t argue with how it is being tasked so I won’t press the issue.

I got to the end of my rope, ready to hang and more or less accepting it, only to find someone wove wings out of my mental arms while I wasn’t looking. I keep reaching for outrage and the sense of violation for someone mucking about in my brain that way, and rewiring the place to a schematic and purpose I can’t grasp, but my plan was burning wreckage so I feel like more than a bit of a tool for wanting to object to the whole lack of consent thing.

Instead I find myself wondering. How long was I picking up the tools I needed for now, and how many more did I pick up for the changes ahead of me? Is this just really good use of the tools on hand, sort of a field expedient fix by a McGyver of a One Eyed madman, really good with the broken bits (scary, but reasonable)? Is this the product of deliberate grooming, as in “Hey look a shiny!” coupled with a seemingly reasonable reason to pick of the shiny magical tool that I won’t actually need for the true purpose for about twenty years (really scary, and opens the door to questions I am not drunk enough to ask).

Magic is problematic. On the one hand it is of limited utility in the real world when things are working.

When the real world has run you over, and the wreckage that is left cannot function, yet you still need to function, magic fills in the blanks in your body mind and soul with things that do not work the way your broken bits used to. They in fact don’t seem to work in any way that should help, yet somehow they do. I work. I shouldn’t, no where near this well, yet I do.

Magic is, well, magic. The old man is really good at it.

I want to ask him if it was him, or me, or both, but when I thought about that I “heard” him telling me it was all me and only me, of course it was. He said he could prove it, but I had the sudden and very specific half heard thought that he could probably prove I was a racoon if he wanted to and the futility of getting a straight answer out of the Wanderer was driven home again.

I am not a racoon, for the record. I am on every measurable level not doing well at all, and yet functionally I am doing okay. I am mentally and emotionally doing so much better it is pretty scary.

I can’t stand the whole “Jesus take the wheel” sentiment, and I will be the one making my choices and paying my prices. Having said that, he redecorated my brain while I was busy failing, and I love what he did to the place.

So, thanks I guess.


Stupid Soup

Stupid Soup

The Norns gathered around the Well of Wyrd. They spent all day spinning the fates of men and gods, of women and wolves, all things that lived, chose, and died in the nine worlds. They were just a bit peckish and more than a little irritated at the stirrers of strife, the tanglers of threads, who of course lead to so many being cut before they could weave more than a few bright deeds.

Skuld, she who rules what must be, the cutter of threads, ender of lives, setter of prices spoke with a voice that would be beautiful if it were not so cold that ice shuddered when she spoke.

“I am hungry, tired, and my knife needs a good honing. Let’s do lunch.”

Verthandi, she who is now, to whom every word, deed, and thought are as carved stone or woven tapestries to gaze upon and know spoke in a voice that was soft as the whisper of the sea upon the strand, a knife upon a throat laughed in a voice that would make birds weep for never knowing a song so sweet, did it not hold echoes of every birth cry and death scream woven in its notes.

“Nothing chewy, we ate that outlander monk, and I am still picking bits of him from between my teeth. Plus, he smelled.”

Urd, she who governed what was, smiled and cast her eyes at the third well, the well of Wisdom, Mimir’s well, and laughed.

“How sisters, shall we not have that most perfect of all meals for this day? The stock has been laid, the pot prepared, and the recipe needs but a few additions to be complete. Shall we not make that meal which so delights our sister Frigg? Shall we not know the feast that quenched our cousin Gunlodd’s appetite? Shall we not see if him called Kjalarr is indeed the Nourisher?”

Hearing the bynames for Odin slip from her lips, the Delight of Frigg, the Burden of Gunlodd’s arms, the Nourisher, the Norns gathered by the well and looked. Deep in the cauldron of wisdom stood Odin’s other eye, given to the well for wisdom.

“He is a pain in the loom.” Verthandi sighed.
“He is a tangler of threads.” Skuld snarled.
“He is a tasty bit of spear swinger for all that.” Urd smirked. “The pot is ready, the eye has been making stock for us already, let us make some Stupid Soup.”

Gathering together in laughter, the Norns began to add to the pot that which the One Eyed called to mind.

“One whole rooster, crested blue, for the cock he fancies himself, and the cock ups he leaves behind.” Chanted Verthandi, happily plucking the bird so described.

“Balls of a wolf, but never the brains. For the strife he goes starting, no thought of the cost.” Chanted Skuld who had a stock of wolf balls on hand for reasons her sisters thought best to ignore graciously for the moment.

Urd held up a cucumber the size of her arm.

“A cucumber for substance which he never suspects, why his wife always buys them and they never get served.” She laughed as she stroked it and her sister’s laughed too. Frigg and the Norns both knew how often Odin’s wife’s bed went lonely while other’s he graced.

Laughing and jesting at the Raven God’s cost, the Norns built the fire and the soup came to life. Odin where he travelled pulled his cloak down to obscure a face that was sweating for no reason he knew. High on the High Seat where Frigga held court, from the seat that the High Ones could view the nine worlds.

The hall in bright Asgard did echo with laughter. On the high seat the First Disir, the Weaver of wyrd, looked down where her husband’s eye now flavoured the soup. Frigg rose from the throne and called Freya draw near, after some whispers and giggles, they took up matching cloaks.

“Forgive us, brave Aesir, noble Einherjar too, for you see the Norns have made such a fine brew. They have made such a soup as we simply must taste, so on falcon wings we shall be leaving this place”

The goddesses flew the whole length of the Tree to sup on the soup that was made from a jest, from the eye of a god, and the cost of his quest. Made of shattered oaths, treachery and spice, a little necessity to make it alright, the soup looked like blood, and smelled something wicked, but they served it with laughter and by goddess it was filling.

Stupid soup sounded bitter, but the substance was pleasant, it went down oh so smoothly, but left you still hungry. You know that you shouldn’t, but you know that you will, you will live to regret it, and come back for more too.

Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

Song upon the Yuletide

Oh sun, oh sun, we turned from thee.
Steadfast hearth eternal bide,
Sweet Sunna, mother sun
Your children lost, so lost, returning.

Cold paints white the bone bare branch
Trolls and storms howl in the dark
Huddled in the cold
Hungry and afraid
We come together and feast
What little remains
We share with song and laughter
Remembering our mother
Sweet Sunna eternal.

Oh sun, oh sun, we turned from thee.
Steadfast hearth eternal bide,
Sweet Sunna, mother sun
Your children lost, so lost, returning.

Yuletide upon us, the wild one rides
Empty the purse, empty the shelves
Huddled in the cold
Remembering your embrace
Where the sun our mother ruled
Where the wind was fair and warm
Where the golden grain swayed
Where the orchard branches groaned
What little remains
We share with song and laughter
Remembering our mother
Sweet Sunna of bounty

Oh sun, oh sun, we turned from thee.
Steadfast hearth eternal bide,
Sweet Sunna, mother sun
Your children lost, so lost, returning.

Yuletide is blazing, the dead walk the land
The Wild Hunt rides the storm
That the Frost giants fear
Huddled in the cold
Warmed together this holy night
We raise our voice to Sunna
Remembering our mother
To whom we turn again.

Oh sun, oh sun, we turned from thee.

Steadfast hearth eternal bide,

Sweet Sunna, mother sun

Your children lost, so lost, returning.

Author’s note: –For those of a mind to quibble, we are not actually praying for the sun to return. Sunna is steadfast and eternal (for our time purposes as a species). She is the center of our little system, and it is we who turned and wandered away.


If this is it

If this is it
If all our tomorrow’s are spent
I will shed no tears
I will cast aside my fears
Cast aside my sheath
Sword and smile blazing bright
For naked I will will go
Steel and laughter
Let death find me dancing

If this is it
If tomorrow I will feed the pyre’s flame
Tonight I will feast
Charge your glass and fill your plate
Let laughter boom out
Tears will fall
Only in our laughter
Let death find us
Too fat and drunk to rise

If this is it
Tonight I will speak truth
No ill wishings or hate
For only cowards held those back
Know how I cherished you
Know how I loved you
Know how you shone
Let death find us blushing
And never know the why.


Mental Health and Monkeys

Three Monkeys

A friend of mine and fellow veteran began a series of talks today called Mental Health Mondays.

We don’t do enough of this. Those who have the particular set of scars, stressors, coping mechanisms and experiences that make discussion with those who do not somewhere between counterproductive and dangerous, do not talk enough amongst ourselves about what it is like when we are out of the service, and the prices paid over the years start inquiring about balloon payments from body, mind, or honestly soul.

We talk a lot about the suicide rate among veterans. It’s actually worse than those numbers, as it only captures the direct self extinction events. There are a number of coping mechanisms turned into long term self harm that differ from outright suicide only in time scale. There are also a number of coping mechanisms whose cost ratchetted up slowly enough over a long enough span that we just learned to accept this as the new normal without really noticing.

As a group, we fail to acknowledge the unifying factor of our downfall. The secret is found in the myth of the three monkeys. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Only with us, it is different.

See no weakness, hear no weakness, speak no weakness. Suck it up buttercup. Shut up and solider. Embrace the suck. Only pussies ask for help.

Shame kills us.

Shame is the shadow of our pride, a shadow formed in the height of our power and accomplishment, a shadow cast when we stood in the band of brothers, proud, strong and utterly sure of both our role and our ability to meet it.

Then day passes, as it must, and we are left with the shadow. The shadow of pride is shame, the shadow of that surety of role and result is the sucking darkness of insecurity, of not knowing our place, not knowing how to define our struggle, being in a struggle without the measurable goals we used to mark our passage and our success.

We doubt. We doubt because we can’t see in this shadow, we don’t trust who we are, we don’t understand why things that used to be so easy and clear are impossible and confusing. We look in the mirror and don’t recognize who is staring back.

And we don’t say anything about it.

Those damned monkeys at work. We choose not to see the weakness in ourselves, because we looked down for so long on anyone who allowed such weakness to interfere with the task and purpose that drove us. We choose not hear when people around us voice concerns that maybe we aren’t coping so well, that maybe we might need some help. We choose to stay silent when the truth hits us, that we need the help we sneered at others for taking. We choose to stay silent because we are not only ashamed of needing it, but ashamed we chose not to see it, ashamed we turned away those who offered help.

By the time we realize we need it, we are so ashamed we turned away those who offered us aid we DARE not ask for it now.

How about we stop that, as a strategy? It is not what I would call a war winning one. I get it is traditional. So is drug abuse, spousal abuse, family trauma and suicide. This wasn’t the tradition because anyone thought it was a good idea, it was the tradition because we had centuries of an over culture that preached a whole lot of peace love and forgiveness utopian bullshit that left warriors forever tainted even in their own eyes.

Self care is duty.

Self care is about connecting to others, to listening to others when they voice their concerns about you. Self care is about seeing when your reactions to normal events in your life are far enough away from what you or others expect that maybe said event hit a land mine in your head that needs dealing with.

Reciprocity is another duty.

That is a funny one. You need to look at the monkeys again when you look at reciprocity. See no weakness, isn’t just about ignoring your own trauma, it is about choosing to ignore your buddies signs of stress and failure to cope. You have a duty to those you served with, those you care about, not only to hear their struggle, but (and this one is a bitch) to accept their help and answer them when they reach out to you because they worry you aren’t doing well.

It is funny, the premise of the armed forces is collective defense. We literally came together to become unified in spirit, focus, and effort to collectively achieve what none of us alone could, to protect what none of us alone could. Now that we put down that task, suddenly we forgot we were in this together.

Collective got us into this, it is collective we make it out the other side. The barrier keeping this from happening is shame.

Those three damned monkeys. Shame keeps us from seeing weakness in those we wish to respect (and so we let them fail and fall in silence). Shame keeps us from admitting weakness in ourselves and asking for help, so we can fail and fall in silence.

The first time those who would have stood with us will gather together to discuss what we struggled with will be our funeral.

Or, we could kick those three monkeys to the curb, and deny shame its power. We could talk to each other. Discuss what we struggle with. What we learn helps cope with it. What seems to be going wrong with the coping mechanisms that used to work and seem to be failing. We could get a realistic sense of where we stand, how we are doing, rather than simply accept the whispers of shame that we have failed and become another one of those damned statistics.

Mental Health Mondays as Ken urges us, are times to focus on self care, communication, connection, and the other things we need to talk about, to learn to use to make our new normal a normal we would actually enjoy living.

It all boils down to the choice; we keep the three monkeys, shame, and falling in silence; or, we start talking to each other. Finding new ways, coming together to shine a little light in the dark little places that we somehow grew scared to look at. Given all we survived to this point, dying because of three little monkeys and shame seems pretty lame.


May you be broken

May you be broken
On the wheel, or on the ice
May you be shattered
Of the bone
Of the mind

I was hale and whole once
I walked as straight as you
I was sane and in the light
This was the world I knew

But I was broken limb and spine
Then they broke my mind
My life was torn and tattered then
Lost and lost was I

But in the breaking oh
The breaking and the breaking
In the breaking and the madness
Of the shattered shattered self
I found the twisted power
That slept within myself

I was broken but unyielding
I was mad but I strove on
I was shattered but I rose again
Lost it all and carried on

I am not half the man I was you see
Yet the limits he knew I don’t
For all I was and am not now
I broke his limits and carried on

In the shattering and madness
I found another way
Alone and so alone I was
With all the could have beens of me
I found a path a twisted path
That lead from there to me

Roads I never looked for
Path’s I should have feared
On my belly crawled
For I could not stand
To places oh to places boy
I never dreamed I’d look upon

For all that could be stolen was
All that would leave me did
Those few who rallied to the wreck
Were more precious than close blood

I had it all
I did I did
A castle built on sand
But broken boy
As shattered was
I lost all in one tide

Broken boy
As broken is
Clawing at bare rock
What is torn from wrack and ruin then
Will stand to Ragnarok

I wish for you a breaking
I wish for madness and traitor’s blow
The wisdom of the broken
It is love, not wealth, makes home.