Recently I had an experience I heartily recommend everyone avoid. I had a stroke resulting in left side paralysis. Wyrd being the way it is, there was no warning, save my little dog decided to brave the rain (which his fuzzy candy-ass does not do) to try to come to work with me (which he never does). Point to instinct and those who still heed them; no points to training, as I am an Industrial First Aid attendant, martial artist, and practitioner of enough esoteric disciplines that I really do think I should have spotted it before it showed symptoms. Good to know I can still be blindsided by the big stuff. Keeps me cautious.
Veteran of spinal cord damage, I was prepared for the fear and rage that helplessness has always spawned in me; and it never happened. It turns out a whole lot of teachings that I wasn’t really consciously aware of came in to play seamlessly, effortlessly, and really organically. When you think of healing and heathenry, you think of Eir, even of Frigg, sometimes of Thor. We are prepared as pagans of any stripe for the gentle goddesses, the protective or nurturing gods to be the source of our healing. Welcome to Heathenry, check your archetypes at the door.
First coming to me without even reaching was Skadi. I have long known and sought her in the high wild places, near and above the snow line on the high peaks. I learned to feel her on long patrols with the army in some of the loneliest, harshest, and most beautiful land the gods ever turned sideways for goats and infantry to play in. I have hunted with her, I have done search and rescue calling to her, ever have I sought her in the high lonely places where killers find a beauty that exists in a place most fear to tread. When I lost, in the space of an hour, command over half of my body, rather than fear, or panic, rather than the rage of Odin, I found instead Skadi; and the cold patience of the hunter. I fell, yes. When I fell, I waited, I listened, I tested, and with the confidence of the hunter grown grey and fat with the skills of the hunt, bided my time for the moment I could strike. Not the metaphor you would think attends healing, but there was no question in my mind, or my spirit. Skadi bid me wait, watch, and when the prey gave an opening, to strike.
Next waiting for me was the Tree Hanger. Given a skalds gifts from him long ago, I tend to see things in symbolic context, for me the runes have never been a tool of divination (sortilege was never done with runes in the classical period, according to any decent academic paper I ever read). Runes can be used by me to show me the question I should be asking, for when you ask the wrong question, your answers, however clever, will seldom be useful. I saw my problem: Issa, stasis, the killing ice. My will was clearly Naudiz, or needfire. Issa and Naudiz were balanced, but I had already lost, so balance was not enough.
From my wife came Kenaz, the torch. From her came both love and duty, for as I was fallen so was she rising to meet the commitments I could not. Her blazing brighter as my flame guttered caused my own flame to flare in answer. Kenaz, from light is light kindled. From my daughter Sowilo, in her love, in her laughter was the life giving essence of the sun. I was fallen, but life went on, the sun shone, animals and children played, and through her I saw the window into the life that sprung ever renewed in Sunna’s blessing.
Against Issa was balanced not simply Naudiz, my need, but Kenaz, and Sowilo. Ice faced the fire of my need, the bright torch of my wife’s, and the sunshine of my daughter’s love. There remained the small matter of winning back my body. However, it really did seem to be a small matter. Skadi was in me, with a hunter’s patience, I waited only for the time to strike. As often happens, the best intentions of healers did nothing but rouse the power in me to do what their inducements to helplessness would only make impossible.
I reached out in the night to the wights of the place I lay. Nothing against the Royal Columbian Hospital, but the wights there, like the nurses, look upon those who lie in there care as half people, as thralls without ability to do for themselves. They bind with chains of weakness, they bind with chains of care. I care not. First and last with me has always been the One Eye. The Feeder of Ravens found me in basic training, and for better or worse has been the one I have learned from ever since. From the pool of peace, and surrender was RCH Emergency, I reached at last for the rage. Not anger, for now given the focus of the runes I had already found and framed my needs, what I sought was different. As once when I lay in similar state with spinal injury, I called out to Wode in his oldest, and darkest form. I called to the wild hunt, to the transforming madness, to the ecstatic and elemental fury of the storm. It is not anger, it is not hate, it is a rage that is simply unfettered by all constraint of reason, of ethic, of human limitation and weakness. Is anyone surprised that we had a severe thunderstorm that night, to the point that the hospital stairwells were flooded from rain overflow on the roof? How could I know this trapped from the sound of all outside? Because with Skadi’s patience and Wode’s rage I took back what was mine. My first stumbling steps, led to balance drills, led to walking, led to climbing the concrete stairs where the staff complained about the fury of last nights storm, only to wonder why I threw my head back and roared my laughter.
There are gentle gods, and goddesses in Heathenry. Unlike Wicca, or any of the archetypal derivatives that form the pan-pagan or pantheist spectrum, we do not care for archetypes. Each of us seeks our gods and goddesses for reasons of our own needs and nature. Each looks to the teachings of those they know for lessons in their own needs. Where a Wiccan can say a thing belongs to Frey, a heathen may seek instead for Tyr or Frigg, whose lessons they feel they understand better, even if the question is not one others would think that god and goddess could address.
A heathen fell, as wyrd wove he must. A heathen fought, as against everything save the final doom wyrd weaves for us we may win out. A heathen found his healing, from the tools placed at his hand by Skadi, the White Huntress, and Odin, the Victory Father. Our gods and ancestors are beside us in our challenges, for while the challenge is ours to face, we remain theirs to instruct. Archetypes cannot contain the truths of Heathenry, for we know our gods to be more than any one thing; their essence is so primal and so deep that its expression cannot be contained in any neat category or pigeon hole.
John T Mainer