This is the time of year that our gods call us to look inside and have a hard look at what we see. This is a very special feasting time, the Feast of Crow. This is the time where we look back at our words, and decide how many of them we will have to eat. Over the years, I have had never shied away from expressing my opinions, stating and defending my beliefs against all comers, and I do fairly well, sometimes because my ideas are just right and holy, and others because I am just a better fencer than the poor bastard who has the right with him, but not the skill to prove it.
Few things taste as sweet as victory upon the tongue, sweeter than mead, equalled only by the kiss of a fair maid, and yet the corollary is there as well. To realize that your victory was false, to realize your victory must be now denied tastes like ashes upon the tongue, eating your words, the feast of crow.
Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s ravens called Thought and Memory are birds of a particularly relentless nature. They are guides, seekers, messengers, but above all they are carrion birds to circle the raven’s feast, the dead, the dying, and those who are yet unaware of their imminent reduction to food source. In what capacity are they hounding me right now? A bit of all, I suppose. Illusions die hard, and when they die at last you have a few choices, pretend you never held the illusion and pray no one calls you on it. Which some do, but honestly, it leaves you inferior in every conversation that follows for you at least know your words ring false. Alternatively, when your illusions die, and you are faced with a truth you have long and loudly denied, you may choose to accept this truth. That is fine, but what about your words?
Those people who have stood against me in defense of the truth they knew and went down against my words not due to their cause but my ability to sway a crowd, I owe them now a debt. I was wrong, they were right, and it is not enough that I know this, I went on record with my views, and those who wish to weigh the worth of those who stood against me will remember the loss and hold them the lower for it. In fact they should be held the higher, as they were right and I was wrong. This balance must be addressed, or my own worth will be built on falsehood not fact. Not honestly a risk I choose to accept, nor a debt I wish between me and those who were in fact always correct.
So, prepare the Feast of Crow; if one is going to eat crow, to eat my words. It goes best with a nice mead to ease the burning, and to speed the laughter which reminds us all that if we can’t take a joke, we probably are one.
Lets have a look at some of the more famous arguments I have held over the years that I now find myself on the opposite side now.
Prison Inreach: Oh how I held the view that the outlaws had no place among us and the cast out should be cast out, that is that. Ah, but what then? What about when the outlawry is over? Right now only the White Supremacist literature is getting to the prisoners, and we weep and wail because Heathenry is being seen as White Supremacist due to the growing prison popularity. Hmm, if we want the people in prison not to be recruited by the White Supremacists, and the people who are attempting to incorporate Heathenry into rebuilding their lives, so that they may re-enter society as fully functioning members able to build and establish the kind of worth that would make them worthy additions to a Kindred, we would actually be well advised to see the prison heathens had access to good information, that those who would learn to make worthy choices will be shown what our community understands as worthy choices. We need to be involved in Prison Inreach, not so much primarily for the inmates, but for our broader community.
Magic is Ergi. Oh in the pride and power of my youthful invincibility did I spout often and loudly about how magic was unmanly, how use of anything beyond your iron will and hard hands was cheating. That one I held with the kind of self-righteousness that proved invulnerable to any external evidence. The gods are nothing if not whimsical, so in time I was given all the chance to examine this internally that I could dream of. I was given a spinal injury that I would be on medication for pain and spasm for life; a medication which made me a danger to anyone near me. I had become the threat I needed to protect my family against. I turned to magic, to an ordeal to seek from my gods and ancestors an answer, and I received it. Oh yes, when I could not afford to lose, I turned to magic, and it worked. So many years of arrogance to chew through. For as much as my voice has some weight in the community, and I have heard some use my words to mock those who use magic, know this, I live now because of it. If I remained a threat to my family, I would have eliminated that threat with the will and hand I was comfortable with, had I not dared to seek other methods, that once I labled ergi; unmanly. Duty is not ergi, but hubris is. Doing my duty meant learning to live, embracing the tools required, reguardless of their source. That, not cheap machismo, is the answer of a real man, not a boastful boy. I was that boastful boy, until life showed me how far up my ass my head was lodged. There are a lot of words to eat there, so I will be chewing a bit.
No bread for Torah! I love this one. I have a whole lot of reactionary in me, as many who had Christianity rammed down their throats start out. I have done my best to weed out most of the bits that jump out and smack me in the face as obvious. The rampant corruption of the Church, its abuses and outright evil provide a very firm foundation for a strong anti-clerical bias in Heathenry, and I still agree with most of it, but we have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t believe Heathenry should be a way to fill your coffers, I don’t want Heathenry ever to be just another big box store, catering to its carefully plotted demographic, a product like a hundred others for sale from the pulpit. That said, Heathens are not Wiccans, we are not a counter culture, we are an actual culture, and one that is moving forward and expanding. Our priests and priestesses are not required for 90% of what we do, but that other 10% that requires a professional level clergy occur at widely separated places, leaving our small absolute number of functioning trained priests and priestesses to cover a whole lot of ground and do a whole lot of work, at a huge financial cost. I love to offer my work to the community as a donation, but I must limit the level of that donation to what I can afford to spare from family and employment. At some point, I began to notice we were beggaring and burning out our serving ritual providers and hosts. That is not “A gift for a gift” that is not reciprocity, that is community parasitism. Holy crap. We have all been getting our Torah, and not ponying up the bread. You know, that is not good enough. Asatru and Heathenry should not be run like a business where profit is the main concern. We are not Christianity, their model is not ours. That being said, I don’t expect the would be leaders and volunteers in the community to sacrifice their success on the altar of our needs. That is unworthy of us as a community. People should be paid for work we seek them out to provide due to their professional level skills. It doesn’t’ end with priestcraft. Artwork and craftwork as well should be rewarded to the degree that we think it important to our community. If we love that which is made my a Heathen artist, be it a physical thing, or a song or artwork, we should make sure we PAY the artist what it is worth. I don’t care if you can get it free, if you want your community to have it, you see the artist got paid.
Our women are respected. You know, that one hurt the most. Its not as true as I thought, not nearly as true as it should be. One of the pernicious leavings of the cannibal cult, the misogyny of Christianity lingers in dark places within Heathenry. Our women have the broadest range of expression of their strength and worth of any community (faith or geographic) that I have ever seen. We have the most amazing women in the world in our ranks, and justly famed are many of them. That being said, they do not actually get equal respect for their deeds. They do not get equal hearing of their words. I actually thought we were doing better than this, but I accept that I saw we were better than others, and thought this meant necessarily good, and I was wrong. Ok, we can and will do better, but you don’t’ fix a problem you pretend isn’t there, so wake up my brothers; our sisters are not being treated as they deserve. That is on us, so fix it.
I have probably been wrong about other things, and yes ladies and gentlemen, will most likely be wrong about more if I survive into the new year. I will never stop fighting passionately for what I believe in, but I will hold myself to this; when and if I realize that you were right, and I was wrong, I will tuck my beard into my belt, and sit myself down to a nice feast of crow, and eat the words I spoke. I invite all of you to look back on all those things that you once held as true, and ask yourself how many of them still hold true, and see if there may be a plate covered in black feathers waiting for your dining pleasure as well.
The Yuletide is here, crow has no calories and the mead is medicinal. Join me in this repast, and we will face the new year a little wiser than the old.