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.