Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Goddess Freya true

I am Heathen, which honestly is not the same as pagan.  I am a hard polytheist who understands the gods and goddesses, however imperfectly we understand them, are discrete knowable entities with a nature that springs not from our need, but from their essence.  The gods that I have built a relationship with are the gods of my northern European ancestors; those familiar to the Scandinavian or German, rather than the Celt, Frank, Latin, or Pict that is also in my lineage.
We build relationships with them through the gifting cycle because of our need, but I do not honestly think they are born from it, anymore than I think Oxygen is released by plants because we need to breathe it.  We need much from them, and I would suggest from the length of the reciprocal gifting relationships we have built between our folk and our gods and goddesses, that they either need or want something from us.  I am going to look at one particular goddess, and how she is needed in our age and lands right now.  The goddess is Freya; wielder of the Brisengamen, the Van-dis, lady of the slain, and Gullveig the thrice burnt.  Due to the terrible scholarship and overly romantic fixations of the Victorians, most remember her as goddess of love and fertility, and forget her role as the only magical peer to Odin, first among witches, and she who receives the first half of all the dead heroes.

Freya is the goddess that many in the modern Heathen community have a hard time embracing for the simple reason that she is such a powerful and unapologetically female goddess.  Freya is goddess of love, but it is not the safe love of the marriage bed, but the wild passionate love that falls where it will, and cares not for the cost or conventions.  Brisengamen, the necklace that is her token, she had from four magical dwarven smiths who would only give it to her in exchange for her spending a night with each of them.
Ah yes, here we go.  The conservatives are already getting edgy.  How can our goddess be a slut?  She owns her sexuality and uses it like she does any other weapon, like her magic, to accomplish her own ends.  Like Odin seducing Gunlod, Freya uses her sexual power to get what could not be bought.  She has no shame for this act, any more than Odin does for his.  They sought something, and they gained it.  They needed the power and knowledge they sought, so where their magic could not gain it for them, seduction and desire could.  Sexual power without shame or apology.
Freya cannot be dismissed as a slut, for her sexuality is her own.  She owns no master or husband, but loves where and how she chooses.  In the Voluspa, Freya is sought by the builders of Asgard’s walls, but she will not trade herself even for the security of Asgard, so Loki is forced to use shapeshifting trickery (that ended with him pregnant with Sleipnir) to keep the wall builder from finishing on time and seeking to collect.  Later in the Lay of Thyrm, Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor) is stolen and the giant who has it requires Freya as his bride to return it.  With Odin and Thor demanding, she refuses because even in the face of the two most potent Aesir, she has the power to refuse them.  Far from being a cheap slut, she is the epitome of a woman who owns her own sexuality, and loves as SHE choses, not as others would tell her she must.

Voluspa remembers her thus; Gullveig the thrice burned.  The match to Hor (Odin) in might and magic in the first war (Aesir/Vanir war).

  1. The war I remember, | the first in the world,

When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, | and three times born,

Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

  1. Heith they named her | who sought their home,

The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,

To evil women | a joy she was.

The modern Wiccan and their famous creed “an harm none, do as you will” is not the kind of witch Freya was, nor that her followers were.  The famous catskin gloves of Freya were the mark of a volva, a seeress, a witch who dared to wield the most primal of magics.  Sought for knowledge of the future, or for advantage in battle, there were no restrictions on the magic of Freya about harming none; this is the only peer Odin ever faced in magic, who traded knowledge of Seidr to him for his knowledge of Galdor.  Her magic was a war winning tool, and for it Odin was forced to give an equal measure of knowledge and power.  Receiving half the einherjar, the honoured dead, it is Freya who choses first.  She is goddess of the dead, as much as she is the goddess of the renewing earth.
Freya means Lady, as in the title given to women in leadership positions.  Her name became the honorific for women in positions of power or authority.  Freya was synonymous with power to her people.  This is not a goddess who relies on some big strong god to defend her, but one who weilds power in her own right to her own ends, and whose power is often begged by other gods to assist them towards their own ends.

Two figures are portrayed as leading the Wild Hunt, the fall ride of Odin, and the spring ride of Freya.  In each the Wild Hunt is the epitomy of primal magic, of passion, blood and power.  The Wild Hunt is possibly the best and most enduring symbol of the magic of madness, of the divine power than admits no constraint, no law, not even reason.  Freya (or Holda for our Urglaawe kin) is the goddess of unrestrained passion, of primal power that is unbound by reason or law, simply and inevitably existing as what she is, not fitting neatly into any (or even all) the boxes we want to put her into.

Freya Hunt

Who is Freya to us today?

Freya is a goddess whose nature reaches deep within us, stretching back to the before times, before the technological civilization, the rule of reason.  Freya touches the primal essence of us, that part of us that has never fully been separated from the land, that part of us that has not forgotten how to see and speak with our dead, or the spirits that arise from the life around us.  Freya is tough for modern Heathens to deal with because she does not stoop to fit in our little boxes, and some parts of her will pass without hesitation or remorse right through our comfort zones and out the other side.  She is what she is, not what we want her to be.  Oddly or appropriately enough, that is exactly what we need from her.

When you struggle to deal with PTSD, two of the most popular coping mechanisms are alcohol/drugs, and love.  The former stops your mind from remembering, but that latter allows you to lose yourself and connect on a level below thought to life again.  One ultimately chips away at your self and becomes one of those coping mechanisms that goes on to kill you, and the other allows you to learn to tie yourself to life when the wounds you have taken are trying to force you to flee from it.  Freya is not simply about rejuvenating the earth as part of the growing cycle, she is about the power of passion to fire us; we poor half broken humans.  She rekindles the flame in those whose life fires have been brought low because life has taught us that we are either incapable or unworthy of the fires of life and love.

Freya teaches passion, and the passionate use of your power.  Freya does not separate the parts of her nature; her sexuality, spirituality, leadership, independence, mystery, knowledge, are all expressed fully not as foolish excess, but as the awe inspiring expression of purity of purpose.  The lore does not describe Freya as being a slave to passion, but one whose knowledge and passion are matched, whose primal potency and mysterious knowledge combine.  There are those who will say that Freya is sacred female sexuality, but I would say that Freya’s call to own and embrace your sexual self, and your own personal power are not restricted to any gender or orientation.

We live in a world that has grown so complicated and conflicted that we are taught to be guilty for wanting, for enjoying, for striving, for needing, and in some religions even for being born.  Freya teaches us to live.  To embrace life.  Restoring, healing, empowering or just waking us the hell up.  Freya may well be the goddess that best allows us to remember to be human, when we have tied ourselves so tightly in social constraints that make that almost impossible.

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Embracing Failure: Lessons of Frigg

 

We are not raised to accept failure.  We are trained from birth to seek success, to define ourselves by success, to adapt and overcome, that there is always a path through to victory.  This is how we are taught to deal with a world that we must overcome to succeed.  It is good to teach the young that they must strive, for against anything but their wyrd they may triumph.

 

Note the caveat.

Wyrd weaves as it will, and against it even the gods may not stand.  At the end of the first war, the goddess Frigg had seen her best loved son, Baldur, the shining one, at the forefront of every battle.  First into battle, as he was ever first with a laugh, with a song, with a smile; his courage was as great as his heart and she lived in fear that his courage would lead to his doom.  Determined, now that the Aesir and Vanir were at peace and the Aesir held sway over the worlds, Frigg set to earn from every creature that lived, every thing that crawled, flew, swam, grew, or rooted in the earth; indeed from every rock and metal, every gem and stone, a promise to do no harm to her son.  She succeeded almost beyond belief in securing the oath of every thing that existed in the nine worlds, except for one.  Mistletoe.  It was only Mistletoe that refused to swear, and with an arrow of Mistletoe was Baldur slain, and winter came into our world.  The goddess blessed with the ability to see wyrd, the weavings of fate more deeply and truly than any other, a goddess with power and knowledge almost beyond all definable limits set out to protect her son, and she failed.

Frigg and Baldr

 

Why was no one paying attention?

We can all tell you about the revenge, about the consequences, and the saga are rich in detail about all of that, but what no one discusses is that the great goddesses Frigg, perhaps our most powerful goddess, failed at the thing most important to her.

 

We get told by the better instructors in first aid that some people are going to die anyway.  Then the rest of the weeks are spent working the premise that everyone is savable, and the only deaths you encounter in training are due to failures on your part.  When our soldiers fall in battle or training, the immediate call goes up to see someone punished, as if one of ours fell, someone must pay, because a mistake has been made!

 

No.

 

Death is woven into much of what we do, and there are a lot of things that you can do everything right and still get killed.  That is why we honour those who serve military, police and fire services, because they can make no mistakes and still fall in our service.  We honour ambulance attendants not nearly enough, as they have the unique chance to experience what our soldiers see too often as well; you can’t save them all.  Watching people die when there is nothing you can do about it sucks badly.  The longer you draw this out, the more it sucks.

 

Parents and sibling caregivers get a part of this too.  Like Frigg they have one (or more) they are responsible for, one that they must protect, defend, and provide for at all costs.  Death before dishonour is a great war cry, but in practice leaves either corpses or broken people in its wake.  We somehow forgot that even the gods cannot simply decree victory, that beyond a certain point, how much you have to lose does not actually affect your ability to win.

 

Sometimes the stakes on the table really won’t turn a pair of two’s into a winning hand no matter how you try to play them.  Sometimes you have given everything you have, and it is not enough.  What do you tell the person who has given everything they have, and it is not enough?

 

Society tells them to suck it up buttercup.  Family most frequently will tell them “You have always been the responsible one, I’m sure you will find a way”, or “Its not that bad, I’m sure you are exaggerating”.  The latter one comes most frequently from those family that dump their problems on you and walk away trusting that you will deal with them because you always have.  Family will allow you to get sucked dry by parasitic members of the family because “they need help”, all the while refusing to supply any of that help, or assist you when you get so overburdened you cannot cover all the commitments any more.

 

We have the lesson of Frigga, that even the gods cannot simply decree a victory, that some things really are beyond our ability.  We don’t like that lesson, we don’t look at that lesson, we don’t acknowledge that lesson.  We peddle the dangerous myth that if you love someone enough, you can make it work.
I tried that once, drove myself past all human limits.  It didn’t end Disney.  It ended badly, and the cost was far, far higher than it would have been if I would have acknowledged I was failing, accepted my failings, and saved what I could.

We are not taught to do that.  There is a shame in failure.  A stain, a blot upon your honour and name.

 

We are taught to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold the gods to.  Think about that for one second.  We expect each other to be more powerful and more perfect than the holy gods.  I am trying to wrap my head around how that got accepted as anything but complete and utter horseshit, and I am failing utterly.

 

To people living with chronic pain, depression, or physical handicaps the challenges of our normal lives are harder by about the same degree that walking would be harder if you were carrying a pack with 80lbs of rocks in it.  They can walk, yes.  They can sort of shuffle while you jog, and they will be able to power up a limited amount of stairs, the will is a powerful thing after all.  When you drop them off the side of the boat and swim for shore, understand that they will now drown.  They can’t suck it up, they can only suck up lake water as their burdens take them to the bottom.  Some things are simply beyond your strength, and there is nothing the will can do about it.  That is just that.

 
Against wyrd even the gods are helpless, yet we somehow fail to cut ourselves the same slack.

 

There are people out there suffering in silence, sometimes motivated by pride, but most motivated by shame.  They are busy drowning under their burdens because they have been taught that they are not allowed to fail, and to let go their burdens and save themselves would be shameful.  They will drown, they will break themselves, and guess what, that won’t save their burdens either.  Their dependants do not magically get cared for if they die in the attempt, they just end up short a caregiver.

 

Against wyrd even the gods are helpless, and even the gods fail.  You are not a god, cut yourself some slack.

Everyone else out there; understand we are ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.  We are the ones looking at the family members doing the care giving and accepting the “I’m OK” from someone who looks like they are about to collapse, patting them on the hand and going back to your life, content someone else is dealing with those unpleasant things.

 
We are the ones telling parents that you have to “tough it out for your kids”, when they are telling you they are losing it, coming apart, not able to stretch their resources enough any more, and watching their house of cards come tumbling down about their ears.
We are the ones telling those who are struggling with chronic illness or pain to just “concentrate on the positive” or “be happy”, as if there is a dial somewhere in their head that allows someone to choose to be overwhelmed and coming apart or “happy” and until now they just never thought to turn it.

I live with chronic pain, so I know this particular dance.  I am doing OK, so this isn’t a cry for help from me, because when I needed it I wouldn’t have asked, and what I was getting was so not helpful, so it was for the best.  I include that remark for one reason alone.  For all of those who are going to read this and say this is whining from special snowflakes who don’t know what real struggle is like, I have lived through more shit than you can believe or I had any right to survive, and that honestly makes me the one who needs to stand up and say this now.

I should have accepted failure when the cost was something I could live with.  I didn’t and the cost was more terrible than I want to remember, but I don’t really have a choice.  Be smarter than me.

 

If the gods can fail, why do we not permit it in ourselves?  There is a saying in French:

“sauve qui peut” save who you can.  When you are going to fail, you can accept that and save what you can, or you can deny it and end up saving no-one and nothing.  There is no honour in this, only quiet despair, humiliation and loss.  There is no victory to be gained by going down in flames, no one will sing your praises, and everyone with you gets burned too.

Failure is sometimes your wyrd.  Accept when you face a challenge you cannot win, that you will not win, and devote your energy and your effort into saving what you can, getting out from under the inevitable results of that failure as many as you can

 

We treat failure like we treat death, but I will tell you a little secret that should be obvious, but actually isn’t; you can recover from failure.  Death is simply the end, failure is a bit like falling, it tells you the point at which you have arrived (flat on your tushy)  but does not say anything about where you go from there.  You can get up from fallen, can rise from failure, but broken and dead is broken and dead.  There is no way back.  Do you see what I am getting at?  Failure can be accepted when its results are best described as fall down, even fall down weeping, rather than fall down dead.  The first two you can rise again and go on to triumph, the last one….the last one is forever, and there is no going back.

Failure is not something we ever want, not something we are prepared to accept when the failure is for those we love, for what we are depended on to provide.  It will happen, unless your life is uncommonly blessed, that you will fail, and if you are really unlucky you may face the position of looking at a failure that you would rather die than allow.  Ask yourself; will death bring your victory?  Will death solve the problem you can’t for those you are leaving behind?  If the answer is not absolutely clearly yes, then you are faced with a cold choice.  Accept failure while you can still survive it and recover something from it, or lose everything by dying.  If you lose everything and live, you can actually go on to win some back.  Death really is the end of all possible aid you can give anyone.  Death is the end of possibilities.  Failure alone, is not.

 

We are told death before dishonour, we are told to put duty before our life.  We are told a lot of things, and then set free in the world on our own to sink or swim.  When there is no way to win, losing is what is left.  When there is no way to succeed, failure is what is left.  Not all losses are equal, not all failures are total.  Accept when facing what you can’t beat, that victory is not going to be yours, determine what you can save, and put your strength into saving what you can.  Swallow failure in all its ugly squalor, but wash it down with hope.  If you chose to accept failure when you still have options, you can do that.  If you attempt to deny failure when there are no paths to victory, you will lose everything, most likely including your life, or at least your ability to function in it, and never allow yourself the chance to find your way back.

Failure is a dirty word, but many necessary things in this life are dirty, humiliating and unpleasant.  Many things in this life are simply necessary to survive to get to the parts that make it worth living for.  Don’t let fear of failure destroy you.  Learn the lessons of Frigg.  Move all the nine worlds to do your duty but if that is not enough and you fail anyway; accept it.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and if it weaves a loss for you right now, save what you can, save yourself as much as you can, and hope to rebuild on the ashes.  Failure, even when it costs you everything you have now, only costs you everything if you let it end you.  It cannot take away what you will do tomorrow, nor next week, next year.  Give yourself the right to fail, and see if the right to rebuild gives you something you can live with afterward.

 

Frigg could not save Baldur.  Sometimes love is not enough, duty is not enough, pride is not enough.  We are no more powerful than the gods, and even they fail.  They showed us you can continue.  They taught us you can be worthy of respect, of trust, of love, after failure; even a failure to protect those whom you love more than your life.  We are so quick to learn the lessons of revenge on others, and so slow to learn the lessons of forgiveness for yourself.  Blame not the gods, they are marvelous instructors, blame ourselves, for we cherry pick our lessons, preferring blood and honour to failure and shame.  Failure and shame are where you start from to rebuild what you can, save what remains.  Failure and shame are ours too.  They are not pretty, they are not cheap, and they are not ever forgotten, but from such mean things can you rebuild a life.

Baldur grave

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Asatru, Current events, Uncategorized

Responsibility for Hate

torture-victim

 

I understand that people are looking at the deeds of the worthless scum of various ugly corners of our society, the pure acts of hate, acts that show a complete and utter lack of acceptance of the humanity of those they target, and it is easiest to point to the bloodied hands and seek answers for the deeds there.  That is clean up and damage control, that is not solution, that is putting band-aids on the bullet wounds.  The real loss or victory happens before the trigger pull, before the gun is picked up.  Let me share with you the lessons that were shared with me.

 

The UK and Canada have agreements to allow members of our forces who wish to emigrate and continue to serve the Crown.  Basically, you can transfer in rank and grade, but you must complete basic training in the new Army so that you and those who will be in your chain of command share a common frame of reference.  By this requirement we found ourselves with a precious asset on our basic training, we had Sgt Reynolds, Recce trooper with tours in Northern Ireland under the British flag, and various fun spots of Africa under the UN.   Given a long history of counter-insurgency work, both low intensity and high intensity, we would have expected an attitude fairly extreme towards the shooters, bombers and front line insurgents.  What we got was something far different, and a far more complex understanding of how hate works, and where it can or can’t be fought.

 

Now for those who are offended by harsh language, fuck off.  You are not going to have the capacity to accept the stark truths presented to young soldiers by old soldiers who had seen the truth not through media lenses but through their own eyes year after year.  I will give you his words, as he gave them to us, because they deserve to be heard as they were, not as anyone might “pretty them up” and lose much of their essence in the doing.

belfast-throw_1945081i

“You see some fucking 14year old with a rock or a Molotov and a mask, and you just know some poor squaddie is going to have to put a bullet in him eventually, hopefully before he kills a bunch of poor fucks just trying to have a normal life and family, knee deep in someone else’s bullshite.  Can’t do shit about that.  No one can do shit about that kid, he died about seven years ago on his grandmother’s knee when she whispered in his ear about crap that happened a hundred years ago that was probably to avenge some other shit that happened a hundred years before that, and got his bloody father killed already, and convinced him he wasn’t a man unless he avenged the last poor fuck who died avenging some other idiot who decided some shit that happened in sixteen fucking something was worth blowing up a school over”

 

“You can’t do anything for the punk kid in the mask with a gun or a bomb, the poor kid was killed already by those who taught him that the only way to live was to kill a bunch of people he never met for something they never did and had nothing to do with, just to show the world he has a dick and will find a fucking meat grinder to stick it in.  You put a bullet in the ones you have to before they hurt too many people, but you arent’ solving shit if the granny’s keep whispering.  You buy time, that’s all you do. If someone doesn’t stop the whispering, you will never stop the killing.  Don’t hate the poor little fucks, just shoot the ones who had to, and don’t start whispering about how they deserve it or some poor kid is going to suck that up and end up the next one who needs some poor squaddies bullet.”

 

It is a sobering thing to learn, that as a soldier, as the sword and shield of the people, you actually can’t stop the bloodshed, you can only decide who dies today and hope someone does something about the whispers before the body count gets too high, or the number of dead to be avenged becomes high enough people stop asking about what the point of the fight was I the first place.

We here in North America do not inherit that kind of instilled hatred.  We didn’t have the grandmothers whispering the glory of the struggle to little boys who grew up not as men but munitions.  Our culture is too diverse and broadly based for that sort of familial cultural conditioning without external support.

 

We are fixing that.

 

This last US election has been the stuff of nightmare.  The tides of division and hatred that were whipped up to drive short sighted people into power are not actually the kinds of tides you can dispense with when your port you have reached.  You have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, you have ridden the storm and now the storm is upon you.

 

Our media has forsaken its duty to report the story and begun to be the story.  I have watched in my own lifetime the shift from news to sensationalism that has become our media news coverage.  I have seen how the quest to capture attention has moved from providing balanced reporting to providing shock reporting.  We begin with the media attempting to make each and every story not just a single event to be examined in its own merits, but a judgement of society.  The problems from that one start at the fact the guilt/innocence of the people involved are obscured by the “greater issues” and the needs of society on those “greater issues” screw justice right up the ass and the story becomes about something other than the deeds of person involved.  The first victim is forgotten, the second victim is justice, and the third is the community as the “Greater Issue” comes under the same treatment as the initial story.

 

Politics is about swaying the public, the saying “give me a lever long enough and I will move the world” is born in physics, but reaches its purest expression in politics.  Levers in politics are shocking events that will outrage sections of the public enough to be harnessed to a political agenda to the ends of those who are shaping the message.
The demagogues of Athens and Rome gave us the true expression of the rule of the mob, as agitators showed how little it took to bring society crashing down simply by finding an event that you could use as your lever to work at the stress points in your own society to overturn it.  You would think we would learn from this.
We saw the use of the media in Nazi Germany use this lever to give us the greatest evil of our age, and we saw it enacted again in Yugoslavia proving the tools still work and the price has not changed, and still we did not learn.

 

We have our media creating sensation and division from tragedy.  Rather than seeking reasoned discourse, they seek to whip up the public passions, because that gets market share.  Facts matter less than passion, truth matters less than purity of message and inconvenient facts that do not fit the message are casually cut as the message not the truth is the important thing, the “greater issue’ whatever the pet cause of the extremist groups who are feeding off, and in turn being fed off by the media always feel their needs are more important than the truth.

We have our grandmothers whispering hate in our seven year olds, only this time they come at us through TV and radio, talk shows and sound bytes shared and reshared around social media where our tendency to look only at feeds that match our own opinions give us a false sense that what we are hearing represents the whole of the truth, rather than the heavily slanted and sculpted message of your own faction, tailored to your demographic by modern demagogues as skilled as any Athenian , and as amoral.

media

If you shout fire in a crowded theater, you face the penalty for those who are injured in the resulting panic.
If you lend voices to the extremists in all communities, falsely presenting the impression that these extremists represent the commonly held views of communities alien to you, you have successfully shaped the view of that community as hostile and a threat.  You have filled the Molotov cocktail, you have filled the bottle, you have stuffed the wick down into the gas, and you have come to them to ask if they intend on directing those bottles to the target that you yourself have created in the minds of each side.
The problem with the false images of the media’s messaging, is that one you throw the Molotov cocktail or rock, real people are hurt and killed.  If it bleeds it leads is not the whole of the expression.  We need it to bleed if we want the lead is the corollary.  You will not get airtime or market share to explain that you really wont have the real reasons for why an event happened until the trial is over and month of investigation are completed.  You get market share if you can stand in front of police tape and give an answer that is sensational, shocking, largely reguardless of the facts of the matter.

 

If you shout fire in a crowded theater you get charged.  You stir up divisions in the community until various sides are spilling blood and burning theaters down you get elected, you get great market share, you get to say that you were right in what you said would happen.
Make no mistake, this is about media creating the news, not reporting it.  The politicians and social media use the tools the media gives them to move their demographics, but they do not spin them out of whole cloth, they take them from the media, from our glorious independent fifth estate who somewhere in the 1990’s lost its integrity and any desire to fact check before publication and broadcast.

 

What are we going to do about this?

 

What are you doing about this toxic messaging?  I know I am as guilty as any for this, it is easy to find an answer in a sound byte that captures your outrage, it is seldom a good answer.  Real answers are seldom sexy and satisfying.  Real progress means accepting that people can be different from you in ways you really don’t like and yet are no threat to you.

Real threats exist.  Bullets do solve some problems.  Please keep the numbers that must get solved by bullets to a minimum by restricting them to the actual criminal sociopaths, the truly evil who are a problem in any generation, but a small manageable ones.

Kill the whispers.  Kill the whispers that seek to make hatred a foundation of young men and women’s world views.  Kill the whispers, or by the gods acknowledge that the blood that covers the ground when some poor fucking squaddie or police officer has to do their job and kill, that blood doesn’t just stain the poor trigger puller, that blood belongs to every one who spread the whispers.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Feast of Crow

crow-eating

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.

Odin Picture

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Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized, Yule

North-man at Yule

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I am a North-man.  If you are thinking horned helms and swords, you are watching too much TV.  I mean I am a man of the north, a man who has lived a lot of my life in the high and the wild, in the places where you can break a steel tool by trying to pick it up when the weather gets too cold, where you sometimes need a tiger torch to free a tire mud-welded to the pavement when the wind shifts and five above becomes twenty below again.

 

Come the winter, the days get short, the nights get cold, and the rain comes.  You burn through twice as much calories just keeping your body normal as you adjust to the chill, and maintain the normal activity level.  Everything is wet, and stays wet.

 

I was a soldier for a lot of years.  I learned to love living rough, spending weeks or months living in the mud, dust or snow, but this left me with an understanding of the realities of the seasons that the comforts of home and plenty take away from most of us. The realities haven’t changed.  For a lot of people the truth still remains the same.  Winter is the dying time.  It is always trying to kill you, and the day you make a mistake, get wet and don’t get dry, don’t eat when you burned off the reserves you had, or, gods forbid, get sick when you were already marginal, it wins.

 

When I was a child, the Irish Rovers were a favourite of mine, and when I thought of Christmas songs, I thought of the Little Match Girl.  Nothing to me sang of the truth of the season more than the song of Little Match Girl.  The little match girl dying in the cold was a truth our ancestors stepped over in the cities every winter through the ages that left us with such historical legacies as public work houses, debtors prisons.

I am a Socialist.  Most of Scandinavia is, for the North teaches that it is always trying to kill you, that if you do not stand together, you will die.  It teaches you that you are responsible for your own first, but for others in the community as well, for alone, none of us is enough.

 

I am not a Communist, in fact I spent my salad years training to shoot at them, a war that may be fought yet if things keep going strange out Ukraine way.  I am a believer in our constitutional monarchy, with rule through representative democracy, a division of powers between federal and provincial levels to balance collective needs and regional differences.  I don’t believe we, as one of the richest nations on earth should have starving children, or those to whom falling thermometers may mean not waking in the morning.

 

I am a Heathen, not one of the Christians this song was written for.  We do not suffer from the need to believe the world is as it is not.  We do not have a trouble understanding the reality of the season is in fact the reason for it.

 

Cold and dark sap at the connections we have to life.  Cold and dark drive us inside, away from each other.  A time of privation and solitude, of depression and loss.  A time the weak will die, those who have no strong connection may well stop fighting and pass even when they have the strength to go on.

We are commanded by the gods to wassail hard in the heart of the dark, to brighten each other with gifts, to exchange hospitality with each other and make merry.  The flame of life is guttering until we fan it bright and hot again.  This is the Yuletide, the meaning and the purpose of it.  Odin as the Yulefather is a gift giver, but his punishment for those who break hospitality, for those who forget the reason for his laws are justly feared.  We are in this together, forget it at our peril.

 

Those in our society who work the hardest, give the most.  Those who are rich are farthest from the cold, the dark, and the cost.  Those who have clawed their way up from it, or who have survived blows or tests that they feared might cost them all they had built look up on those who have little and understand that any help they give can make a difference.

 

A gift for a gift is the basis of heathen practice.  Reciprocal gifting relationships are the foundation of our practice.  We are reminded in the Hamaval of the uses of the wealth we have, little though it may be. For our friends we show our appreciation by exchanging gifts, and guesting, that those relationships we have found important to us are recognized and strengthened.

 

  1. Friends shall gladden each other | with arms and garments,
    As each for himself can see;
    Gift-givers’ friendships | are longest found,
    If fair their fates may be.

 

We look to our folk, to our people, to our community and we see those who have less than us, who do not enjoy the bounty that we do, and to them we offer not charity, not a beggar’s token, but a gift from one person to another, a recognition of another person as worthy of such a gift.  We do not give to those lesser than us, we extend a gift to those we hope will one day be in a position to extend a similar gift to another in need, when they are in a better place. Paying it forward was our tradition a thousand years ago, and I hope it to be still a thousand years from now.

 

  1. No great thing needs | a man to give,
    Oft little will purchase praise;
    With half a loaf | and a half-filled cup
    A friend full fast I made.

 

We say when we make our sacrifice, “From the gods, to the earth, to us.  From us, to the earth, to the gods”.  We seek by our offerings given to the land to complete the gift cycle, to close the circle between the gods, ancestors, wights of the land, and ourselves.  We cannot pay back the gods for their gifts, so we show our gratitude by using those gifts to help those the teachings of our ancestors, and the wisdom of our gods and goddesses have shown us are in need.  We honour our gods more by showing we respect their teachings than by offering the most potent of powers gifts that can have only symbolic meaning to them, but make real benefits to those in need.

 

  1. Better no prayer | than too big an offering,
    By thy getting measure thy gift;
    Better is none | than too big a sacrifice.

 

Heathens don’t choose between helping those in need and brightening the lives of those that are important to us.  Both are important, both are part of what it means to keep the Yuletide.  We wassail hard in the heart of the dark.  We reach out to those who have gone silent, we renew the bonds that tie them to their community.  We look out our window at the cold and damp and understand not everyone has a choice to be on this side of the glass, and that is actually not OK.  I celebrate the Yule tide, I drink and feast, I gift and renew my ties with family and friends.  I also do what I can for those in need, because there is not a lot except wyrd (fate) between me who gives the gift this year, and those in need who receive it.  The north teaches you that the night is cold, dark, long, and ever so hungry.  Those who face the night wondering if they will see the morn are never far from my thoughts this time of year.  The dead are close to us at Yule, and those who are not tightly bound to life are too apt to join them.

 

We make our light blaze in the heart of the dark, we feast in the time of privation, we offer gifts in the time of want, because we will the folk to see through the dark times until the returning sun.

yulefather

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Asatru, Heathen, Uncategorized

Staring Into the Abyss

abyss

 

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And when you gaze long into an Abyss, the Abyss also gazes into you” Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil Aphorism 146.

 

I will give credit where it is due to a fellow Heathen service man, Luke Burroughs for clarifying something I had been struggling to wrap my brain around.  A feeling that grows as distance from the bad times extends, and one over which no amount of logic listing all the ways those bad times were indeed actually worse than you prefer to remember them at casual recollection.  Still, there is a pull, a draw, a power to those times that calls us, a need they fulfilled that I had trouble putting into words, until Luke identified it. The eight characteristics of optimum human experience.

 

  1. The task is challenging and requires skill.
  2. All ones focus is required by the task.
  3. Concentration is possible because the task has clear goals.
  4. Task provides immediate feedback.
  5. Total focus removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
  6. You experience the feeling of complete and effortless control of self.
  7. Total focus on goals allows you to lose your sense of self, a lack of self consciousness which frees you to express your skills and will.
  8. Sense of time is altered – hours pass by in minutes, or seconds can seem like eternity.

 

Here is the scary part, a lot of the worst bits fall into this category.  The battle for immediate survival focuses the human consciousness like nothing else, not even lovemaking.  When you have the training and skills to actually respond to the challenge of a life or death situation with the application of an extremely well developed skill set layered onto a character that not only thrives in, but demands challenge, you enter a state of heightened operation that is like nothing else in existence.  You are not superhuman, you are human expressed in its penultimate form.  Perfectly expressed potential; strained to the utmost by a challenge that demands, and will accept nothing less than one hundred percent of your will, skill, and native ability.

 

I drifted into Industrial First Aid after getting out of the service, and I am really good at it.  I don’t suffer critical incident stress like most people, but I do suffer from a bit of depression when it is done.  It is like I was half alive, half awake, just drifting through life until life or death was on the line and I came alive again.  When it is done, and my skills are no longer required, I set aside that state of being again, and THAT is when the depression calls.

 

We who fought with monsters did not become monsters.  We who stared into the abyss learned we are really good at dancing at its edge.  We are really good at facing challenges that demand everything we possess, in which the stakes are human lives, and in many ways, the future of our people.  What we did required everything we have, justified every sacrifice, and even if it cost our lives, it was worth it.

Now, we draw a paycheque, facing challenges that are more like wading through a swamp of more or less shitty ideas with a range of outcomes ranging from slightly better, to slightly worse as the corporate tortoise shambles forward in its ponderous, nearly sightless, largely unresponsive plod towards the next quarter report.  Our responsibility is to stay safe, our tasks require us to bring our skills to the table, but work inside an environment in which results or goal oriented thinking is often less useful than consensus building and adherence to process.

 

Nothing we do matters enough to be worth risking your safety for.  Our primary goal is to return home safe at the end of the day.  Very little we do will have results that provide any sort of realistic feedback, often praise is drawn for utterly irrelevant actions while truly important accomplishments are ignored or rebuked.

 

The bad times were bad.  Don’t glorify them, they sucked, they cost too damned much, and they left scars that won’t ever be fixed.  That being said, they mattered.  We mattered.  We were fully alive, fully focused, and what we did fulfilled us in ways that the mediocrity of the day will never do for us.
When the apocalypse comes, the bulk of humanity will be unprepared.  Good, while they are panicking, they won’t notice too damned many of us, young and freshly out, mature and supposedly knowing better, or old tired grey beards who look up with shining eyes and wolf grins because by the gods, we can live again.  There is a tendency for those who get out to focus on things that others never think about.  Its unhealthy on both sides, civilians need to pull their head out of their backsides and pay attention to the world, and prepare for when things go wrong, so they can deal with them, and not be simply statistics and burdens when things inevitably do go wrong.  Veterans need to let go.

 

Let go the need to matter.  The bulk of humanity really exist quite happily without a higher purpose, without a goal worth dedicating their lives to, without anything worth sacrificing themselves for beyond their family. Mostly your family’s needs are best met by NOT sacrificing yourself, but proper self care.

 

When you have stared into the Abyss, and found inside yourself the power to stand on the precipice between life and death, to play your skill, your strength and your willpower against death itself, it is really hard to take seriously someone telling you that you needed to fill out a report that you would not be able to meet your deadline, rather than actually meeting the deadline.

 

What we learned to be, what we learned to do, is the problem now.  The rest of the world actually likes this swamp of unfocused existence.  Likes to simply be, rather than existing to achieve goals at any cost.  The really scary part is that they suck at survival, for which they need us, but they are actually better at living that we have become, as we let a lot of things go as unessential that turn out to be important to being whole and healthy in the long term.

 

We have stared into the Abyss, we do not fear it, and it has learned to fear us.  Now we look at the great milling herd in the office and look not to cut through them in the most efficient manner possible, but to mingle with them, sharing your thoughts and theirs, laughing with them, bitching with them, allowing yourself to look for how to use your skills and ability to help them better make actual progress, while keeping inside the structure they have built for group effort. When you are used to running with wolves, understanding you are now part of a team of plow ox is really important if you want to get that field plowed, the seed sown, and your family fed.  Slow, steady, plodding progress gets the field plowed, the team safely and sustainably through the day.  It is not that demanding, and you can literally do it forever.

wolf-and-ox

 

It is hard when you have burned so very bright, to bank your fires to candle light, but that bright blaze burns out and falls to darkness in minutes, and your family needs your light through the long night ahead.

 

 

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Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Anger as a tool for Healing

barbed-wire-rosethor-cloud

It is dogmatically accepted in post 1960’s Western thought that anger is universally wrong, much as the axiom that violence never solves anything, the statement’s dogmatic acceptance has allowed it to somehow become a pillar of a society that it never built, and whose contributions have been as much negative as positive.

 

Anger has many negative and terrible expressions, and uncontrolled anger is almost universally destructive of self or others.  Anger is a lot like fire, when uncontrolled, misdirected, or in the wrong place, it is terrible and destructive.  Similar to fire, when controlled, properly directed, and in the right places it warms, protects, and drives necessary change.

 

When you are hurt by someone else, a large number of forces begin to work on you.  Fear driven by the situation and potential for future harm, anger that you were hurt, a desire to hurt back the one who hurt you, a desire to placate the one who hurt you that they not do it again.  In a largely Christian society, the social pressure to forgive, to accept the hurt without retaliation can be a real social pressure.  The perception that to avoid confrontation at all cost is somehow the worthy course of action has become the supposed hallmark of our peaceful civilization.

 

The problems stemming from accepting hurt without allowing anger to do its work grow in proportion to the frequency and severity of the hurts accepted.  When I swing my fist, my right to swing it ends at your chin. At that point, it has ceased to be my right to swing my fist, and become an assault upon your person.  Once you have been struck, my intentions suddenly matter less than you think.  You have been struck.  This fact cannot be taken out of the equation.  This is not going away, and there must be a reaction from you, even if no one but you will be aware of it.

 

Once you have been attacked by another, suffered pain, fear, loss, humiliation or other affront, your self has been attacked.  Your flesh is not the only portion of you that can take damage, not the only thing that may be wounded.  A physical attack is not simply experienced as trauma to the flesh, but to the mind and spirit as well.  What can be harder to spot is attacks of either non-physical nature, or of a physical nature that are more harassment than direct damage.

 

Thor is the defender of social boundaries, his rune is Thurisaz, which literally translates into thorn.  It is funny that the great god Thor is represented by the thorn, but in the spirit of the maxim that “good fences make good neighbors” the god of social boundaries, the god of frithful societies, is the god who makes good fences that will leave you bloodied if you try to push across someone’s boundaries.

thurisaz

 

Anger is the thorn, a thorn that bites the striking hand, and the thorn that galls our backside into getting off our tush and making sure our boundaries are defended.  Anger is a message.  Be very careful when you dismiss this statement.  I care less about who else you deliver this message to, it may be that the only thing you accomplish with expressing your anger is letting you know you did so.

 

The social pressure for good people to not start a confrontation, not escalate, to keep peace at all costs runs strongly counter to the Heathen principle of Frith, or right action towards others, and indeed, towards ones self.  It is not Frithful to accept without rancour attacks upon your person; your body or your dignity.  Frithful is to act appropriately towards each other, and one who attacks you is deserving of your anger, not your forgiveness.  More importantly, you need to deliver a message, and the primary person you are addressing is yourself.

To accept an insult to your dignity, or an attack upon your person without anger is to accept that YOU do not believe you are worthy of defense.  This must not be allowed ever.  I am not stating that it is productive in all situations for you to fly off the handle and initiate a verbal or physical altercation when you are so attacked; tactics if nothing else argue that you must always be aware of the threats around you and a realistic understanding of consequences should be part of your decision making processes at all times.   I AM saying that you are always listening. If no one else in the world is listening to you, understand that you are.  When you allow an insult or an assault to pass without anger, you are whispering to your Self that you were not worthy of defense.  These whispers are as terrible a poison as anything Syglin keeps from Loki’s brow, for they eat at the heart of you.

 

Anger can be a powerful motivating tool to change. Anger at your physical shape can drive recovery from the most terrible injury, or fight you through the most lingering and debilitating illness.  Anger can force you to look at the ashes of a failed and abusive relationship, be it personal, familial, or work, and drive you to make the changes necessary to secure that security of the person that will allow you to at last be proud, whole, and without fear of attack.

 

Anger at your own actions can also cause you to do the hardest thing of all; take behaviours that have been comfortable and successful for a long time and learn to set them aside, learning new ways, however painfully, that do not cause you to transgress again and leave you shaking with rage at your own actions.

 

Flowers are loved, swaying branches are much sung of, and the green leaf itself figures prominently in much art and fashion, but it is the humble thorn that we must turn to and offer a small bow.  The thorn is the instructor of the bleeding hand, the slap of cold rebuke, the punishment for the line crossed.  It is the thorn that makes a space safe, for it is the defense of your boundaries that makes your self sacrosanct.  You may batter your way through thorns, for enough force renders any wall eventually breached, but what you can never do is deny the barrier was there, deny the border was defended.

 

Anger, like thorns, is a message to the outer world that your boundaries are worthy of respect, and not to be lightly ignored.  Anger, like thorns, tells yourself that you are not only worthy of defense, but that your defense was real and worthy.

 

Shame and fear are thieves that steal your power.  Despair and sadness sap your will and strength, removing your ability to cope, to make changes, at the very time your situation is most desperately in need of changing.  The cold that seeps through your flesh as shame, fear, despair and sadness leach the life from your limbs, the light from your eyes, the swiftness of your thoughts will fall before the blaze of your anger, properly directed it can power the changes necessary to get you to a place where you can set anger aside, and remain warmed by brighter emotions.

 

When you are hurt, be it physically or other, you will have anger. Either you will own this anger, direct this anger towards those targets that deserve it, use this anger to spur the changes necessary to improve your situation, or this anger will direct itself.  If you smile and swallow your helping of gall, if you cast your eyes down and accept your fear, the fire of anger will burn inside, but it will burn you. It will not be guided by you, commanded by you; rather it will consume and punish you for the crime of not defending your Self.

 

Thor is not the god of peace, he is the defender of social boundaries, the defender of the folk.  His rune is not a flower, but a thorn.  We do not worship peace, for an unjust peace, peace bought at the cost of acceptance of abuse is abhorrent.  We seek Frith, proper action, appropriate action towards everyone we deal with.  We seek frith, and when frith is breached, anger is an appropriate response, for it can be used to drive the change necessary to restore frith.

rose-on-the-wire

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