Death, Faith, Heathen, Uncategorized

Noir

A little Halloween story, a Samhain sampling, or a little Noir to colour the shadows this winterfinding.  This story is not mine, for it was born from myself and Kat Kerns.  Neither one of us is sure how much the story told itself, so neither one of us takes much credit for it.

How it began:

Soundly asleep then instantly awake, but not knowing why. The clock reads 2:00 am; the house is silent except for the ever present dripping of the leaky faucet in the bathroom. ‘Why am I awake’ I thought to myself. My mind was alert to every sound and shift of shadow, my heart beating quickly out of time but not afraid. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone, not that I could see anyone in the darkened room, but I could feel a presence… instead of racing faster my heart beat calmed.

I felt strangely safe even though I knew I shouldn’t. Who could be in my house, in my room, and why wasn’t I afraid? I sat up in bed and turned on the lamp on the night stand. Looking across my room I saw…

Bogart smoking                                                            *

I don’t know how long it had been this time.  When your dead, time doesn’t matter that much.  I got plugged back in ’32, that was OK.  You cross some lines you have to figure there’s going to be a cost.  A dame gets involved and suddenly you start breaking your own rules, people get hurt.  Dead hurt.  I fixed it back then; but not before the kid got caught up in it.  One innocent, and a whole bunch of mooks who probably had it coming.  Like I did.  Somebody was keeping score though, ’cause it didn’t end when I died.

It was 43 when I got brought back first I think……..that little wop kid getting a bum rap because he had the wrong accent when they needed to hang an ugly wrap that came from one of the country club set.  Last time was what 93, the old broad who thought she was losing it because she could see me.  She couldn’t see her kid putting the squeeze on her loot, or selling her meds on the street.

He took a long drag on his smoke, pulling it deep into his lungs.  The cherry on the end burned in the night like a red eye.  Ghost smoke into ghost lungs.  The broad on the bed turned and looked right at him, and turned on the light.  He put out the smoke on the wall, noting it didn’t leave a mark.  Ghost smokes don’t leave marks.  Neither did he.  Or at least, not enough to erase the mark he made when he was alive.

He waited for the screams to start, or looking at the bottle from last night to figure out where the ghost crawled out of.  He hated this part.  Funny how nobody wants to listen to the dead they called back.  It’s not like he chose to be here.  That’s a lie.  He smiled, cold and hard.  I made my choice a long time ago.  Every drinker knows, no matter what’s your poison, the bill comes due at the end of the night.  It’s a long night when you’re dead.

Time to find out what this dame’s story was.  He didn’t always get it right, sometimes they still died.  He didn’t know how many times he had to get it right before he would get to rest.  Not a lot else to do when your dead.  She didn’t seem to be screaming.  Maybe this one would listen long enough to stay alive.

*

The spectral man seemed to be waiting for me to do something… perhaps scream or faint, not sure. He seemed surprised when I just watched him calmly. He looked vaguely familiar, like I should know him from somewhere. Perhaps he simply reminded me of someone I knew once or something. I took a moment to asses him, he had all the marks of a hard life when he’d been alive; at least I assumed he did. Not knowing how death worked, I really couldn’t say. Part of me knew I should be freaking out or questioning my sanity, but for some reason the only thing the spirit inspired in me was a sense of safety and calm, I knew somehow that he wasn’t here to hurt me.

Perhaps it was his eyes that inspired that, they had the look of a man resigned to his fate tinged with a touch of sadness. He put on a strong front as he drew on a spectral cigarette before putting it out against my wall; I was more than a little bit relieved to see that it didn’t leave a burn mark. They were always so hard to remove, I’d learned that well enough from an ex boyfriend who had been nothing but trouble when we were together and for a time even more trouble when we broke up. I still don’t know what it was I saw in him to begin with; maybe it was the challenge of the bad boy that many women make the mistake of assuming they can change, or perhaps pure masochism on my part. Whatever it had been, it was bad from beginning to end and I was well quit of him. I decided to say something maybe find out what he was here for, I was sure the spirit had a reason for being here; he didn’t seem the type to just be wandering through randomly. It was like I knew that he had a message of some sort, or perhaps he simply needed my help.

“Um… hello?” I said hoping that we could actually communicate.

*

The broad wasn’t freaking out like most of them did.  Wasn’t just sitting their giggling like that twin in 73; she never got straight long enough from the junk she was on to realize what was up.  It wasn’t hard watching that one go.   I watched a lot of people go in the Great War, and a few when I came back and worked as a cop.  Only a few more when I started work as a private dick, but one of those was her.  Angie.  The one I screwed up. The reason I’m here.

This girl looked smart, he could work with that.  She didn’t look scared though.  That was bad.  He may not have figured out much about why he kept coming back, but he knew that he only came back for kids on the edge of getting whacked.  Innocents like Angie.  No bottle this time, and no blonde; no chance to screw it up.

Sometimes they got in deep with the wrong people.  Sometimes it was family, and that got real ugly.  Sometimes it was love; god knows love is what screwed him up bad enough to let Angie get killed.  Even dead, that one won’t let him go.

This girl didn’t have the look; didn’t look hunted or scared.  That was bad.  She had no idea what was coming for her, and couldn’t tell me.  I pulled my .45 and checked the clip; five rounds, always five.  It begins again the same.

The girl pulled the blanket up when I pulled my gat, but still didn’t look scared.  She should be.  I only had one chance to get it right, last chance was all I ever got.

Memory gets bad towards the end, the things you try not to bring with you.  I remember the endings.  The blonde comes again, when I lose, she spits on me.  When I win she kisses me.  Funny, when she kissed me for real, I lost it all.  I lost Angie.  The dark one comes, her I know.  Half her face rotted and rat chewed, like the guys the shells dug out and tossed back in the trenches, all swollen up and bursting.  Half her face pale, cold, and hard.  A smile like the cocked hammer of my .45.  Then the dark.  Always the dark.

I walked forward into the light, no shadows for me I guess, since I’m not much more than one myself.  It was time to talk.  Probably too late, I was usually too late.  Two rounds wasted one bottle and one girl gone.

“What’s your story kid?  Who wants you dead?”

I lit another cigarette and took a drag, the smoke pulled deep and held, as I looked for her response.  Surprise.  Huh.  Always hard when you didn’t see it coming.

“Nothing personal toots, but if you see me, you got maybe an hour before somebody gets dead.  And right now, the smart money is still on you.”

I blew a long trail of smoke into the lamp light, and I laughed gently.

“But I always bet the wrong way, and sometimes win”

My smile used to do the trick.  Calmed the guys in the trenches calmed the cops on the scene who were turning green over their first corpse.  It never worked on dames though.  Of course, I never got that part right.  Even dead.

***

Dead? Someone wanted me dead, and this spirit was here to warn me. The gun he’d pulled out had startled me a bit, but I still didn’t think he was here to hurt me, but asking me who wanted me dead, that was totally unexpected. To the best of my knowledge no one wanted me dead. I mean the only person I could even think of who might even be angry with me was Joey, I mean he did take the break up hard and I had to get a restraining order, but I couldn’t imagine him actually wanting me dead because of it… could I?

Well, there was no way to be sure, if this spirit was here to warn me of my impending potential death then I had best figure out what to do about it. From the sound of things, he felt there might be a chance for me to survive so I’d better work quickly. Did he know the nature of the threat; was it personal, could it be accidental? All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t about to just sit in bed and let it happen. My mother didn’t raise a fool; she made sure that if her baby girl got herself into trouble she was strong enough to get herself out of it. I nodded my understanding to the shade, and got out of bed. Moving to my dresser I started pulling clothes out, I wasn’t going to face whatever was coming in my freaking nightgown. I paused only momentarily to glance at the spirit, but than continued to get dressed. He’d mentioned an hour at most, now was no time for modesty. Fully dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, I pulled my hair back into a pony tail to keep it out of my face and moved to my closet. I found myself very glad that my parents had seen fit to teach me how to shoot as I opened the gun safe and took out my 9mm glock. For a moment I considered grabbing my fathers .357 magnum but I wanted something light just in case. Who knew what I was going to be up against. Speed and maneuverability might be my saving grace. I made sure it was loaded with a round chambered and put a couple of extra clips in my pocket just to be sure.

I decided to grab my hiking boots and put them on, who knew if I was going to need to make a run for it. I was still unnaturally calm through all of this; well maybe I would fall apart later if I made it through the rest of the night. Once again I turned to look at the spirit, harbinger of doom or saving angel, didn’t matter, I was going to take full advantage of this warning. I for one was not ready to die this night.

“Okay, now what?” I asked him.

*

She said she didn’t have a clue who would want her dead, but her eyes said she was lying. She picked up a cannon, and put it back in favor of some boxy piece that looked like someone took my .45 and squashed it down to half size. She stripped the clip and checked it, chambering and safing what looked like about a 9mm like she knew what she was doing.  This dame had her head straight.  I might save her, like I should have saved Angie.

“Hey toots, how about you roll up that sleeping bag in the closet, and put it under your covers like you was still asleep”

The closet was beside the door, anyone sitting in it would see the bed, but the door was out of sight. To get a shot at the bed, you would have to step around the walk in closet, with your back to it.

“Sit yourself here in the closet. I will let you know when somebody comes through the door.  If they start shooting at the bed, don’t blow smoke asking stupid questions, you plug them hard and fast until they drop. If they look like they are turning to face you, plug ’em again”

The kid looked green, like it was sinking in, but she checked the safety, and worked it to make sure it broke clean. Her face went flat, like newbie’s usually did, faking cool until they bought it themselves. I saw that a lot in the trenches, and on the force. Sometimes I saw it in the mirror, or the bottom of a bottle.

It must of been about twenty minutes, but the sweat off the girl showed she felt it like hours. I forget how much the waiting gets to you, when your dead, some things just get easier.

I heard the back door open. I slipped into the hall to see a young guy pull a key from the lock.  Huh.  He had a key. With dames it was usually the things they didn’t want to talk about that got them killed. It was usually the one they would swear could never hurt them, but they were trying real hard to get away from because their brain read things clearer than their heart.

He pulled a gat of his own. Some shiny chrome job bigger than my Colt 1911. Maybe he thought he was hunting bear, because that was a lot of gun for a sleeping broad.  Of course, it wasn’t going to be enough. Not this time. He ghosted back to the closet.

“Show time doll. One guy, one gun. Coming quiet. You don’t make a sound until he makes his play. Then you shoot.  Don’t talk, don’t think, and don’t die!”

I gave her the hard stare, if she was going to freeze, I had to know. You can’t tell sometimes, until the time comes, whose got the steel to finish, and whose going to fold… Her lips went white; her breathing got deep, but slowed down.  Her thumb slowly pushed the gun off safe. Well now.  I’ve seen worse. I winked at her, and faded back by the bed.

Her left hand gripped her necklace, some kind of half cross or upside down hammer. Her right was at shoulder height, ready to bring her piece down on target.

The jackass came through the door screaming. I cleared my piece, even thought I can’t touch the living. Reflex I guess. Any surprise he would have had was gone. He lowered that cannon and started to blast.

Five shots rang like trip hammers. Three sounded like shotgun blasts, the cannon jumping in jackasses hand like a scared rabbit. He put a hole about chest level in the woman shape under the covers, then another in the pillow beside where her head would lay, then at the top of her headboard.  Whatever that cannon was, he couldn’t control it, anymore than he could control his screaming. The last two shots were sharp cracks, as the muzzle flash from the doll’s little gun snapped out a sharp double tap, and jackass hit the floor.

“Nobody leaves me, you bitch!” Joey screamed as he came in the door. Unloading his Desert Eagle and his hate towards the girl who dared to leave him.  He blasted out three times before he felt something hit him, and he fell to the floor.

He struggled to roll over, and saw her. That little bitch!  The one who left him, the one who had the balls to send the Sheriffs to serve him at work with a restraining order, as if it was up to her when it was over.  His chest was cold, and his legs were weak, but he snarled as he raised his Eagle towards his woman, HIS woman, whatever anyone said.

Joey heard a cold voice say “Finish it sister, this kid isn’t stopping”.

Joey looked into those eyes that used to look at him with love, and the ones he taught to look at him with fear, but this time they were flat, cold, and looking back in the moonlight on either side of the glowing sights of her Glock. Two more shots rang out, and he heard his pistol hit the floor.  He couldn’t feel it.  He couldn’t feel anything.

“Joey” the dame said, and then started to cry.  Let the kid cry. She had earned it.  He felt the end coming, they were coming again.  They always did.

Joey came out of his body, and reached for his gun. You could do that if you hated enough. I did.

“This isn’t over” Joey sobbed as he picked up his gun, and raised it towards his loved/hated ex.  “This will never be over!”  he screamed.

“Hey bub” rang a cold voice, edged with cruelty
“You want to bet on that”

Noir gun

He spun to face the trench coated figure shining moonlight silver in the darkness, but thunder spoke, and a hammer took him in the knee.

“My gun can’t touch the living any more, but you should see what it does to the dead”

“You could have let it go buddy, you could have let her go and lived”

The gun spoke again, and Joey screamed.

“Both legs-you will never rise, never walk”

Twice more the gun spoke, and Joeys shoulders were slammed to the floor.

“Both arms-you will not raise them to another woman”

Joey started to beg now; he was almost out of time.  They both were.

The grim ghost looked down, his eyes shaded by his fedora. The muzzle of the .45 looked like a train tunnel, as the smoke from the first four rounds puffed like a dragon’s breath around its muzzle.

“And your head, because I’m tired of listening to you”

Joey faded into silence.  A roughly man shaped pool of silver in the darkness, without form, without movement, without hope.

“Your choice to be stupid, my choice who lives”

He looked at the locked slide on his pistol, and released it. Slapping its empty form back into its holster, he turned to face what was coming.  He lit a cigarette and sucked deep on it.  He knew what was coming, If he could have run, he would.  It hurt too much to remember, except at the end.

From the moonlight came her. Shining the blonde came. Angie’s mother. I wished I died this time first. Sometimes when I failed, I ate my gun before they came, and missed this part. Sometimes I wished I had failed at this point.  Five rounds, that’s all I had at the end.

Noir blond

She was smiling, the way she was when she fed me the spiked booze, and left me passed out while she handed her kid back over to the monster that paid for her, the one whose guys I took her from in the first place.

The kid’s grandmother paid me to track Angie down, and I did. Two knuckle draggers for hire had grabbed her and were holding her at a hotel.  Neither one was willing to face a drawn pistol for the money they were getting.  Bottom feeders, not the kind that came back from war, or came up through the gangs.

I brought her back to the mother. The blonde.  Her face was hard and cold when I brought her back, and she told Angie to go to her room while she made a phone call. I cooled my heels in the living room while she made the call. When she came back she was all smiles, and brought a drink. Her blouse was unbuttoned enough to really distract me, and I never turned down good booze.

I never had much luck with broads and none with ones as hot as this one.  I tried to play it cool, but my brain shut off as she ran her hands on my chest, and told me to finish my drink.

When I came to, I was passed out in the chair with a headache.  Angie was gone, her mother too.  I staggered to the girl’s room; it looked like a fight happened.  Angie was a fighter, she didn’t go easy.  I saw a button on the ground.  Her mothers.  Her mothers.

Played like a fool.  Her mother sold her, just like the last time.  Two mooks too scared to face me didn’t snatch the kid themselves, they got her drugged unconscious by her mother, only this time she used it on me.

Booze and broads, I never could turn them down, and this time a kid was paying. Angie.

I called the operator, gave them my old badge number, and got the last number called. Lassiter. Old man Lassiter.

Lassiter was old money, bought judges and congressmen out of petty cash, and was untouchable. We all knew about him, and the rumors about his tastes. Nobody ever linked him directly to the bodies; nobody ever looked that hard, or were warned off. Nobody ever went after him.

I rubbed my head and my eyes fell upon the bottle. Well, I guess I just proved I was a nobody, a real chump.

I cleared my pistol and blasted the bottle and glass. Two rounds out of seven spent.  Five left.

“Angie baby, I swear I’m going to get you back, Hell take anybody who gets in the way”

My Ford weaved all over the road as I shook off the Mickey Finn. I clipped a mirror on the gate post on the way in, and went through the shrubs on his pretty lawn.

I came up the stairs at a run, Colt in my fist.

Two guards were at the door and reached for me. Amateurs. I didn’t waste a bullet on either of them. I knocked mustache boy’s coconut off the door post, and pistol whipped the second mook.  I didn’t slow down. You crossed the wire at the run, and didn’t stop until you hit the opposite trench. Slow was dead. Dead was OK, but only after I finished. Only I after I saved Angie.

I hit the stairs at the run; there was a butler in a stupid costume. He clawed at a piece behind his back. The stupid suit made him slow, my .45 made him stop forever.  Four left.

Another stood at the top of the stairs, and got off two shots of his own. One hit my chest, I felt cold, but it wasn’t enough.  It threw off my aim, and my return splashed his throat into a red mess. Three left.

I came through the door, and there she was. Angie’s mom, her purse was grasped in her hand, and she shot a look at the bedroom door.  I heard a little girl screaming, and the wet slap of a man’s hand stopped it.  I put a bullet just above those sweet red lips. Couldn’t let her speak, they made a fool of me before, and I may already be too late.  Two left.

I hit the door, kicking beside the lock, not with my shoulders because the movies got it wrong.  My vision was starting to grey out, not a good sign. Did I have enough time?  I would have to.

Lassiter was kneeling over Angie. His pants were down, and he had his hands at her throat. I put a bullet in his spine, but the old bastard got up again.

I was on the ground, I didn’t notice falling.  It was cold, and my vision was graying out. Not good. The old bastard raised himself up, and reached for the girl again, I put my last round through is temple, and blew his brains all over the antique bed drapes.

I couldn’t move now.  I heard the screams of the mansion staff, heard soft sobbing from somewhere.

“I didn’t make it Angie, I let you down.  I swear I’ll make it right”

From the shadows of the bed came two figures, one was a horror, half her face bloated and rotten, half cold and beautiful.  Both her eyes were hungry as they looked at me. You see strange things at the end.  I looked away from her, and there she was, the blonde; Angie’s mom, the vision of beauty seemed to have gotten over the slug through the skull, and was smiling at me too.  I shut my eyes.  Some things I just couldn’t face.

“Mine” said the blonde.

“Not yet” said the two faced horror.

Hella

It was a mercy when the dark came. It never lasted, but I welcomed it at the end.

It was the new dame that shattered the memory. She turned to my specters as if she saw them too, and shouted two names

“Hella!”  She said raising her arm in salute to the dark one, her eyes unafraid as she took in the two faces of the cold dark.  The dark one nodded in return.

“Freya” she said saluting the blonde.  That wasn’t Angie’s mother’s name, but the blonde laughed and nodded in return.

This had never happened.  Not even I knew who they were; just that they came for me, at the end.  Nobody saw them but me.

Who was this girl, and how did she know his specters?

*

It was hard to think, standing over the body of her dead ex, but the shock of the killing was nothing compared to the coming of the goddesses. Hel was cold, her presence deep in ways that spoke of the mound, of eternity. Her coming swept away shock and fear, for hers was a presence that anchored deep in the roots of the earth, and beyond.

At her glance, the silver pool that was the sundered essence of her attempted killer sunk into the floor, and the slight smile on her face was like moonlight on a bared blade. The look she turned upon her defender, the trench-coat clad ghost was softer; if not kind, then at least understanding. When she looked at how her specter faced the keeper of the dead, she was shocked to see him flinch, not from the half-corpse grave-queen, but from the Goddess of Love.

Freya was hard to look upon, her light was bright, not as sunlight, but as fire; amber and gold. Her beauty was vibrant, wild and fierce; even still she had the quality of dance, as if she was but a frozen moment between frenzied steps.  Her gaze upon the ghost was warm. In those eyes shone understanding, love, and a fierce possessive desire. Not the desire of a lover, so much as the desire to possess, the need to have something discovered.

Her specter turned on trembling legs of ghost-silver away from the shining light of Freya, and towards the corpse-queen’s dark. At last Freya’s gaze fell upon her, and the goddess spoke.

“Kitten, would you know why he flees me? Would you know what he sees?”

I nodded; I could not speak under that gaze.

“Then see his memories, look at the things he won’t see. He has earned more than he allows himself. He has won more than the task he sets himself. There is a place for him in other halls than the mound”

Freya looked at the specter with sad eyes.

“For him I wear the face of she he first saved, but he sees only the mother. His generation had forgotten us, many won great worth, but even some of those were lost, and need a guide to find their way home”

Those last words fell upon me like a great weight. As her eyes met mine, I saw the visions that haunted, that trapped my specter. As he lay dying upon the ground, I saw a young girl, shining golden with the promise of beauty to come, rush to his side, and weeping, close his eyes. When the police came, she told them weeping, of his heroism. She heard the echo of a name….Angie.

He didn’t know! He had been condemning himself for generations for failing her, but he didn’t fail. He was not running from the woman he killed (she shuddered at the thought of a mother selling her child to that fate), but from the child he saved!

A gift for a gift she thought, looking at the bullet holes in her bed; she had been given the gift of life. She looked at her ghost, the haunted look in her haunts own eyes. She owed a life, and but how was she to pay it back. She looked at Hel, and for the living to meet that dread gaze was harder than looking down the barrel of her pistol at her former lover. Turning from the light, to face the silver shadow in the heart of the dark, Kat turned to face Hella.

As she met the gaze of the two faced queen, Hel turned the corpse face she showed the living. Staring at the corpse bloat, and milky eye of the keeper of the dead, Kat steeled herself and met Hel’s gaze.

“Great Hel, I beg a question”

Hel turned her maiden face to the hard faced ghost, fumbling to light a cigarette for whatever comfort it offered the dead. A soft smile touched the Keeper of Silence, and she asked a question in a voice that was soft as a lullaby.

“For the champion?”

Freed to speak when the Dread Queen turned to look at the smoking specter, Kat mumbled her assent.

“He is not mine to keep. He will not rest.  Those that are mine know rest, an end to strife, He flees to me, and I wrap him in my darkness, but always the call will come, and his guns and wrath, not my arms, will hold him.”

The Keeper of the Dead turned her corpse face to the living once more and spoke her last.

“He is not mine to keep.”

It was times like this the sagas had great words from inspired poets. Too bad she was standing in her closet in her pajamas, standing over a body, looking at two goddesses, and trying to save a ghost. Sadly, this did not make for poetry.

“Shit” said Kat.  She stripped the mag from her pistol, clearing and safing it. Checking the chamber was clear; she worked the slide lock and put down the empty gun.  It was time to finish things; she thought she heard sirens already.

Quick and dirty heathen 101 or ghost intervention.  It was now or never.

“A gift for a gift” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time, the police are coming, but there is something you need to know.”

*

The darkness was lapping around me now, the cold black promise of oblivion, the chance to forget. I could feel the blonde behind me, feel her calling to me. One day I might be weak enough to give in, I gave in once, and Angie died. I died too; but I couldn’t even get that right. I turned to the dark lady again, her smile was cold and hard as a drawn knife, she knew me, and she knew what came next. The cold, the silence………the call again.

“Shit”, the dame I saved had a mouth on her like a platoon sergeant, but she shot straight, and didn’t flinch, so I guess she was alright. She said she had something I needed to know, but she was wrong. Stuff only mattered to the living; it only mattered until you got the big one wrong, then you were screwed for life. Or death in my case. You screwed up the big one, you paid and paid, and even a bullet couldn’t get you out.

I smiled, the darkness was drawing back. The dark lady wanted me to listen, and I guess the kid earned a minute. Being dead, my time got cheaper than a plug nickel.

“You never remember the end” she said.

No kidding. I got played for a sucker, and Angie died. I got the broad that sold her and the fat cat who bought her. The torpedoes didn’t count; they were nothing, so was I.  I didn’t save Angie, and even if I got it right a few times, I failed when it counted, I failed when I died, because so did she.

The sirens were getting closer, the kid seemed desperate. She stepped away from her gun, and looked like she wanted to slap me. I get that a lot, or did when I had a body to slap.

“No, you idiot!”  Kid had a silver tongue alright. He chuckled, but the kid had her motor running and shifted gears like she had places to go.

“You died, but she didn’t.  The crying you heard was Angie, she lived. She was crying and closing your eyes when the police got there. That’s not her mother’s face you see behind you, that’s Angie when she grew up.”

The dark lady looked sad; her eyes were almost soft as she nodded. Eyes like that couldn’t lie; they never tried.  Death didn’t cheat; she was the one unbroken promise. He didn’t know much, but he knew that.

The sirens grew loud, as they did that night when he was fading out. He heard then from a child, what he heard now from the blonde, so beautiful it hurt, so bright she burned.

“You came back for me. I knew you would. You are a hero. There is a place for heroes.  My lady keeps it. You don’t have to go into the dark. You can come  again when you are called”

The kid seemed to understand.  I didn’t. I turned to her, because she played it straight so far, and I wasn’t trusting myself to think, not with her in front of me.

“Go with her.”  The dame was smiling and crying the way only dames could.
“Freya’s hall is for heroes and lovers”

I looked at the empty clip in my 45 and the spot the ghost died again and laughed.

“I ain’t a hero, doll face.  And if there is a bigger fool at love than me, I never met him”

My voice turned hard and cold, I knew how it played out. How it always played out.

“Out of bullets, out of time. Now the dark comes”

A golden laugh lit the darkness, and I felt the shiver run up my spine like the caresses you dream about, but never know. My gun grew heavy in my hand; I stripped the clip and counted. One, two, three…….seven? NO!  I wasted two, and since I died, I only had five left, like when I tried to save her. Seven slugs looked back at me, and I looked up to three smiles.

The kid was crying, the dark one nodded and turned away, and ……Angie took my arm. I felt a rush, like blood and fire pour through me, like a living man, like whiskey and a first kiss, and dawn after a night of war. I looked down at the ghost of my arm, and saw it fade.

***

Kat watched Hel turn away, and the amber tones of life fill the bone white hollows of the dead man’s face with life. Love hid behind walls of fear in his eyes, but wonder made him look at Angie, and see love shining back in return.

A gift for a gift, a life for a life.

Standing alone in a room with no ghosts and a single dead body, she heard the police come in and she began to laugh. This was actually going to be the easy part of her evening. Tears streaking her face, she sat back in the closet to wait. There had been enough truth for the evening. Her ghost prepped her for the coppers, and a little damsel in distress beat the hell out of telling the local flat-feet about goddesses and ghosts. Gods, now he had her talking like that. Next thing you knew, she would be smoking……

 

By Kat Kerns and John T Mainer

Previously published in

They Walk With Us

All proceeds donated to The Troth.

 

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Asatru, Current events, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Where were Odin’s Soldiers during the Vancouver Protest?

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You may have heard much about the “Soldiers of Odin” who were supposed to be leading the anti-immigration rally at Vancouver city hall.  Well there were ravens in the sky, taking in the 4000 plus of us who marched for a diverse and accepting Canada, so Odin was free to see where his children were and what they were up to.

In this picture is Team #3, one of four teams that roamed the crowd dealing with any safety or health issues that cropped up.  This was my team.  We were mixed in genders, races, religions; united by two things, a support for a diverse and accepting Canada, and a high level of Industrial First Aid training.

On our teams you found many actual soldiers and sailors, those whom Odin would know from their oaths of service, and from their times standing into danger for their folk. In the crowd I found many fellow Heathens, and fellow pagans whom Odin would likewise know from their devotions to the holy gods.

Our first aid teams were organized by pure volunteers, as was the rally.  The drive was to be the best hosts we could be for the crowd, and the best guests we could for City Hall, its grounds, and the wights of the land itself.  You could not ask for a group that better understood Odin’s laws of hospitality and the keeping of Frith.  Tyr himself would have blessed this with the Peace of the Thing, for the organizers did not send out teams of enforcers to confront the pathetically outnumbered dozen alt-right protesters, but teams of de-escalators, whose job was to keep confrontations verbal, and as civil as possible, to keep the frith.  They do not know the word, but Odin does not care if you know the word, nor Tyr or Freyr, they know only that you lived it, that you offered it, that you paid the price to keep it.

Half my first aid calls had to do with sweet Sunna, our beloved sun goddess shining down with such love that many, especially the old or young, were overcome.  No traumatic injuries, not a single fall from scuffle, or bruised from blow was to be found.

Saga would smile at the speakers who shared their stories, and Frigga understand how the coming together of  new Canadians, born Canadians, indigenous Canadians to share in our common vision of a diverse and welcoming society, unwilling to bend to fear, but likewise brave enough to choose peace when we outnumbered a belligerent and disrespectful foe over three hundred to one wove another fresh layer of unity into the fabric of Canadian society.  We chose to educate, rather than eradicate, to provide an example of frith, rather than a cheap exercise in fury.

Our Protest2Our Protest

The so called “Soldiers of Odin” may have been almost undetectable, but there were veterans of all races, proudly sporting their colours; not of skin or ethnicity, but of their service, and the pride they took in defending the freedoms that we this day proved we were worthy to inherit.

Old veterans of WWII and Korea, Vietnam, UN Peacekeeping, Afghanistan, all the wars that Odin has seen our finest fall from in living memory were represented by the proud men and women who made it clear where the soldiers stood, and what the Canada their brethren fought and died for looked like.

I saw priests and priestesses from our local Pagan and Heathen community, exchanged greetings and blessing with Christian and Buddhist clergy who recognized my Thor’s hammer as a sign of Asatru and were unsurprised to see us in the front lines defending diversity.

I saw the token protesters of the anti-immigration force all boasting Trump campaign wear; can you grasp how much this encapsulates the stupidity of their position?  This is Canada, the signs telling us Trump is our President would make sense about two hours south of us, where you would be standing in the United States.  They actually have presidents, and Trump holds that office.  We are in Canada, we have Prime Ministers, and Justin Trudeau holds that office at the moment.  How stupid do you look telling us that all Canadians should be anti-immigration because some they are stupid enough to think some foreigner holding some foreign office has moral authority here.  That is a bit like saying that you have to paint your bathroom red because the next door neighbor hates blue.  So what?  Not his house, not his call.  Terrible colour for a bathroom anyway.

The single most Canadian sentiment of the day is this

Canadian Commentary

“The Alt right can suck my left nut.”  Damned straight.  That is the single most perfect encapsulation of the Canadian response to extremists of any stripe.  If you are a far left radical, you may be invited so suck my right nut, but the sentiment will be the same.

I saw a number of Americans who had come to Canada because of the rise of extremism in their own country, and we heard from refugees from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East about their experiences with the costs of extremism when unopposed.  We were also reminded by our indigenous Canadians that our own nation has indeed walked that path in the past as well, that it was a long journey to make this country what it is today, and that the scars of that journey are not born evenly by all who live in this nation.  This is not said as an attack against those of us who were descended from immigrants, but as a caution that we should not take our immunity for granted, it is a new and hard won thing we must both cherish and defend.

I ask the blessings of my strong gods and mighty goddesses upon all of those who gathered peacefully, especially those who gave of their strength and skill, of their patience and wisdom to make sure that all guests were treated with respect, cared for and protected.

There were Odin’s soldiers all through the crowd, those who served at one time under arms, and those who simply did his work unknowing as they kept his laws of hospitality so well none in my own community who know the letter of them could be said to do better.

A special thanks is owed to the Vancouver City Police, they worked with our first aid teams to make sure that we had good communication and access, developed and communicated plans for dealing with casualty evacuation as well as I have ever seen done with officially sanctioned events, which this was not.

The VPD may not like protests, but they did a hard job well, acting to make sure the peace was kept, public safety was maintained, but without making the event in any way more difficult.

I don’t know how the media will spin this event; gods knows military service taught me to believe the press have little contact with reality as experienced by any other observer, as their reports frequently have little to do with events as experienced by anyone else at them, but from my own experience on the ground it was a joyous, peaceful, frithful gathering that I am proud to have been a part of.  My first aid patch now resides on my altar before Odin’s icon, for he will know it as an offering in his service.

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Asatru, Current events, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

A gift for a gift

Hail to Ben Waggoner for starting this.

Suitable for stowage in battledress field uniforms, or tuck in any of your rucksack compartments to deploy with you.  With any that you purchase for yourself one will be donated either to Prison Inreach to fight the spread of hate inside the prisons and promote rational, non-racist heathenry, or gifted to one of our Heathen service men and women who are fighting for all of our freedoms to practice as we believe.

These are NEW and ORIGINAL translations of Hávamál and of Rígsthula by Ben himself!————–We have the honor and pleasure to announce that the Troth has just released a pocket-sized edition (4.25” x 6.88”, or 108 x 175 mmm) of the complete Hávamál, in a new translation. At only 52 pages, it’s small enough to tuck…

via NEW and ORIGINAL Hávamál and Rígsthula Translations — The Troth Blog

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Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Standard-bearer or Snowflake?

Freehold Oath Ring

We have an opportunity at this moment that is given to very few, to be the generation that defines forever what those who come after us will be be judged by.  The United States has now added Heathen (in various forms and permutations) to its list of recognized religions for service folk.  The Canadian Armed Forces already recognizes it.

The headstones of our service folk who fall will no longer bear the cross that was no friend to us in life, nor comfort to us when we have passed, but our own symbols.  That is just and right, but not really as important in our day to day lives and careers as the less esoteric and more practical reality that now Heathen service-folk are being recognized as such by an institution that has yet to develop an institutional understanding of who we are, and what we are.

Those who came before were soldiers who tried their best to live Heathen in an institution that had no understanding or inclination to understand who and what we were.  Soldiers were permitted religion, pretty much as we were permitted underwear, in any of the three standard issue Judeo-Christian sizes, colour designated by service, quantity one (sign your loan card for the symbol designating your choice, or tick Atheist and go commando).

That day is now over, and we can be counted as Heathens.  This is our first chance to make an impression not just as soldiers, sailors, airmen of our particular service, but collectively as Heathen service folk.  You literally never get a second chance to make a first impression.  This is critical.  We have the past generation of service folk and their advocates to thank for this opportunity, and now we have to answer the question of what we are going to do with it.

Are we going to be standard-bearers, or snowflakes?

I am not going to lie to you, it can go both ways, and whichever way you choose, those who come after are going to have to wear either as a badge of honour or a rucksack of shit they will have to pack their whole career.

A little history lesson for some of you younger folk.  I was a soldier when dinosaurs ruled the earth and held every enlisted position above E5 (Sgt and above).  During this time women were integrated into the combat arms.  I served in the Signal Corps, who already had women integrated, and got to see this process happen on the ground as an NCO in that particular culture.

Those first women were given the choice of being banner-carriers or snowflakes.  The choice was not fair.  Those who chose to be banner-carriers would have to be twice as good as male NCO to not only reach the same bar as their fellows, but soar high above it, if they wished their advancement to be seen as earned rather than gifted.  Their standard of conduct must not be acceptable, but exemplary at every turn, or their ranks and appointments would be seen not as worthy of respect, but as garbage the service was forced to swallow and a poison that ate away at the vital strength of the force that stood between our nation and the foe.

Half of you are already getting ready to call bullshit, the other half are either female or not white or straight and shaking their head wondering why anyone still has to be told this shit who has two eyes and at least one functioning brain-cell behind them.  Like I said, I was on the ground when we did this the last time and I really do understand the process, and the culture.

There is a second choice.  You can go snowflake.  If you do, I swear before all the gods, your ancestors will weep that one of theirs has lived to so dishonour the blood they bear.  Those who come after you, however blameless, will wear your choice like a rucksack full of someone else’s shit, and the damage will perhaps never be fully undone.

Going snowflake means ‘standing on your rights’ and requesting special treatment based on the newly recognized Heathen religious designation.  Think long and hard about this choice.

There are a lot more Heathens in military service per capita than there are in civilian life.  We are called to serve our people, to make of our lives an offering in return for the gifts we have received as free citizens in a land kept free by the blood, sweat, and tears of those who came before us.  This is how we came to be in the uniform in the first place.  Remember that.

When we make an offering to the gods, we offer our first and best.  When we make an offering to the people, our people, we can and must do the same.  Offer our first and best service.  It is not enough to be a soldier, we must be the very best one we can be.

Right now, we are standing together for the first time as an identifiable group within our respective services.  Right now we are DEFINING what Heathen means to our service.  If we choose to be the banner-carriers of our service, the very best at our respective trades, exemplars of our services, then those Heathens who come after us will wear a label that has come to mean dedicated professional soldier.  If we choose to stand upon our rights and demand special treatment, concessions to our requirements, to have the bar lowered for us at any point, Heathen will come to mean ‘special snowflake’ and every service person who follows you will have to deal with the rolling of the eyes and snickering that follows that soldiers identification as Heathen.

Talk to the women who went through this. If you have any questions about how you should be treating your new status as Heathen within your service, talk to any current service or retired women in the combat arms who made it through the senior NCO ranks.  They understand how it is to soldier on when living under a ‘not fair’ condition is the price paid for making sure those who come after have a fair shake.

I saw a whole lot of women get it right, and make it easier for those who followed after in the Regiment.  I saw what happened in units where people chose to go full snowflake, and the ration of shit that those who followed for decades after is a cost you do not want your own choices to carry.

I can and will continue to advocate to make sure our Heathen service folk receive the same treatment and opportunities for support that their Judeo-Christian fellows receive.  At the same time, listen to an old soldier, for the first time we are being seen by our respective services as a discrete and knowable group.  The opinion of what a Heathen means to your units is being formed in this generation, in this very moment.  The spotlight is on you.

Chose to be banner-men, banner-women.  Chose to be exemplars of the virtues that our faith and our service shares.  Show your service why they should be proud to have the service of Heathens within their ranks, and teach them to treasure what we bring.  Do this, and you will not only earn great personal worth and honour, but you will make it better for every generation that follows you in service who identify as Heathen.

It will not be fair, but to be honest, fair is a civilian term.  Suck it up and soldier.  Let us fight to make sure your rights are protected, we have served and are free to bitch for you.  Don’t just shut up and soldier, shut up and SHINE as a soldier.  Shine so bright that Heathen will be something that your service will come to associate with the standards they desire from their troops.

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Current events, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Dog days of Democracy

Freehold Oath Ring

They call them dog tags, and we who wear them understand the irony of the situation.  Dog tags are worn by the defenders of the state, the soldiers who serve the people, but who take their orders and direction from a group of entitled elites who occupy the houses of the people, and conduct themselves not as the servants of the public, but as the lords on high.

That is fine.  Democracy does not reward the tellers of truth, so the houses of the people are filled with those who seek power by any means necessary.  Some few are crusaders for one cause or another, not all of those crusaders are in any way safe, sane, or helpful to the state, but at least they are not simply for sale as the rest of them are.  The mix of the mercenary, visionary and fanatic float in a sea of institutionalized corruption where it is actually impossible to determine where the legitimate political process and press ends, and criminal behaviour begins.  Oddly enough, some of the worst actions are legal, and some of the illegal ones ought to be praiseworthy.  This is Democracy, it’s a shitty system whose only redeeming feature is it actually sucks slightly less hard then everything else we have tried.

Today in our fair north, our politicians are busy stealing from the dogs, we who bleed to defend the freedom of our people to reward those who screw all of us who risk our lives so that the many can be kept safe by a few their leaders continue to stab in the front, the back, the pocketbook, the home, and family; in between posing at the memorials for our dead and praising the deeds of those they screw with every stroke of the budget pen.

Today in our sunny south, our politicians cheer and pat themselves on the back as they strip health care from tens of millions of their citizens, make it possible to charge the elderly even more than before, defund planned parenthood, while at the same time allowing insurance companies to not cover women for pre-existing conditions ranging from rape to C-sections.  Don’t worry, those who make more than a quarter million dollars per year (after all allowable deductions) will no longer bear the terrible burden of paying a few percent towards the cost of millions of their poorer citizens health care costs, so I guess that is worth cheering for right?  Women, the elderly, the injured, sick, or unemployed should be thankful that the richest among us will no longer be burdened by their needs to stay alive.

Around the necks, to the north and the south hang the dog tags of those men and women who stand in the defense of their nations, offering their blood, sweat, and tears to the governments that increasingly seem utterly unburdened by the need to defend anything but their own agenda.

No one accuses the wearers of the dog tags of intelligence.  When we speak of the dogs who share our homes, or the dog-tag wearing soldiers the kind speak with reverence, the privileged with amusement at the dogged loyalty of the uniformed defenders of their nations.  Loyalty is not actually stupidity, although it would be stupidity indeed were we to expect a matching loyalty from our leadership, a matching commitment to our people from our elected leaders.  Most of us are not actually stupid enough to do so, but it is not FOR the leaders we serve.  We serve for the people.

You remember the people?  Our legislators seldom do.  We serve, some give up their lives, and most give up their health as we expend ourselves in the service of the land of our birth, because our people are actually worthy of that service.

In Canada, our leaders are busy punishing their loyal guardians for the twin crimes of being too loyal to rebel, and bound by law not to speak out.  Sucks to be a soldier right now in the north, but we actually have it better.  In the US, the soldiers get to sit back and watch their leadership condemn millions of the people they signed up to defend to death, so the same rich assholes who generally send the soldiers overseas to die to enforce an economic hegemony that benefits only those same rich assholes, can save a few percent by not paying their share of the health care that would allow the less well off to also be covered.

It is a sad time to be wearing dog tags, as neither nation particularly seems to be worthy of the service of its defenders right now.  It doesn’t matter.  Soldiers, like dogs, are renowned for their faithfulness in serving their masters, whether they are actually worthy of that service or not.

Right now it really helps to remember you are there to serve the people, because those who sit in the houses of the people, those who call themselves public servants while serving only their own political ideologies and not their folk, are a far cry from being worthy of the service of the least of our soldiers.

Somehow all this is supposed to anchor neatly in Christian theology, as the same leader in the US freed the churches to openly (and tax deductably) play politics.  I don’t get it myself.  I am just a poor Heathen, and figure Christ would be shitting a crucifix at what was just done in the US.  My own lore looks at the question of taxing the rich and looking after the sick a little differently than the Republican reading of Christianity.  From the Havamal:

39. If wealth a man | has won for himself,
Let him never suffer in need;
Oft he saves for a foe | what he plans for a friend,
For much goes worse than we wish.

40. None so free with gifts | or food have I found
That gladly he took not a gift,

Nor one who so widely | scattered his wealth
That of recompense hatred he had.

70. It is better to live | than to lie a corpse,
The live man catches the cow;
I saw flames rise | for the rich man’s pyre,
And before his door he lay dead.

71. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better | than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.

Gods knows I am not a politician, and my leadership has always been on the small unit scale, where loyalty, commitment, and success of mission was more important than appearance and dogma.  Perhaps it is different in the higher strata of power; because from down here among the actual people, it looks a lot like a leadership in both halves of North America that has little to no comprehension of who they serve, or what the honour that supposedly justifies their personal glory and power is supposed to look like.

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Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized, Yule

North-man at Yule

1984-inorance-and-want

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, 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.

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