Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Litha: Shadow of the Summer King

Freyr with BoarDancer legs

Erica had been a dancer, not a professional, but she had given her passion to the dance since she was a small child. She had danced ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical all through school, eventually passing into teaching on a part time basis as a way to keep dance in her life, even as her professional life flourished in the financial sector.  Life was good, the sun shone, and all was right in the world.

 

It was September 23, and she was on her back from teaching dance class when a driver who had put away too many after work beers, on top of his medicinal weed, was a little late in determining what the red light shining overhead meant.  His indecision carried his Suburban half way through the intersection, and over half way through her Corolla.  It was almost an hour before they were able to free her from the vehicle and get her to hospital.  It was over twelve before they were sure they were not going to lose her altogether.  There is a clear priority in trauma as severe as Erica’s; life over limb, and the grim cost of that is seen in the legs that were ignored while the question of her survival hung very much in doubt.
It was almost a year of surgeries and rehabilitation before Erica was able to return to work.  It was considered a miracle that she was able to walk unassisted, but decades of dance training, the balance and discipline of a pointe dancer that enabled her to walk on limbs grown strangers to her, dead of nerve, weak of joint, no longer supple and strong, nor able honestly to ever return to the grace and power that had quietly been a touchstone of her existence as she danced through life; for she danced no more.

 

The scars of her surgeries cut a tracery upon the skin of her legs and torso, in her legs the joins of the scar tissue were marked by uneven and lumpy unfinished appearance she wept to describe to her sisters as “Frankenstein patchwork”.  Never outwardly vain, the fact that Erica had lived her entire life with a body given the grace and poise of a young deer had been an unnoticed pillar of her life, until the accident and surgery that had left her robbed of grace, and mortified at the sight of her legs.

 

Erica did not believe in depression; while she struggled with it, she never yielded to it, and fought to pour her energies back into her work, regaining the professional ground lost, and attempting to invest the same joy in building wealth for her clients that she had always found in the dance; but her life was without balance, and the strain was showing when she was not at work.  Her community had been there for her, but at some of the celebrations she felt no longer comfortable.  Today was Litha, the midsummer where she would once have leapt the fire with the others to burn off ill luck and celebrate the sheer joy of life in honour of Lord Frey, the lord of the dance, and the ever renewing earth.  She could not jump over the fire, nor stand the looks of pity when she sat with the old folks to watch the young and strong leap in joy now denied her.

She wanted to swim, to lose herself in the rythmn of the waves and her strokes, an echo of the dance she used to know.  She could not go to the pool, her self consciousness about the eyes upon her scarred legs had made the public pools about as attractive as a dung heap, and with Litha falling on a weekend, she had the chance to go to the beach before there were people about, especially if she went down to the sea by one of little beaches not technically open to the public.  Here at least she could lose herself in the waves without fear of other eyes.

 

The wind was quiet as she started to swim, but the waves seemed to pick playfully at her as the wind rose from a sky blue save for wisps of lazily twisting white lace.  A rogue wave slapped her in the face as she turned to breathe in her perfectly timed stroke, and she choked on the heavy salt water that shattered her rythmn and stole her breath.  In little danger, but unable to swim as she coughed, she was struggling to regain breath and keep herself above water when a strong lithe form swept from behind to wrap her in one strong arm, and with the other begin pulling strongly to shore.

A gentle voice ran over her like sunlight “There now, the wave sisters are over playful and have done you a bad turn.  You just cough it out, and I will keep you up until you can swim again.   The wind is rising and father says swimmers and day sailors had best be to shore; I tend to listen to him as the beach has been his since forever.”

 

There was no feeling of alarm at the strangers touch, and the unquestioned maleness of his presence pressed against her back caused a blush to rise to her face as unaccustomed thoughts intruded into the routine cycle of anger at failure and embarrassment.  She found herself first relaxing into his touch, then beginning to join him in a side stroke towards shore, aware the sea was indeed rising beneath a wind growing ever more full.

Her arm over his around her middle, they fell into a matching stroke, falling into the rythmn as naturally as with another dancer, they moved together through the waves as he pushed her to extend herself, stretching into fuller strokes, and more powerful than she had learned to use in her long recovery, he never pushed, simply led and trusted she would follow and felt her body begin to burn with the feeling of pleasant exertion.  Falling into the rythmn she felt her heart and his hammer in time as his chest pressed to her back, and she was very well aware of just what was pressed against her buttocks as their legs moved together in a dance eerily echoing another she had not contemplated since her accident.

 

Arriving at shore, body thrilling with the pleasure of full exertion she had no strength even to stand, and was trying to figure out how to gracefully ask for a pause before trying to get out of the water when she felt his other arm pass beneath her legs and carry her out of the water with an effortless power that belied his graceful form.

“I am so sorry, I knew you were tiring, but I was just enjoying the swim so much I indulged myself by pushing us both.  It is the least I can do for such a lovely dance partner to help you over the fence to my mother’s land.”

 

He carried her up the rough beaten trail to the rough turnaround where her car and a Triumph Stag were both parked.  He settled her neatly on the hood of the Stag, and snagged a towel from the back seat of the convertible to wrap around her.

“Oh my god, this is your mother’s land?  I didn’t know who owned it, but I just knew there was a beach access, and never any people, and I prefer to swim without a lot of people around”

 

His eyes stayed on hers, even as hers darted reflexively to the scars she attempted to hide with the towel, and his eyes smiled easily, refusing to flinch.

“Aye, it’s my father’s beach, but the farm is mother’s.  I am actually supposed to be at a family function right now for Litha, but you know, sometimes you don’t need a lot of people around, sometimes you need to feel the wind, the waves, the sun, the feel of the warm earth beneath your feet, and the feel of someone else moving with the same simple joy of life”

 

Had he pressed closer, she might have feared that was a come on, and been concerned about his intentions, but he stood unselfconsciously, the sun shining on his golden hair, and she saw a faint network of scars covering his body as well, similar to her own in scope, if different in placement.

Seeing her eyes trace over his scars he laughed, and she flinched, knowing her reaction to people noticing her own.
“Ah yes, well when I was younger I took up the sword, so to speak.  There came a time I had to give it up, put it behind me.  I was glad enough to be honest, I would rather work to build a future than burn it down anyway.  I admit I am mostly concerned with wealth management these days, the exciting world of agricultural futures and my own volunteer work trying to do what I can to see that we use some of that wonderful plenty to make sure that the people who need it actually get fed.  Not as exciting as the sword, but the fields and flocks keep people fed after all”

He looked down at his scars and traced them with his finger, he took her hand and she felt herself start to do the same.

“These are like the vines of the rose.  Twisted and thorned, they speak of pain, but if you trace them you see they sing of life, rooted in the strong earth, yearning for the bright sun, and if you trace them far enough you will find such beauty as no gentler flower may know”

Rose vines on fence

 

His own fingers began to trace her own scars on her legs, as her own traced his scars across his chest.

There was a simple joy in discovery for her, as his fingers traced lines of pain and ugliness that she saw imposed over the body she knew, but he taught her otherwise.  She traced the scars of his body and found only life and love, the fierce burning passion of the spring tempered by life and wisdom into the warm heat of summer, the richness of fulfilment, not the mad urgency of spring, but the patience of the long lazy summer afternoon.
Tracing her scars, he taught her to know her hard won strength, to glory in the lines of a power paid for by sweat and tear, to claim for herself the joy of the dance again, in the oldest dance of all.  They loved in the fields, as birds danced and sang, and the fence rose bushes waved in the summer breeze in stately measure as if bowing to the couple who celebrated life renewed under the midsummer sun.

Weaving for each other crowns of flowers, they strode naked to the tree at the center of the field where he showed her the secret burrow of the rabbits that dance here each Easter, and stood beside her as the doe from the edge of the treeline came down to let her stroke its soft flanks, coming to his soft call as if it were not a wild thing.

 

The midsummer passed as they supped in the field from baskets he had brought in his Triumph Stag, and they fed each other with crackers, meats, fruits and cheeses with much laughter, and enough spillage that squirrels and birds were their most dutiful attendants.

As the sun began to fall, he smiled sadly, and told her it was time for him to go, for he was not free to tarry long.  As they returned to their cars, and their clothes, it occurred to her she had never asked his name.  As she turned to ask him, she gazed at him flower crowned, the setting sun behind his head setting his body to glowing like hammered bronze and froze.
“You know my name, beloved one.  You need not speak it, but write it here over my heart and know that you will always be my beloved.”  His voice was too gentle to be a command; but an invitation.
Over his heart she traced the diamond symbol Ingwaz, the symbol of Frey.

Kissing her on the forehead, he took both her hands in his before kissing them as well in parting.

“You have always pleased me, in the dance, and in your life.  A gift for a gift, it was time I reminded you were still my beloved dancer”

 

She followed his Stag into the first turn, but was unsurprised to find that when she rounded the corner on the country road, his car was not there.  Litha was ending, and he could not tarry.  The laughed through smiling tears.  She also had life to get back to, and joy that she had forgotten would again be part of it.

Ingwaz

 

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Faithless Heathen

 

Odin PictureOne of the hardest concepts for me to adjust to when I came to Heathenry was the growing fear that I was doing it wrong, as the deeper into Heathenry I went, the less faith I had.  Now for those of you who are assuming that I was growing to trust the teachings of Heathenry less, or hold our gods in lesser reverence, I think it important to take a second to talk about the definition of faith that we inherit from a Christian European tradition.
Faith, in religious terms is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as follows:
a (1) :  belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) :  belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

b (1) :  firm belief in something for which there is no proof clinging to the faith that her missing son would one day return (2) :  complete trust

 

There is a clear drive in the Judeo-Christian faiths to accept without questioning, to have faith, rather than trusting the things that you can see, that you can understand and test.  The name Islam means submission, and very much the definition of God Fearing Christian holds the same reflexive belief that human will and understanding, human knowledge and truth are nothing compared to the “revealed” truth of their god.  My understanding of Heathenry is greatly different than this.
The Hávamál has so very many lines about hospitality, about the building and maintaining of relationships, and yet the only line about what is owed that gods is simply it is better not to overdo it[1].  That hardly seems to match with the early Christian upbringing which tells us we have little to no worth, save through submission to God, and that just for existing we require punishment, and owe everything we may possess to God, and should be generous in offering to him, and his collectors at every opportunity.  As I grew older, this sounded more like organized crime, than religion, but the motivational basis was clearly one of appeasement of dread power, rather than anything resembling the reciprocal gifting cycle that a Heathen would recognize.

 

Here it is possibly worthwhile to have a look at the definition of hard polytheist.  A hard polytheist is defined as a person who believes the gods are discrete knowable entities, not all expressions of a single whole.  As a hard polytheist, I accept the gods have actual natures, knowable in some imperfect sense by us, and recognizable to us.  Our gods being discrete knowable entities has real implications in terms of faith.

 

I do not have faith in my grandfather, I met him.  I do not have faith in gravity, I can test its existence and describe in mathematical terms its effects.  I do not have faith in my gods, because I have gnosis, or experience which establishes their existence to me, much the way the existence of my grandfather was established to me.  I cannot have faith, for it is not rejecting the evidence of my reason and senses that is required to praise the gods, for as we deepen in our practice, we see more and more the touch of our Disir, our holy ancestors, the wights of the lands and waters, and the gods themselves in the world in which we live.  We do not turn away from the world to practice our religion, we do not turn away from the world at all.

 

Metaethics is the acceptance of a higher spiritual authority for moral choices.  This is accepted by many religions, and is the source of the word sin.  Sin is defined as disobeying gods will, not doing wrong, but disobeying the will of an entity which may be good or evil in nature, but to which you are deemed to owe obedience regardless of how the act itself might be judged in normal ethics.

We don’t really have that particular definition of sin.  We do have right and wrong, but they are not metaethically derived, but derived from the effects our actions have on individuals, communities and our world.  The Hávamál is not a rule book telling you what is a sin, it is a guideline for troubleshooting relationships and a set of principals that will allow you to operate ethically and successfully.  You will not choose between the ethics given us by the gods, and the ethics we understand from our own internal and societal moral compass, because what is left in the Hávamál is little more than ways to properly define the question or situation, so that you can judge the morality for yourself, and act accordingly.

 

I have heard the criticism that Heathens treat their gods too lightly, and this is a part of the Western European tradition as much as it is of Judeo Christian thought.  The gods of Greece and Rome were quite similar to the god of the Old Testament as far as the punishment for individuals and whole cities who did not offer fast enough, and rich enough, to prove their continued fear and sincere desire to appease the god or gods in question.  This was not a part of the Northern experience, not a part of the lore that is left to us.  There is little of the drive to appease, no body of lore that says the gods are planning to wipe out the entire tribe or city unless we offer richly enough.  I am not claiming superiority to those traditions, I am simply pointing out that while it is built into a lot of the Western European (read Christian/Roman) thought, it was never really a part of our folks fundamental assumptions.

 

God Fearing is a term we can address now.  We do not offer out of fear of our gods.  We do not fear them in the sense that we do not operate under the assumption that they are going to destroy our people or ourselves unless properly appeased.  That is not part of our world view.
We can laugh at the gods, for we do not fear the tribe will be ended if we tell a story, a myth of our gods in which they do something foolish.  Our gods really are great, and do not fear their power is slighted by such tales, and thus we do not fear reprisal for such things.

We do approach them with awe, with reverence, with wonder.  We can and do sometimes face them kneeling or otherwise abasing ourselves because we trust that our sense of worth, and our gods understanding of that worth is not threatened when we feel the need to make an offering of obeisance to one whose gifts, whose power, whose sheer wonder demands from us a gift of worth that we would offer no living man, woman, President or Queen.

 

We are driven to learn about this world, through development of our skills in science, technology, engineering, philosophy, art, history, archeology, astronomy, medicine, ecology and a thousand other disciplines by which we seek to better understand and succeed in this world we inherit and hold in trust.

 

We are given too to learn about our gods.  This is partly the study of the lore, the continual study of ancient archaeology to determine how much of what was once known we can recover, and by the communal and individual practice that makes up Heathen worship, community and at the more esoteric end, spiritual practice.
Again, this does not give us faith, it gives us greater understanding, and a lower requirement for faith.  The first scientists had to accept as an item of faith that the world was explainable through reason.  Those who followed afterwards did not have to accept this as faith, as the understanding had grown already to the point you could use the tools of your reason and senses to see for yourself, requiring not faith but understanding.  Not a rejection of reality to cling to an unproven and unprovable principal, but the acceptance of principals that corresponded to your best testable understanding of the world in which you live.

As a Heathen, I do not put much value in faith, and I do put much value in reason.  I do not put any value in meta-ethics, and expect to make my own moral choices, and bear the responsibility for them.  I do not live in fear of my gods, I do not hold myself worthless before them, nor do I offer to them out of fear of reprisal.

I form a reciprocal gifting relationship with the gods, with the wights, and honestly, with those in my community that I feel are important to me.  I approach my community with love, because for all that I put in, I feel I get back more.

I approach my gods joyfully, reverently.  I trust them, am inspired by them, sometimes terrified by them, and the further and further I go in Heathenry, the less confident I will ever be able to develop a perfect understanding of them, but understand that in attempting it I am developing a much better understanding of myself, and my role in my family, my community and my world.

 

I may be faithless, by the understanding of those outside the community, and many inside it, but I take this as a good thing.  My gods have taught me to trust what I can see, can know, can test for myself.  My gods have taught me that I am the one making my choices in this life, and I had best be doing so for reasons I accept deeply enough to have no regrets.  I gave up my faith for knowledge, my fear for understanding, and reserve my guilt for my actual failings, not for the crime of being born.

I am a lot closer to death now than I am birth, so as I look at that final shore, I am more and more at peace with the understanding I have gained in this life, and find that should that shore be reached tomorrow or twenty years from now, it holds no fear, and at least a little wonder.

 

I thank the gods each day for the gifts they gave me, including the courage to rage at them when my losses are too great to bear, and laugh at them when the world is too ridiculous to accept.  I am a Heathen, and accept that getting it mostly right is about as much as we can expect, and I hope when they bury me that I can at least claim that much.  I expect that I will have provided much fodder for gods, men, and certainly women, to laugh at all through my life, and possibly long after.  At least I had the wisdom to laugh with them most of the time.

[1] Hávamál

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

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe04.htm

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heathen Inspiration

 

 

There are a number of expressions that come to mind.  Reconstructionist, that is seeking to properly understand and grasp within its original cultural context, our ancestral practice.  Rebuilding our altars, once only a metaphor, and now actual construction.  We seek to return to something that was taken from our ancestors years ago, and through the efforts of our later ancestors, something we have regained the right to return to.

 

Heathenry as a religion, as a community, has gotten both mature enough, and large enough that we have not only the luxury of thinking about where we draw our inspiration, but perhaps we have a requirement to do so.  Where do Heathens look for inspiration?

Ravens

To be a Heathen is to be a paradox.  We are the simplest of people, yet how we come to be so is complex.  Ours is perhaps the simplest path to walk, yet it is the one that requires the most work, and will cost you the most comfortable assumptions.  Once you have lived this way for a while, it is as hard to think about living any other way as it would be for a raven to remember life before it could fly. We didn’t start that way, and maybe its as valuable for the eldest soaring high above us as for those perched uneasily at the side of the nest contemplating that first dive.

 

Our worldview accepts that we stand in the middle of nine worlds, in a place shared by the living and the dead.  It should be no surprise that we ourselves stand with eyes looking into two different worlds, while standing firmly rooted in a third.

Forward and Back

We look to the past with one eye.  We seek to learn the lessons our ancestors understood, truths that sometimes cannot even be contained in the languages we retain in this generation.  We seek to understand how our ancestors viewed their world, their challenges, their responsibilities, and their relationships.  We know that we have wandered far from what our ancestors would have viewed as a proper balance in our lives and wish to more fully understand their own understanding of themselves.

We stand in the present, both feet firmly planted in this world, not the past that was, nor yet on any path of the yet to be.  We stand in the now, wholly and fully creatures of our age, but if half of our vision is fixed in the past, where is the rest?
We look to the future with our other eye.  Where we looked to the past to find our responsibilities, to find our reasons to make choices, we look ahead to find our duties.  We stand in the present, but we understand and accept that our duties to those who came before us cannot be paid to the dead, but must instead be paid to the living, or the yet to be born.  We stand in the present with both feet, and we cast our eye towards the future, so that when our hands are turned to the tasks of today, we do so ever mindful of the requirements of the future.

 

We are not peoples of the book, we have no Bible like the Abrahamatic faiths, for our ancestors never found one right way to live.  They lived in a world that embraced change, that accepted that right answer for tomorrow might well be different than the right answer for yesterday.  They understood that what could be taught was how to ask the right question, what they sought to preserve was the way to see where you stood, the price that was paid that you could stand here with the choices that you have, so that you could decide for yourself which choice would make it better for those who followed after.

 

We are products of all that went before us, but we add to that all the choices that we make, all the challenges we face, and all the ties that bind us to each other.

Above all else, this is what we look to the past to remember; we do not ever stand alone.  We are all tied together, from the most distant sacred ancestor to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  We are woven together by the ties we forge in this life, ties of blood, ties of shared struggle, ties of shared friendship, ties of shared obligation.  We are tied to the land and waters whose life sustains us, we are tied to the spirits that arise from that life.  We are tied as well to the greatest of the wights, the holy gods whose opinion on our efforts at reconstructing a healthy practice in our time I trust is as filled with humour and tolerance as anything else.

I have no doubt that we do much that our ancestors would consider wrong, much else they would not have enough understanding of the world we face today to understand, but perhaps it is good to remember that much we do, they would both understand and approve.  We do not live in the world that they did, and the break between their time and ours is to great to simply reach back and carry on.
We do not seek, as the radicals of Christianity and Islam do, to turn back the clock, to deny the gains we have made as people and nations.  We seek to go forward, but to go forward sustainably, sanely, and most of all, frithfully.  Our ancestors lived in a time of great change, and changed with it.  We seek to learn to embrace the change as they did, while retaining the sense of who we are, and what is important.

We look to the past to learn how our ancestors asked the right questions.  We stand without fear in the present, accepting our responsibilities to the future.  One eye cast to the past, so that they eye we cast to the future may hope to see the right questions, that our hands in this present time can help to weave a future our ancestors would be proud to see, and our descendants would be pleased to inherit.

Like the raven trying to explain flight, it sounds terribly complicated.  Like the ravens in flight, once experienced, it is hard to imagine ever living any other way.

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Aesir, Death, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heimþinguðr hanga (Visitor of the Hanged)

 

 

When you have lost everything, even your name, there is little point in going on.  I was not churlish enough to leave my body hanging where I would be found by those who would be hurt by it.  I brought my rope with me to the park.  There was an old maple tree in the park, the stairs down passed close enough he could tie off, and once I lept out, the fall would offer no chances to back out.  It would be done, and one thing at least would go right.

 

I had tied the knot myself, I had to break down and watch a YouTube video to figure out how.  I looked at the tree in the darkness, lit only by the light of the moon, and the pale light from the parking lot at the top of the stairs on the hill above.  The tree was a great dark brooding presence in the middle of the grove.  Squat ravens eyed me with scant interest as they tucked their heads into their feathers as the spring winds sought the warmth of the night black sea as they sighed off the slumbering white capped mountains.

 

“You a good dancer boy?”  the voice shocked me to my core.

Odin Face

A street person in battered old combats sat in the shadows at the base of the stairs and looked at me in curiosity, one cold blue eye and shining white teeth grinning back in the moonlight like deaths shadow.

 

“You tied that too tight, you are going to strangle slow.  I don’t mind.  I seen some dance and kick like they were dancing for their light-o-love, and if you a dancer boy, then have at her.  If you aren’t a dancer, you’re just going to look lame and pathetic.  Not that I care, but if you want to go out with a little style and can’t dance, you’d best let me fix that for you”

 

He chuckled, the old bastard was LAUGHING at me.

 

I won’t be mocked.  On top of everything taken from me, everything lost, I will not be mocked. I shook the rope in my fist and screamed at the old man.  “You have no idea what you are talking about, no bloody idea who you are talking to, and you have no idea how dangerous mocking me is today old man.  No bloody idea at all”

 

He threw back his head, and the wreckage of his face caught the light.  One side showed the ravages of gods only knows what.  He threw back his head and laughed in great hacking gasps that caused the ravens to echo his laughter until they sounded a corvid chorus of mockery.

 

He rose to his feet, and threw his hands wide, his eye blazing bright in the light, and a dangerous potency hung on his limbs like a banner flapping on a field of corpses.  His voice rasped with a dark contempt as he spun and gestured like an actor upon the stage, fingers taking in my figure where I stood above him in the light, weaving in word and gestures his webs about me.

 

“Who am I talking to?  I know your name-to-be boy.  I know them all.  Shall I name them?   Behold boy the names you will bear when the tree bears your burden.  Shit-breeks I name you, for full will be your trousers when you are found.  Late-hung I name you, for had you been hung while living, much delights maidens would have from you, but now you will be late-hung.  Two-cherry I name thee, for the raven’s will have twice the fruit of thee they would of me”  He pulled down the cheek below his intact eye to leer at me, and the ravens cackled in a way that made the vision of them plucking my eyes from my hanging corpse seem real enough my own gorge rose, and the urge to throw up caught me. I spilled my guts noisily as the old man laughed.

 

He took a pull from a bottle in his combat coat pocket, and extended it to me.

 

I swished the cheap rum around my mouth and swallowed its burning down to wash the bile from my mouth.  He extended a hank of some kind of jerky, fish I think, and I began to chew the leather hard meat to settle my stomach and banish the feeling of ravens plucking my eyes from my mind.
“Half a loaf and half filled cup, full friend found.  Tell you now boy, you throw up my booze, I am going to kick your ass before you hang yourself, on that I oath.”  He seemed unperturbed by my presence and purpose, even if crazy, he at least understood.

 

I whispered “Who are you?”  He slapped me on the back and grinned.  Taking a deep swig of the rum he ruffled my hair like I was a small boy.

“Last name I give you, they once gave me.  Farmr galga, burden of gallows.  You can call me Heimþinguðr hanga, visitor of the hanged.  My wife called me asshole, mostly because her friends called me often.”

 

I stared off into the darkness, seeing the choices that brought me here.  Pride brought me to the edge, anger wouldn’t let me turn, and the people that got hurt I couldn’t fix.  I let my anger fall away.  It hadn’t helped then, when I broke things, and it certainly couldn’t help me now they were past fixing.  “Listen old man, you don’t understand, this is about justice, if its about anything.”

Passing me the rum, he took the rope and began to work it.  I opened my mouth to object, but he drove four inches of a blade twice that length into the post with a casual flick, driving it deeper than I could manage with a sledgehammer.  I drank while he worked.  His fingers working with a speed and skill at odds with the bedraggled appearance of a broken old homeless veteran, hinting at whatever he had been, before.

 

“Nobody wants justice.  Wish justice upon your enemies, if you wish, but punishment is what you usually mean.  For yourself you can have all the punishment you want, but scant justice will it bring.  You broke trust, and you can’t splice that back like I do this rope.  You broke your name, and everything it once meant.  You hang yourself to end it shit-breeks that is all you will be.”  His voice held neither interest nor judgement, he could have been discussing the weather.  He continued in the same tones.

 

“Now I could hang you.  Hang you right.  Leave your fool ass here in the dark of the grove.   Leave you to storm winds lash, to moonlights eye, and cold rain’s scourge.  Leave you in the dark with naught but the Tree and the silence.  Sun won’t be up for another nine hours, if nothing eats you, and no one crazier than me happens by, maybe you might figure out who you are.  Hangi, hanged one who hung to learn, or Farmr galga, gallows bait who fed those fat lazy bastards. Don’t worry, the ravens will wait until morning to take your eyes, not much longer, they don’t trust the gulls to leave their food alone.”

 

The rum must have been hitting me pretty good.  It actually made a sort of sense, and I let the old crazy bastard bind me in the darkness to the tree.  I shivered in the cold, alone with my thoughts and the growing pain in my limbs.  At one point I began to be afraid, I saw the shadows of big dogs moving between the trees, and the ache of the cold in my muscles began to make me fear for my life.  I tried laughing then, half sobbing, as I realized the foolishness of being scared I might die on the tree I came to hang myself on.

 

Alone beneath the pitiless moon, cold rain scourging me, I had all the time in the world to look backwards at choices made, failures only now clear.  Misery sat easily on my straining shoulders, but the night is long, the darkness patient, and the tree pitiless.  I cannot stop my mind.  I turn things around and around, justice he mocked me with.  I see the futility of it.  Had I ended as he mocked, shit-breeks, hung and dead, no wrong I had wrought would be fixed, no balance could I make for those I had wronged.

 

The bark dug into me, the moon danced slowly above me, and the shivering of my muscles burned like fire, my joints aching like I hung not alone, but with all my deeds with me.  I struggled to take the weight off my joints.

 

My breath was hard, as my chest could scarce rise with my arms so bound, and my arms all but out of their sockets as I hung.  I felt a growl in my chest, and an answering growl in the darkness.  No, I had enough of hanging helpless, it solved nothing.

 

I straightened my legs and back, raising my head to face the deep dark, turning away from the distracting light to face the dark before me.  Taking the rope past where it bound my wrists, I took it in my hands and let my muscles take some of my weight.  Hard on my hands and wrists it was, my muscles screaming and shivering, but my breath came easier.  There was no hiding from it, no running from it, there was only facing it.  I had nothing but my own strength for as long as it lasted, and no hope of any real change, but so long as I could stand, I would stand. So long as I could strive, I would strive.
Looking into the darkness, I saw golden eyes staring back at me.  Dark forms moving in the darkness.  There were always monsters in the darkness, especially the darkness you feared to look at.  There was enough of that in the mirror every morning, but it was always hard to turn to the darkness and face it when the light of the moon offered gentler sights.

 

I snarled into the darkness.  Whatever was out there I would face.  Helpless and bound, I was yet a man I think, and would face what must be faced.

 

Justice is not about punishment alone.  Punishment fixes nothing.  You cannot unring a bell, unbreak a trust, or unscrew a life, but you can take ownership of the mistakes you made.  You can acknowledge the debt to those you failed and do your best to use every bit of strength you had in you to be there to aid those who struggled under the burdens I gave them.  The dead fix nothing, the living don’t have a great record either, but they don’t always fail unless they fail to try.

 

Dawn was a long way off, so was hope.  I had only the rope, the tree, and the darkness.  Sometime in the night I passed beyond my body, and into the tree, down into its roots, into the truths whispered not to the living.  The sky bled a dark purple, not light, but not blackness any longer when he came to me again.

 

Thrice he struck, once to the hangman’s knot that bound my neck above, then left and right to the ropes that crucified me to the great tree’s bark.  His great bony fist caught the hangman’s know below the turnings, and dragged me to the picnic table to lay me down to recover.  A tattered sleeping bag he wrapped me in.

 

Dawn rose, and I looked at the tree from which I had hanged, upon which I was to have hung myself.  Around its base were tracks of beast, greater than any dog.  No tracks from the old man could I see, only my own, and those of two great hounds.

 

I shivered in the dawns cold light, and the laughter of the ravens called my thoughts back.  Two great glossy beasts took wing, harsh cries giving mockery to the slow turnings of my bewildered mind.  I turned to face the dawn.  Life goes on, and there was much yet for me to do.

 

Turning my back to the tree, I turned my face square to the dawn.  Neither the light nor dark would I shy from, I had too much yet to do.  I came to the tree because my life had turned to shit.  The old man did not offer me sunshine and roses, but he bound me to the tree until I could see the choices as he did.  I could hang from the tree with shit in my breeks, or I could rise from the tree and stride forward towards my responsibilities, because I had shit to do.

 

One of them is worthy, even if sometimes both stink.

Ravens

 

Bynames of Odin

  • Hangi – “Hanged One”
  • Valdr galga – “Ruler of Gallows”
  • Farmr galga – “Gallows’ Burden”
  • Heimþinguðr hanga – “Visitor of the Hanged”

 

John T Mainer

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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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Aesir, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

The Bet: Does love or gold rule the hearts of women?

 

One morning Freya had been listening to a translation of the newly recovered Hamaval.  In particular she was listening without amusement to Odin’s words on the fickleness of women.  Her ire aroused, the passionate Vanir confronted the one-eyed wanderer and took him to task.

“Your one eye has blinded you, old fool”  Freya shouted with her famous passion “It is the passion of love, not of gold that moves women.  Perhaps in your dotage you meet only those women whose affections YOU must buy.”

As all of Asgard prepared for the second round of their most famous war, the Wise Counsellor laughed deeply and long, his great white beard shaking in mirth.  Odin offered the golden goddess a challenge:

“I will wager a hundred heroes from my hall, that any woman we agree on will chose for gold over passion in the end.”

“Agreed!” Shouted Freya, “No magic from you or I shall sway this, let it only be mortal choice that holds the day.  You may speak only to the couple, nor may you set any other against them, and I will agree to the same”

The couple they agreed upon was an uptight young English woman of good family.  Her name was ancient, and her fortunes vast.  Possessed of a rare beauty and poise, she was much sought after by suitors, as there was no family lord from whom her hand could be bartered, she was free to choose.

Edwardian lady holding white cat, ca. 1920s:

Odin the victory father was watching the young lass (Cassiopeia) carefully.  She doted upon the cats that she kept, and once tossed out a young man for scaring one.  She rode often to the hunt with flare, and kept only the finest blood stock, and mocked other riders who had lesser mounts or lesser skill.  The suitors that surrounded her were the height of fashion, wearing only the best, eating only the rarest and most fashionable of dishes.  Odin saw all of this, and cast his plan.

Freya goddess of passion and magic saw with other eyes a woman surrounded by men obsessed with petty pursuits, elaborately bored with life, and obsessed with the games of social status.  She smiled casting her own plans.

Jonathan was the third son of an ancient family.  Sent to the new world to pursue his fortune, it was expected that the eager but not overly bright lad would take his remittance and stay gone, but to everyone’s shock he succeeded in mining in the Yukon, winning for himself much gold and renown, and returning to a somewhat shocked and bemused family.

Frontiersman II

 

Lacking guile utterly, and with the friendly eagerness of a puppy rather than the elaborate courtesy of the court, he had been corrupted by the loose frontier ways and lost most of his early graces.  His family despaired at finding a match for him, and so set for him the impossible task of Cassiopeia, whose wealth and grace were such that she would swiftly and gently send the half wild boy home to consider more modest prospects.

He began the courting journey sitting upon a well bred horse that he rode poorly; having spent the last years with mules and donkeys rather than high bred horses.  Wrapped in the latest fashions, he held a roll of large nuggets from his claim tucked in belt, and a thick wad of paper money in his tunic.

As he rode, he came upon an old man at the side of the road leading two of the most beautiful donkeys he had ever seen.  He stopped and asked the old man where he came by such beautiful beasts, and the old one eyed gent advised him:

“Only a fool would risk a great lady on a stupid and flighty horse, when a good solid donkey is available.  These fine donkeys are the finest breeding pair in all of Britain, and I bring them to London to trade for a stallion.”

Jonathan saw his opportunity and offered to trade his flighty and overbred stallion for the two donkeys, and began his ride to London.   Everywhere he rode, men and women pointed at him, and he just knew they wished they could be rid of the overbred horses and ride big eared sturdy donkey like he and his wife to be would.

As he rode further into town he saw an old man with selling meat pies.  The smell made his mouth water, and he stopped to buy one.  The taste was like nothing of this world!  He begged of the old man what was this meat, and the old man swore it was cat.  The old man said the Lady Cassiopeia was famed for her cat, but few enough men would eat it, let alone ask for it.  Jonathan swore right then he would be the first!  Riding away, he began to wonder what plague it was that left so many old men with but one eye!

Coming upon an old man standing bare chested in the street, giving his clothes to the poor, Jonathan asked what the old man did.  The old man replied that Lady Cassiopeia had said no thing spoke better of a wealthy man than giving the shirt of his back to the poor, after all they were rich enough to replace it a hundred times!  Jonathan thought Cassiopeia was the best among women, and right then gave his fine coat and shirt, and damnable riding breaches to the poor, determined to out do the other suitors.  Besides, after years of working the gold fields, he was unused to tight clothes and heat, and his massive muscles did poorly in the tight clothes of modern England.

Sure that victory was his, Odin looked in to see how Freya fared.

Freya sat beside Cassiopeia, wearing the guise of a widowed aunt.  Cassiopeia looked at the delicate men picking at the feast, sipping wine delicately while picking daintily at the food, each piece carved to be an artwork itself.  The men talked of the hunt, politics, gossip, and ignored her completely when not competing with each other to out compliment her.  With each she dueled with words and gestures, each weighed for effect in a play more elaborate than any stage, each calculated and bloodless as any card or board-game, with points won and lost in high societies game of status.

Freya whispered to Cassiopeia,

“Do you ever dream of the days when half naked barbarians would sweep in and sweep up a woman not because of her land, or horses, or wealth.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a man who wanted to spend the time with you, not riding to hunt, or playing at cards?   The suitors here all seem soft of hands, without a drop of passion in them, hardly the sort to rip a bodice, nor strong enough to carry a woman off without at least two servants for lifting.”  Cassiopeia just sighed deeply.

Jonathan approached the fine mannor and laughed to see the poor fools had all come in carriages, with not a single donkey among them!  Lace and waist coats seemed the order of the day, and they seemed to be eating pastries. Clearly they knew nothing of women!  Determined to make a good impression he rode his donkeys up the stairs and into the courtyard, hearing the amazed gasps at his entrance.  Seeing Cassiopeia in all her loveliness standing proud and imperious at the head of the table, he slid off his donkey and spread his wide well muscled arms and smiled.

Cassiopeia stared transfixed as her suitors and guests gasped at the heavily muscled tanned gold bearded savage standing in a breach-cloth between the two snow white donkeys.  Her eyes travelled his smiling face, down his tanned and sweaty rock hard chest and to his, frankly, hugely bulging breach clout and gasped.

Seeing she was taken by the obviously fine donkeys, he proclaimed their strength and endurance that she know they were not just pretty, for he was a fine judge of donkeys.
“I swear if you take me as husband, I will ride that ass all day, and still have strength to ride all night”

The men gasped, and some of the maidens swooned; Cassiopeia felt her heart beat faster

Gesturing to the pâté, goose, quail, and beef on the heavy tables, Jonathan remembered the old man’s words about her pride in the cat she served, and the generosity she sought in her men.  Boasting proudly he proclaimed:

“Marry me, and I swear I will eat nothing buy your sweet pussy for the whole honey-moon. I have given my clothes to the beggars in the streets, for with you I will not need them!”

Knowing that women have practical needs, and well pleased with his success in the gold fields, he slapped his breach clout where his rolled up deer-hide held his heavy gold nuggets, and gave it a tug, as frankly the sight of Cassiopeia was making it a bit tight!

Pointing to his bulging underwear, he proudly boasted:

“With what I have in here, you will never want for anything again!”

The assembled suitors were shouting now, the maidens fanning their faces and swooning.  More than a few of the servant girls were eyeing him openly and whispering, but the room grew still as stone when Cassiopeia leapt from her vantage point with a growl that could shame a leopard, tackling Jonathan to the ground in a confused kissing tangle.

One hundred heroes walked from Valhalla that evening, for all the tricks of the Evil-Worker are no match for the passion of youth. The couple lived long, passionately untidy lives littered with adventures and children.   The gods blessed their union and line, for steadfast hearts are the gods true wealth.

Donkey Kiss

 

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