Aesir, Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Ragnarok Comes

 

The runes were cast
The answer cold
Ragnarok was come
The message clear

Who broke faith with us
Shall to the darkness
To the fire
To the ice fall

The fire raged; half the world burned
By mankind’s hand
In mankind’s greed
The nuclear Fenris shackles broke

Nuclear Explosion

The sky grew dark with ash that took the sun
The dawn brought fire that took the air
The earth groaned
Poisoned beyond salvation

Come now the Jottun
Fenris howling in the van
Surt marches
Serpent rising from poisoned seas

Alone the sons of Ask
The daughters of Embla
Face at last
The final night

No gods to lead them
No gods to save them
Those who forsake them
To stand alone

Pitiful few, the tanks did roll
Against legions beyond counting
Infantry locked and loaded
Jets screaming took flight

Sky grown black with Nidhogg’s brood
Lancing with fire to burn all that dared
The skys on the last day
No living could face them

Reign of Fire

The ground shook beneath Jottun tread
Spears of fire shatter armour
When through artillery march
Unharmed the foe

There is no hope
The young soldier cries
There is no chance
The pilot weeps

From above the hearth,
The veteran takes
The arms he lived to set aside
No longer will that be

Daughters of Freya
In the darkness scream
Not despair but madness
Dancing, move towards the line

Daughters of Frigg
Food they gather
Water they bring
Warriors will need both

Children of Eir
Bandages bring
Gloved and masked
No fighter to fall unaided

Sons of Tyr
No hope was promised
Only the right
And the will to stand by it

Sons of Thor
Laughter rings out
The final storm
Who would stand aside?

Children of Odin
Blood and madness
The feast of all ravens
March song on their lips

Hel in her fastness stirs
No prophesy to bind
Her own council keeps
Her charges set loose
Abrams and Leopard
To Jottun spear fall
Dread guns no match
For the fires of primordial chaos

Hel veiled

From the wreckage ghosts rise
Tigers in slate grey
Dun coloured Sherman’s
The guns of the dead speak

Jottnar reel,
As the first deathless fall
When the dead march
Where the living yet stand

Infantrywoman weeps
And loads her last mag
A hand closes on her shoulder
Grey and cold

Her grandfather to one side
His grandfather the other
Grey and cold the guns of the dead speak
Where the living dare stand

Surt in his fury
A sword of entropy bears
That no god or man may stand
Yet Frey grows from the earth
Antler in his hand
About him the poisoned earth
Gives forth green life
And fire burns it not

In the air the dragons scream
Red Baron soars
Bishop on his wing
Hurricane and Spitfire behind
Messerschmitt and Mustang
Phantom and MiG
While the living dare the sky
Will the dead make their slaughter

The Serpent from the sea boils
No force in nine worlds may face
All fleets shatter at its coming
Yet Thunder does sound
Where men and women flee
From warships serpent shattered
Does Thor stride to the shore
Hammer raised and joyous cry

Odin dances in the madness
Runes of victory he casts
Spear making great slaughter
Mad his laughter
Bright his eye
No hope do I offer
No hope do I bring
I am the promise only of death
Yet I am the promise kept
The battle embraced
The price paid
That no foe shall master thee
That no night shall befall
The children of Ask and Embla

Wolf Fenris howls
His dread jaws close
The Victory Father’s thread cut
By the wolf of war

Silent and bold
The son of the King
Viddar the jawbreaker
Fenris bane wrought

 

While still stand to battle
When all hope is lost
The sons and daughters of men
Shall never stand alone

The dead will uphold
Those who keep the watch
The gods will give strength
While still you dare fight

Will the dawn rise?
Will tomorrow come?
Will it to be mortal,
Then make it so

Rainbow dawn

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Goddesses and Greatness

It is International Women’s Day, and that got me thinking about my daughters, about our goddesses and about what each has taught me about the other as my daughters have faced their struggles to grow up in a world that really isn’t that friendly towards women; something that as a man you really don’t notice until you have daughters of your own.

At Parliament of World Religions last year, there was a lot of talk from a lot of faiths about the Greatness of God.  Usually singular, usually male, but the female variety also focused on the Great Goddess with the assumptions of the three O’s firmly in place.  Omnicient (all knowing), Omnipotent (all powerful), and Omnipresent (all places and times present).  That part struck me as a bit bizzarre, for I have never found it to be true, and really never found it to be important either.  It seemed to be critical in these people’s beleifs that their god/ess be absolutely everything, or their faith was in peril.

Our goddesses are a varied lot.  Skadi is a stone a killer as you would want to meet, Ran and Nerthus could give Jehova a run for his money in the unknowable and unforgiving catagories, but the more cis normative goddesses represent interesting studies as well.  Freya is a goddess whose power is peer to that of Odin, whose sexuality is most powerfully her own, bound to no husband, and whose magics are very much able to work her will in the world towards ends of her own, not always known to any save her.  Frigg has foreknowledge equal to Odin himself, but shares little of it, weaving wyrd in the lives of men and women towards ends less obvious than the overt political and military stylings of her husband, on a scale that makes a single generation barely an eyeblink.

Frigg weavingFreya chariot

Nowhere do you see the three O’s implied of them; for the goddesses are great, their power so far beyond our own and our own understandings that we simply accept that much is possible to them that ought not to be possible at all. Wyrd weaves as it will, and even the goddesses cannot overcome it.  They are wise, but not in the same way, for each has a power and wisdom that is deep and distinct, where each might have an answer to a problem, seldom will it be the same answer, neither the tools used nor end sought being the same.  There is no doubt they are wiser than we mortals, but again, no implication that they know everything; only that should they seek it, little or nothing that can be known may be hidden from them.

Our ancestors accepted that the world was a complicated place, that there were many forces driving it that were beyond mortal strength to resist, or even understand.  They lived knowing that they could never possibly know everything, but that every scrap of knowledge they could have would increase their chances of making good choices and steering between those forces they could not stop or turn aside.  They did not need their gods to be the answer for why everything happened in the world.  Freyr didn’t kill uncle Olaf, the tree he was cutting turned unexpectedly when it fell, and it killed him.  Frigg didn’t kill your mother, childbirth is risky and this time she did not survive.  The gods and goddesses were powerful and wise, but not the root cause of everything that happened.  We were never told to turn away from the world, trust in the goddesses to tell you what you need to know.  We were taught to look to the world, to turn to your gods, goddesses and ancestors for wisdom in how to learn from the world, how to better understand and make better choices.

I look at my daughters, so different, yet so amazing, and I see the wisdom, the very great gift that our ancestors left us.  Our gods are not the source of all greatness, not the one truth of the universe.  Our gods and goddesses are greater than us, wiser than us, but enough like us that they can inspire us to find that within ourselves that can be great.

No one goddess teaches you to be a woman.  No matter how you will define yourself, there is a goddess, or even a god, whose path and tools will allow you to become the most successful version of yourself, the most capable and healthy version of yourself that you can be.

The goddessess are not perfect (the gods even less so), but that does not make them less worthy of worship, it makes them more worthy of worship because they are not so great that we must hurl ourselves at their feet in abasement knowing we could never be worthy of their regard.  No, they are so great that they are banners, beacons, inspirations and instructors to what we could be.  They are the great roaring fire that makes the tiny sparks inside us dare to blaze a little brighter.

The world is vast and complicated, it is moved by forces that simply are, and whose nature is knowable but immutable.  These forces are personified by the jottun, as described by our science, the primal forces that drive all life.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and before it even the gods must bow.  We do not have the luxury of blaming our gods or goddesses for our success or failure.  Some things are our choices, some are decided by our strength, skill, will and preparation, some by the will and resources of another, and some simply by forces beyond our will or comprehension, be they natural, political or economic.  Our goddesses never pretended otherwise, and the wisdom they have always offered has been to teach how to recognize those forces and move in harmony with them (or at least not to waste your energy opposing them), while learning how to develop your own potential to most powerfully affect those things that are within your power to change.

I sit and look at the requirement for all knowing all powerful god or goddess as the root cause of all things and see it for what it is, an escape from personal responsibility, an escape from having to learn, to adapt, to change.  I see this, and I am moved to bless and thank Freya, Frigg, Idunn, Ran, Nerthus, and Skadi for never selling us this fiction, for never claiming to be so great that we need never grow to become more to face our own challenges.  Our goddesses are not Omnicient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent, they are wise, and strong, and will listen if you ask their aid in growing wiser, stronger, and more aware of how YOU may become greater than the challenges you face.

My daughters move into a world beyond the shadow of my sword, where they will face their own challenges more and more on their own strength and skill, their own wisdom and vision.  As they grew up, I never taught them the gods and goddesses would fight their battles, would make their choices for them, would tell them what was around the next corner.  I sought to teach them to love to learn, to seek always to know the world and themselves as fully as possible, to be open to the touch of the gods, goddesses and ancestors that they may draw upon them when they needed to grow beyond what they were to face the challenge of the day, or to find a new answer.  I thank the goddesses most humbly for providing them so many paths to greatness, so many powerful ways to be a woman, whole, sane, strong and successful, that they never feel tempted to deny or cut away a part of themselves to conform to some imagined ideal right way to be and to strive.

Most of all, I thank the goddesses for their losses.  I mean it.  Frigg knows more than any, yet with all her knowledge Baldur fell slain.  Freya and Skadi both faced trials where all their might and majesty availed them not, and they had to settle for what they could salvage.  How inspirational is it to have one who can never fail, will never be wrong, has never known loss, as your guide?  How can you not turn away, knowing you cannot measure up, knowing that you can’t ever be that perfect, nor can a perfect one have ANYTHING to teach you about your own loss and its cost.  How much greater a goddess or god that has power beyond your wildest dream, yet still failed.  Why would you hide your wounds, your shame, your fears from one who openly bears their own?  When your need is most dire, when your own feelings of worth are the least, it is not to the unreachable perfect you will reach, but to one whose scars tell you your wound may be survived, one whose tears tell you that they know the words you cannot speak.  Only from them can you receive aid when your own strength is spent, your own vision sees no more choices.

Death of Baldur

Our goddesses are not that great, and that is awesome.  Not Omipotent, not Omnicient, not Omnipresent; they are something far more important, reachable, understandable, and useful.  They won’t part an ocean for you, but when you are drowning in your struggles, they can and will show you how you can win your way out.  They are great because they inspire greatness in us.

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized, Yule

Hundred Faces of Jul

Yul

Around the tree they come
Joy and reverent awe
In the heart of the dark
Raising song
Bright flame of the soul
The Julfather comes

Second eye bright with love
Gift giver comes
Upon the night winds
Jul’s bright face laughing

Two streets away
Cold in the alley
A soldier coughs his last
Cardboard box his only hall
Battered battledress grown thin
Dead on the land he fought for
No home for the home come son

Howling Jul claws out his eye
For the Feeder of Ravens sees
Hospitality riven like foes shield
Strong sons cast to the streets like garbage
Wild Hunt rises screaming upon the night winds
Run before it
Souls and flesh the wolves will tear
Bright spears cold as the street’s own mercy
Summoned by our deeds

To the old, the sick, the lonely they come
Bright songs and baked goods
Presents and bottles
Hope stirs the flickering flame
Love binds those who feared they had no place
Frigg blesses, Holle smiles
Those who carry Yule in hand and heart
Weaving back those we might have lost

Two streets away
Cold in the alley
A girl coughs her last
Home to foster to street
Abused and used
Fallen through the cracks
Cardboard sign
Asks for the meal
That would have kept the cold at bay
Hard choices to get through the day
Hard drugs to help her forget
To get through one more night
Until she didn’t

Hearth mother standing
Above the silent daughter
No more to feel the hunger
No more to face the scorn
Frigg screams her rage

Beauty shed like illusion
Bright and terrible
Spear hungry
As the discarded child
She calls forth the hunt

Run before it all the night
No mercy on the Mother’s Night
For those who cast away
The gifts of innocence
The future of the folk

Mercy and Madness
Joy and black despair
Hundred faces of Yule
Hundred truths in the darkness

Will you heed the call to be open handed?
Or will you close fist and heart
Will you brighten with feast those who hunger
Or stalk sneering by
As the gods ride the night winds?

Bright the fires
Bright the songs
Warm the blood by spirits lifted
Yet the wind outside is howling
The Wild hunt rides
Run before it or die
For it holds no mercy
No more mercy than our streets
No more pity than our hearts
A Hundred faces at Yule
And each one we called down ourselves

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Embracing Failure: Lessons of Frigg

 

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

 

Note the caveat.

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

Frigg and Baldr

 

Why was no one paying attention?

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

 

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

 

No.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Baldur grave

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Aesir, Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

They Walk With Us

They Walk With Us (but we stopped paying attention)

They Walk WIth Us (front cover)

I was asked why I was driven to write my book, They Walk With Us. The answer honestly has been riding me like a hag for years now; we need to relearn to pay attention to our world. I am not kidding. We walk almost oblivious through this world of ours, focused so hard on our phones, on our jobs, on our opinions of this or that about the world that we are so close to blind that the fact that our society functions at all becomes something of a minor miracle. I can’t fix that, and won’t pretend to.

I am a Heathen, an Asatruar, or one who is true to the Aesir and Vanir, the gods of my northern European ancestors. To be a Heathen is to be world accepting. That means a few things, some of them so simple you miss how profound they really are. To be world accepting means that you accept the world as it is, not as it ought to be. To be world accepting means that you accept that the holy, the horrific, the magical and the mundane, the living the dead, and the yet to be are all experienced here. This world. Here.

Are their other worlds? Yes, but you aren’t on them, so pay attention while you walk this one, you are missing almost all the important bits, and you don’t have that much life to get it right, so work harder at it. Is there life after death? Who can say, there is definitely death after life, and as I alluded to, it is approaching quickly, so again, hadn’t we best get on with actually living this one in this one chance we are given?

The touch of the gods, the spirits of the land and waters, the embrace of our ancestors, the magic and beauty of the world, and the very real power of the bonds we forge between each other are felt here, in this life, in this world, and we are choosing to miss most of them.

Occam’s Razor tells us the simplest explanation for a thing is most likely the correct one. It is a wonderful tool, except when you actually start paying attention it can make it hard to accept your preconceptions of a world without wonder, and force you to consider the fact that there may indeed be more hands than the ones you see shaping the events of our daily lives. There have been too many times where lives have hung in the balance, where the course of lives turned on a series of low probability events strung together in a way that strains the possibility of coincidence alone a fair bit past the point of credibility. Can I swear I have seen the hands of the gods at work. No. Can I swear that I haven’t? No.

When you read the lore, when our gods are depicted as walking among us they did so unseen until they left, with their presence more inferred than explicit. They did not speak from burning bushes or toss thunderbolts about when they walked with us, they offered choices where none were present, and added a little immediacy to the consequences of those choices, for good or for ill. They strained probability in ways that would give contortionists back trouble, but they seldom broke it, and left us to either learn from it or not, again as we chose. Little miracles, second chances, no more than that.

When I studied the martial arts, and when I studied biology, a simple truth seeped into my awareness; to use vast amounts of power to accomplish a thing is easy, but to use such elegance that little, or even no external force at all can accomplish the same thing is awe inspiring. To use a thunderbolt to accomplish something is more impressive to those who have not called fire from a battery of 155’s. To accomplish the same end with almost no power is awe inspiring. The hand of the gods in this world is implied in the elegance of the improbable not the flash and thunder of the impossible, which in fact usually equates to the untrue.
When I was driving to visit my father in Hope in winter time, I was in an area beside an ice covered lake that the road passed a few hundred feet above. As we passed a bare stretch, a car coming the other way lost control and spun across the ice and my path. I avoided him with the skill of too many years driving on ice, and watched him hit the only tree in 150 meters of road and escape a plunge of hundreds of feet through the ice and the cold of the grave. He was badly hurt, sustaining injuries that could easily kill him, except that I was an Industrial First Aid attendant with a full kit, who just happened to be passing the second he needed help, when we hadn’t seen another car in half an hour. I stabilized him and called an ambulance in an area where I have cell signal perhaps one time in twenty. I was an hour from the nearest Ambulance station, but I got one inside of twenty minutes in an ice covered spot in the middle of nowhere.

This fellow had been on his way to church and couldn’t believe his bad luck. I laughed at him, and explained to him how hard the gods worked to keep him alive. I pointed out the series of low probability events that were required to all happen at once to end with his being packed off in an ambulance with nothing more than a concussion that would be gone in a few days. It was not impossible, but the required chain of lucky breaks combined were extremely unlikely. Little miracles. The hands of the gods or just random chance? I can’t say, but I am more thoughtful for asking the question, and more appreciative either way.

I lost my job when I had a serious back injury that will leave me with permanent chronic pain and disability. Yes I know it ought to be illegal, but the joy of the law, rather than morality, is you can honour the letter of it by violating its spirit like a naked nun in a biker bar. I had lost everything, as the combination of pain, spasm, drugs, and months without sleep had driven even my family from me (for really good reasons, honestly). So, like any good Heathen, I have duty still, I will do my best to meet it somehow.

Miracles are something I don’t believe in, yet I also don’t believe in failure of duty, so given no options but miracles to fulfill my duty I set about striving for one. I got more than one, and in ways that stretched probability beyond the breaking point.

I sought a way off the drugs, to master the pain and spasm. I used the path of ordeal as hinted at in the lore of our people, not because I expected it to work, but more because if you are stuck hanging on the metaphorical tree for nine days and nights (or ninety as it were), you may as well poke about in the branches looking for runes, since you found the spear and noose so easily. I got something. If I could explain what, I could retire a millionaire, but I will settle for being drug free and with pain and spasm that are actively suppressed while I am conscious to a level I am not even aware of them. A little old lady working a grindstone in a vision handed me a bundle of something wrapped in rags, and when I opened this bundle the ability was in my head. Not asking anyone else to buy this, but that was my experience and it worked. I admit being pretty much functionally crazy at the time, so I am willing to allow that this didn’t actually happen, except of course that I have these abilities that I can’t account for and really can’t see how I could have spontaneously figured them out without noticing. Occam’s Razor is still hacking madly at the walls of this one.

I went back to the Army with the Rangers, because if you could do the job, they could care less about anything else. Oh I could do the job. Pain and I are old friends, especially in the field, and given a rifle and rough country I am as close to paradise as you can get with your clothes on. Looking for work civvy side there was a job that paid shite wages as a temp position on the opposite side of the city where honestly it would eat a good portion of the wage just to get there and back. Yet, I wanted it. I did the initial interview, and got the temp ID tag to go to the meeting. I forgot to turn it in on the exit. Although I have never done this before, I put the tag on my altar and prayed for that job, even though it was on the low end, temporary, and on the high cost end of the spectrum of jobs I was seeking. I got called back for a second interview. I had no money gas in the tank, and no money in the account, actually I had one dollar and nine cents in the account. I was delivering papers as a side job and the cheques were late, again, and I didn’t have the money even to gas up to do my papers, let alone cross the city to do the interview. I was snarling in rage as I pulled up to the pump and set it for one dollar nine cents pre authorized fill on a forty liter tank. I was lost in my thoughts as the gas pumped, waiting for it to stop, and it didn’t. I filled my tank on 41 cents. The price on the pump read 1.09 cents per liter. I got the interview, got the job, worked four months on a two month temp position as the bottom man on the totem pole, got cycled through each of the positions in turn, and then they fired the manager, and offered me his job as a permanent position for quite a bit more money. This actually happened as I have set it out. I do not claim this is the work of the gods, but I tell you, it saved my family, and it was a miracle (or series thereof). This series of events has deeply enriched both my family, and my spiritual practice in such a way that I have a hard time not seeing them as inexorably bound together.

I have passed through life being present to save or change lives by random chance a hundred times, because honestly it’s a big planet and stuff is going on all the time and my skills are fairly broad and hardly unique so you have a decent chance of having someone useful nearby. That part I hardly ever give thought to. Sometimes the world presents you with not only a chain of circumstances, but words of power and truth that open your eyes to choices you could never have seen on your own with such absolute elegance of effort that you are hard pressed to see how anything other than deliberate design my a master craftsman could be at play.

The big religions of today talk about big miracles happening long enough ago and far enough away that there can be no question of proving them yea or nay. Our ancestral tradition had the gods moving in much more subtle manners, their miracles those of opening possibilities, of bringing us to the opportunities and leaving it to our own hands and will to see if we will seize the opportunity, if we will take a deeper look at the choice before us and choose worth over expedience, and know the difference in success between following right strategy or simply tactical expedience. Our ancestors walked through the world as the most practical people in history, but with the open wonder and joy that came from knowing the gods and ancestors walked with us. I think I have come to the same understanding. It is my hope that through my stories, I can share with people some of the wonder I see in the world around me, and open your eyes to the shadow of the hands of the gods, wights and ancestors in the world around us.

I am convinced that this world is infinitely more wondrous than we give it credit for, that our gods and ancestors, and the spirits that share this world with us are in fact there for all of us to see and know, only we have got out of the habit of looking. Perhaps together we can start to remedy that.

John T Mainer

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Alfarblot: Alfar blot, or Halloween

Odin Offering

Hail,

 

For those of you who are hard reconstructionists, understand that I know the Alfar Blot was held toward the end of the harvest season, and was a family centred, woman led ritual that was secretive enough to be almost totally lost to history.  It was not Samhain as the Celts understood it.

 

Having established that I know the murky history of the Alfar blot I am a man, thus not pretending to be party to, nor leading women’s mysteries, I celebrate the Alfar blot in a way that is in keeping with my personal thew of adapting the secular holiday observances that we share as a society, and bringing back to them the sacral elements that have been lost.  I strive to put the reason back into the season, and teach my children that they can celebrate the holidays with their friends, while adding a sacral awareness and spiritual learning from the different levels hidden in the pagan  bones on which the modern consumer muscles and thin Christian skin are stretched.  We all celebrate the same, it is just that Heathens remember why.

 

One of the things that is forgotten by most of the Icelandic Saga reading heathens is that Odin and Frigg (or Frau Holle as some places known) were also gods of the harvest.  Odin began in many ways as a god of death, and of the harvest.  Holle’s symbols of the twin sickles represent the harvest, but also death in its proper time.  The god and goddess are tied to the harvest (as  appropriate to Alfar blot), are depicted as leading the wild hunt (there is nothing more appropriate to Halloween than the Wild Hunt), and in Odin’s case, remembered as lord of the dead, necromancer, and winner of secrets from the dead and the underworld.

 

At the harvest, the last bushel would be left for Frau Holle, or Frigg as a gift in return for the bounty of the harvest.  For this reason, the last of the seeds (uncooked) from the gutting of the pumpkins were placed at the offering stone in our front garden.  Alfar blot begins the week before Halloween with the offering of the last of the harvest to Frigg or Holle.  The pumpkin that was mine was doomed from beginning.  As this was to be a sacred offering at Alfar Blot, the knife used was my blot-knife.  Large and heavy, the knife has drawn blood many times, from sacrifice and struggle, has known holy oaths, and even bound broken limbs.  It has power of its own, and sometimes knows its purpose before I do.  Without really any thought, my pumpkin was carved in Odin’s likeness, with the rune Ansuz  in place of his sacrificed eye.  The rune of inspiration burned with the light of the fire of knowledge in token of the eye Odin gave for knowledge held in the underworld.  It seemed a fitting sight to greet the dokkalfar on the first night of their return to the world; and a fitting token of sacrifice for Alfar blot.

 

The night knew much good looting and company, spirits were high, and the gods gave us a night twice as warm as any in the week before, under hours of grey dry windless sky between the preceeding  and following downpours.  The gods shaped a night for children and alfar, for the wild untamed things that stalk the borders of reality to dance and play, and pass unknown among each other in shared greed and good clean wild passion.  At the end, my daughter asked for a prayer that her job would be un-cancelled, for she needed the money.  In turn I promised One Eye a fitting tribute from my hand should he see fit to grant her the chance to win her gold.  So, the Victory Father saw fit to un-cancel her job, and thus my debt is incurred.

I had a pumpkin carved to the Battle-Glad, the Feeder of Raven’s, the God of Spears, from which I must make both a sacrifice to the Wise Counsellor, and to the wights.  Well clearly we can’t feed the wights an intact pumpkin; unless I’m holding out for trolls.  And the god of battle wouldn’t be well pleased with an offering that was not of his arts, of his service.  Well, if the army taught me one thing, it was that Halloween and pumpkins means RANGE-EX!  Yes, nothing is better for feeding the birds than live rounds and dying pumpkins.  While traditionally the sacrifice was done with 7.62mmx51, 5.56x.45mm or 12 gauge (slug for a choice), in civilian practice, I have somewhat more liberty to perform more traditional feats of skill at arms.

The answer, of course to take my bow and spear, and make my offering to the Battle Glad.  I have had a really stressful week, so with arms in hand I drew full, and called upon the Feeder of Ravens.  Four arrows did I have, and I began

Lord of the Hunt, storm rider, master of madness, accept our offering this Alfarblot-draw

Loose….. through the mouth

All wise, Wise Counsellor accept our offering and guide us this season-draw

Loose…..between the eyes

Feeder of Ravens, Battle Glad accept our offering and favour our arms-draw

Loose…..in the living eye

High One, Victory Father a gift of praise, of joy at arms! Draw

Loose….Anzuz pierced, the Eye That Is Not

Sacrifice Bowshot

    

Fetch the Freyr’s Spear, the King-Spear of the Freehold.  In the way of our ancestor, give voice to his name, and hurl the spear.

 

Strike!  Again Ansuz is pierced, granted the thing now looks like Thor put a hammer through the eye, and the spear is about a foot deep in the berm beyond the pumpkin-skull, but as an Omen of the favour of the God of Spears, it is a strong one.

Eye that is Not

 

The rich flesh from inside the pumpkin, broken free by spear and arrow is pulled free by finger and left beneath the trees of the range: To the Alfar, to the great spirits of this place, the small wights of the land, the ancestors sleeping beneath the earth, accept this offering from my hand, and in the name of my family.

 

To the offering statue at my door, and the trees that ward it I bring a portion.  To the wights of my home, of the land that sustains us, to the bright Alfar that ward us, the dark Alfar that respect our boundaries and trouble us not, accept these gifts of our hand, and from our hearth.

 

It is time to clean my weapons, to remember the ancestors who taught me knife, and bow, axe and spear, rifle, pistol, hand and sword.  To the men who taught me honour, and thus to be Heathen.  To my ancestors I offer praise and pour offerings at the hearth, speaking the names of my honoured dead, remembering their lessons and stories.  Next I go to the kitchen to clean, and remember the Disir who taught me family and place, love and duty, loyalty and respect, and thus how to live Heathen.

 

Alfar blot is done.  The sun sets, blood still stains my fingers from the string, stinging from the cleaning work that followed.  It is a quiet thing, a private thing, a rite that has no meaning for most, but much for me.  Born of the thew of my family, of my own practice, it is a family rite rather than a custom of the Freehold.  It is perhaps not the way my ancestors would have celebrated, but I don’t think they would fail to understand what I have done, what I have tried to offer, what I have felt.  Without their guidance, and in times strange to their eyes and ways, I have done as I can to keep the relationship between my family and the wights, the alfar, the ancestors, the living kindred, our community, and our gods.  I am not a man apart from my community because of my faith, we are not a family apart from our community because of our practice.  We are modern Heathens, Canadian Heathens, a new thing upon this earth, as our ancestors were ever a new and growing thing upon the lands they discovered and made their own.

 

John T Mainer.

 

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