Aesir, Asatru, Current events, Faith, Heathen, Uncategorized

Courage and the draft

Invictus

The world came to Toronto in 2017 to see the Invictus Games.  This is the single most Heathen sporting event in existence, and one of the most important to me.  The Invictus Games celebrate the athleticism, drive, and determination of our wounded warriors, our soldiers who marched away to war in our service and came back less than whole.

More than the Olympics, the Invictus Games celebrates those who have had the courage to overcome, who have dared to meet the harshest blows of this world and to rise again, unconquered, and claim their greatness.

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.

Our gods teach us that wyrd weaves as it will, there is no judgement in it.  Wounds do not steal your worth, nor do they steal from you the chance to continue to build it.  Wounds are not shameful, but rather the markers of the challenges you have faced in your life.  If you faced your challenge well, then the scars are marks of hard won pride, not shame.

The Celt believed only the whole and perfect man could be King, that somehow a scarred King would wound the land.  The Norse believed almost the opposite; for the accepting of the cost of your service marked you as a man or woman who was worthy of the power in their care.  Odin gave his eye for wisdom, Tyr his hand to show the worth of his word was more than his sword arm, and Thor bears still the millstone in his skull that battle chanced to put there.  There is no shame in bearing wounds, or loss; our highest gods bear their scars and wounds openly, and dare us to do the same.

This is the reality of the warrior culture so many Brosatru miss while swilling cheap beer and boasting of their guaranteed place in Valhalla, based on little more than mead hall boasts and heavy metal lyrics, rather than any deeds of service to the folk.  The reality of a “warrior culture” is the acceptance of loss as a cost of life.

Our whole people lived with this.  Women bore their children in the sure and certain knowledge that many of them would die, and that each birth, they too might die.  Farmers, fishermen, and craftspeople understood that when they took up their tools, a single mistake or mischance could cost them limb or life as surely as any warrior of the line of battle.

We lost that.  Our medicine has been a boon to us, for which I thank the gods and ancestors every day, but it came with a lie.  The lie that we are immortal, that death and injury are banished, and if they should confront us in our lives with their presence, then we have been betrayed!

We have been betrayed only in the teaching of that lie, and this treason we commit to each generation, making them less able to cope with the hard things wyrd weaves for all of us in our turn.  Loss of a loved one, loss of health to chronic illness, loss of limb or ability to serious injury; some or all of these our children will face, prepared or not.  Our only choice is that last one; do we prepare them, or not?

My middle daughter was the one who was most likely to follow me into the service, as she inherited the temperament I had from my father, and he from his.  This will not be anymore as she suffered a permanently disabling spinal injury when rear ended by a truck.  Just eighteen, and permanently disabled; to what extent, we will not know for a while.

Back Pain

I first encountered life changing injury during my time in the Armed Forces.  I volunteered to make of my body an offering to the folk, hoping to offer only my time, dedication and skills, but aware that I could also be offering my health, or even my life.  We don’t really think or talk to much about the various ugly places between hale and whole, and valiant dead, as the middle ground is far scarier than either of the extremes.

You don’t think so?  Well, perhaps when you have seen enough death, and enough crippling injury, you will realize that the dead do not have anything to fear, but the living often do.

The athletes of the Invictus Games are important to us because they bring back pride, power, and most of all, VICTORY to those whom wyrd has woven permanent loss of limb or ability due to injury.

Most important of all Odin’s bynames is Sigfather; Victory-father.  It is not death we fear, for death waits for us all, and can no more be run from than can the coming night.  It is defeat, loss, and the humiliation that attends each that we fear, it is powerlessness, despair, and the shame attendant on weakness.

We are our deeds.  These words ring through modern Heathen practice as the root, the central tenant we all share.  Some understand the whole culture of building worth, and have the full lexicon of terms by which we know how what we do shapes how both we think of ourselves, and how our community thinks of us.  Judgement is a truth we accept;  like gravity, denying it does not make it go away, or make for wise decisions through pretending its not there.

The disabled are left with the corollary of this.  We who have always measured ourselves and found ourselves worthy based on the number and power of our deeds must find ourselves worthless in our own eyes when the chance to do those deeds is stripped from us by fate.

Suicide rates do not come from no where, they come from a despair that looks upon a life and sees no worth in it, nor potential for worth in it.  This is where the disabled are most vulnerable, in the sense of worth that should be the greatest source of their strength.

Our ancestors understood this.  They did not expect the wounded to battle for the same things, or the same standards as the whole.  They expected them to contribute, to give their all and to build worth in the doing; they literally could not understand the mindset that rejected the reality of a lost limb and judged the wounded person by the standards they met when fully able and whole of body.

The lame rides a horse, hand-less is herdsman.  You cannot build your worth through the deeds of before, but there are other deeds you are well suited to meet, other needs of the folk that you can meet.  No one accounts Tyr or Odin as less worthy due to their loss, rather they look upon their deeds in spite of that as inspiration to drive them to find their own greatness with the body and ability they have now.

The soldiers of the Invictus games were volunteers to the field of battle, but they were drafted, as it were, into the ranks of the disabled.  Those of our children, siblings, spouses and friends who find themselves struck down by disease or accident are likewise drafted into this challenge.

The soldiers of the Invictus Games are assumed to be courageous, as they volunteered to risk their lives and health in the nations service.  The truth is, they are among the most vulnerable.  No one who has not served can know how much it shapes you, how the awareness of giving one hundred percent of your ability and strength, to achieve a mission at all costs, and know that you are operating at a level most will never achieve even fleetingly, changes you forever.  Once that is stripped from you, you are not returned to the civilian you were, you are simply a soldier who can no longer live up to the image of ability that had become the pillar of your self identity.

We lose a lot of wounded warriors, which is why the Invictus Games came to be.  The Sig-Father, our father Odin, is not just the Battle Glad, he does not simply love us for the clash of arms, and the feast for his ravens that are the fallen.  Odin is the Victory Bringer, the Wise Counselor, the bringer of inspiration, poetry, and the wisdom of coping in all its wondrous, and wondrously flawed forms.

It is time to heed his counsel, to bring back Victory for our wounded, for our disabled.  Time for them to not hide their scars, empty sleeves, or wheel chairs, but to wear them as proudly as any medal, for they are the spoils of the victor, the survivor, of the strong.

Wyrd weaves as it will, there is no judgement in it.  One of my favourite words when it comes to living with the bad things that happen in life is FISH.  Short for “Fuck It, Shit Happens”.  The gods have never judged us by our success or failure, they have judged us by how we face our challenges, and how we meet our responsibilities.  Victory in the battle is Odin’s to give, but victory in your challenge is YOURS to take.  Who wins or loses may be beyond your strength to decide, but how you meet that challenge is beyond the power of any god, Queen or President, beyond any Parliament or law, it is literally only your own decision that will or can determine how you meet that challenge every single day.

Stop letting the memory of what you were steal from you the chance to find out what you can be today.  Stop mistaking the wound that wyrd wove into your life as being the results of your battle; it is not your loss, but it has changed the nature of the victory that is yours to win today.  Heed the Victory Father, if you are still breathing, you have not lost.  Find your victory conditions, and fight for them as hard as you did when full strength and speed were yours, and you will build your worth not only to yourself, but to the world.

My daughter will never be as she was before the accident.  She is not now weak, nor should you pity her.  She has much less strength and flexibility than before, and will pay a price for each breath and each step that would make a strong man tremble, but she will pay it, because she is not done yet.  She is not beaten, has not accepted defeat as written in her wounds.  I hope I can help her find the ways to define her victory conditions so the will and drive that made her so strong and capable again become a positive, rather than a weapon to use to hurt herself.  The strongest and most able among us are the harshest in punishing themselves when wyrd takes from them the ability to meet their own standards.  My daughter is strong and proud as ever I was, and I hope less foolish.

Odin, Victory Father, I ask your blessing that you teach our wounded ones how to define and fight for their victories every day of their lives, that when they chance to fall, their lives will shine with worth, and their deeds will be many days in the telling.  Tyr the most holy, as you understood the choice between your honour and your power could have only one answer, help those who have had much of their power stripped from them to understand that honour is still theirs to win.  Thor, defender of mankind; laughing god of the common man and woman, please teach those who have been laid low by fate to rise again, to laugh again, and to strive again.

No one volunteered to be wounded, to be broken.  Those who are disabled to a man were drafted into this state, and yet this does not mean that they do not possess courage!  Those who rise each day to a struggle greater than the whole may know, and frequently for stakes far less rich than the whole compete for, require more courage and more strength to rise each day and do battle.  To those who rise to this every day, may the Victory Father be with you always.

Heed the lesson of the Invictus Games,

Invictus Motto

 

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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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