Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

In the beginning, there was one

So far Christianity, Heathenry, and even the Greco-Roman understanding of the origin of the cosmos agrees.  Where the difference creeps in is what this meant to the monotheist versus the polytheist.  To the Christian, Muslim, or Jew, the beginning singularity is “big G God”, Jehovah, Allah, or whatever you wish to call him.  To my own Heathen ancestors he was Ymir.

 

The Judeo-Christian group sees the unity that begins as being worthy of all worship, as being the sole possible focus for devotion, sole source for truth.  We try not to giggle when this view is expressed, because those who hold it find deep meaning in it, and we try not to offend.  To us, it is literally impossible to comprehend why they think so.

In the beginning was Ymir, neither male nor female, neither good or evil, Ymir was literally all that was, and therefore it was impossible to determine self/not self, form and formless; impossible for identity to exist, impossible for awareness, virtue or vice to exist.  In the beginning the universe was one, physics agrees.  The big bang pretty much did away with unity, and gave the universe differentiation.  To the Christians, unity spoke and brought forth stuff because he could, and wanted to.  To the Heathens, and many other polytheistic pagans, the universe began with unity, from that unity came the first primordial beings, and their first act upon achieving identity was murder; from the destruction of Ymir was built the material world, and the primal forces that drive the interactions of matter within it.

Death of Ymir

 

We don’t worship Ymir; his slaughter gave rise to the universe, and made possible the ability for the universe to be experienced as form and formless were now separated, matter and energy were now separated, from the mist of Ginnungagap formed the spirals of galaxies, the birth of suns, the creation of planets.

 

The primal forces of fire and ice, creation and destruction, order and entropy are given name as Jottun, or giants to us, Titans to the Greek and Roman.  We know they are the primal forces of existence, and yet we worship them not.  They do not care; they are, their nature is pure and elemental, and no offering, no plea, no prayer will turn them aside from following their nature, so our ancestors didn’t bother trying.

Ice and Fire

The universe is more than matter and energy, there is something more to it, something spiritual.  There is a higher order, a deeper meaning, a thing that stretches beyond matter and energy, something that survives the transformations between states.  It has always been my belief that the rising order and complexity of the universe represents on some level the universe attempting to know itself.  Ymir could not know him/herself as in unity there can be no understanding of self, if there is no thing that is not self.  Unity is not perfection, it is indistinguishable from nothingness.  Unity is not divine, it is meaningless.

 

Our lore tells us from the Jotun or Titan came forth a new race, the race of our holy gods.  They did not create the universe, they were born from it as it increased in complexity, arising as necessarily and inevitably as gravity follows mass.  These beings, in our lore, these gods chose to put their will upon the worlds and the primal forces within it and create a place where ice and fire were balanced.  Those who study planetary formation and life sciences call this the liquid water zone, that place where liquid water can exist, and where, as a result, life can form.  Our gods did not kill off the Jottun, they created a place where the primordial forces were balanced, but they did not destroy them.  Oddly enough, it is the existence of life that stabilizes the liquid water zone, and leads to conditions on earth, rather than those of Mars whose water was bound by the oxidation (rust) cycle rather than the carbon based water cycle.  It is the existence of life, of the liquid water zone that allowed plate tectonics to continue, that allowed the cycles of fire and ice to continue on earth long after they died on Mars {1}

Dead Jottuns of Mars

The gods are not credited with creating life, only conditions where it could arise.  They are not credited with creating us, only seeing in us something that called out to them, and granting us gifts so that we could rise to achieve a higher understanding, both of our world, and of them.

We did not worship our gods always, nor were our gods always worthy of worship, or even interested in it.  There was a time before either of us existed.  There was a time when they existed and we did not, and there was even a time when we were far from being able to perceive them in any but the most halting fashion.

 

Are we not the universe written small?  What better model of the universe attempting to understand itself than mankind.  We who were given the gifts of inspiration by Odin have used that gift to seek to understand our universe, our place within it, our own nature, to find our purpose, and to wrestle with the truth that once we were not, now we are, and one day, we will cease to be.

 

Our gods are not eternal.  Every act of creation begins a cycle that must end in destruction, every birth prophesies a death.  Who better to be our guides in this mortal existence that gods who understand this mortal limitation, who chose to take that step to bind themselves to wyrd, to subject themselves to the wyrd woven by the Norns, to fate, to death itself, by daring to create this place of balance, by daring to limit primordial chaos and bring forth the order that made life possible.

 

There is no one face to divinity, for when the universe was one, it was unknowing, unknowable, ignorant, and as devoid of worth as it was form.  The gods and goddesses, the divinity as we experience and know it is not fixed and permanent, is not “as was in the beginning, and as shall be eternally”; the only thing that is eternal is the cold and silence of the void.  Non-existence is unchanging, existence is change.

 

My gods were not always, nor was my race.  Heck, the human race is less than 200,000 years old, barely a blink in the existence of the planet, less than that in the existence of the universe.  How long have we worshipped our gods?  Really a tiny fraction of that.  As a species, our understanding of our universe and ourselves has been growing as fast as our biology and our lifespan will allow.  As we grow, and as we have the luxury to explore our world and ourselves, our awareness and understanding grew, and changed.

Different gods found different tribes, some of these may well be different understanding of the same gods, shaped by different peoples experiences and understandings; some are just obviously different gods.  Its a big complex universe, if you want simple answers you will just have to accept being closer to wrong than right most of the time.  The truth is something we generally understand in painfully limited fashion, each new understanding being a halting step forward from the last, and an unimaginable distance from full comprehension.  Some of our steps are not advancements, but mistakes; that is the wonder of humanity, no matter how far we have come, each generation knows we have far further to go than any of us will live to see.

I am a hard polytheist, I accept that our gods are discrete and knowable entities.  I seriously doubt they are “eternal and unchanging”, nor would I find it worthy for them to be so.   We know from our lore that many of them are fated to die with this world, hopefully buying us a chance to save a remnant of a remnant.  As an aside, science reassures us that the planet we are on, which has enjoyed multiple planetary extinction events already, has a best before date, and even if we avoid unscheduled catastrophes, we will be seared of all life and atmosphere where our sun progresses into a red giant (oops, those pesky fire Jottuns of Muspelheim mentioned in the lore as proximal doom) before the sun collapses to leave the earth a cold airless rock spinning in the eternal ice of space (those pesky frost Jottuns born from Ymir who seek to return to the nothingness that was).  If we are bright enough, work hard enough, and refrain from killing ourselves off, we just might get some of the human race off this rock and out of this solar system so we, as a species, can out live this event.  The gods promise to buy us time, they don’t promise we will get our shit together and make it work, the lore promises a chance, but we still have the choice to screw up.

 

The universe was singular once; Ymir, unknowing and unknowable.  I can’t worship that unity, ignorance is unworthy of devotion.  On this I will just have to disagree with the Judeo-Christian view, as they are actually forbidden to agree to disagree on this point. This would be their problem, not ours, so I leave them to it.

 

Our gods did not always exist, our species did not always exist; we did not always understand the gods as we do in the last few thousand years of recorded history, and I am unsure whether this represents an actual change in our gods, or simply a change in our ability to understand both the gods and ourselves.  Like a lot of Christians with the question of the Trinity, I find this essentially unknowable question to be a source of both wonder and joy.  Maybe it’s a Heathen thing; but I find exciting the thought that every single generation from now until our sun burns out will have to struggle for itself to deepen its understanding of itself, the physical universe, and that which is a part of us that extends beyond the simple summation of matter and energy that describes the physical universe.

 

To those Judeo-Christians who claim to be worshiping the primordial god, the first god of existence; this is hardly a selling point to Heathens like myself, or to a Greco-Roman pagan.  Your claim to worship the one we know as Ymir or the Greco-Romans as Uranus is to claim to worship a being whose destruction created the universe we inherit, whose death was a prerequisite for the development of life, awareness, and spirituality.

 

Our gods, like our species was not always.  In the beginning, we were not.  In the end, when the universe reaches ultimate dispersal of heat death, or collapses back into singularity, I have no idea if we (gods or man) will still exist.  I do know that we represent the universe’s attempt to know itself.

The gods are formed of the primordial, the great divine power that drives the universe, and we, the most ephemeral of all mortal beings.  It is through us that the divine may experience our universe, and it is through them we can grow to understand the parts of us that will not die when our mortal flesh returns to the soil as ash or meat.  Together we grow, together we are greater, the parts of us that are not limited to matter and energy call to them, the parts of us that yearn to know, to understand, to love, to dream, to create, to dare and to achieve call to them; they shine a light into the darkness to allow us to see a little farther, to know a little more, to chose a little better.  We give them the sum of our choices, our experience, our life, and yes, our death.  Together we learn and grow, and if we are smart, lucky, and swift enough, perhaps some of us will continue to do so long after our planet is burned clean, and left to spin frozen in the eternal dark.

I can’t know.  All I can do is strive to make the world a little better, a little wiser, and trust that uncounted generations to come will do the same.  The gods will be there to guide, it remains to be seen if we will continue to listen.

 

{1} http://www.biology-online.org/5/3_water-cycle.htm

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1664679/

 

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Goddess Freya true

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

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

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

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

When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig,

And in the hall | of Hor had burned her,

Three times burned, | and three times born,

Oft and again, | yet ever she lives.

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

The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise;

Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic,

To evil women | a joy she was.

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

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

Freya Hunt

Who is Freya to us today?

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

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

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

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

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Aesir, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

World Denial, and PTSD

I have to preface this with the note that I wrote this some years ago, but some have recently unearthed the doccument from the Troth files and been moved by it.  Where there are a dozen wounded who have seen it who needed to see it, there are probably a hundred more, so I will put it out for those who need to hear it again.

Veterans with PTSD

In the discussion on the Troth email list this past while I have been listening to my fellow veterans, as well as victims of rape and traumatic assault talking about the twin elements of PTSD, what happened to cause the PTSD, and what can be done to build coping mechanisms for it.  Our society is built on lies.  The communal delusions of the west in the twenty first century are in my estimation these:

 

We are a civilized folk.  Horse pucky.  You are not being robbed, raped, embezzled, by the Soviet Red Army.  We are most likely to be preyed upon by those in our community who have the ability to use violence to satisfy momentary urges and no real motivation not to use it.

 

War is about fighting for truth, justice, and the American/Canadian/British/Australian way.  Dog droppings.  We kill people over there,  in the hopes that we can keep the flames of war from crossing our own frontiers .   We fight foreign wars for reasons of internal politics, protection of our economic hegemony,  to preserve an imperfect balance of power that is assumed to be better than the maelstrom of escalation and violence that would follow its breaking down, and to remind people that attacking us is a good way of getting dead.

 

We heard much reference to the saga’s being so graphically violent, celebrating the horror of the battle and its aftermath.  Indeed, the romanticism of our ancestors differs from the romanticism of the Chivalric, Renaissance and later ages romanticism of battle in the fact that it is not concerned with making the battle seem clean,  or for noble purpose.   Battle was described as ugly, the humour was rough and sometimes cruel, and the purposes of the struggle were often politics, economics, avarice, ego.  This did not detract from the glory that comes from facing your challenges, whether in knowing success or failure in their strategic aims, what was celebrated was the courage in facing the challenge, and the strength, cunning, and spirit brought to bear.

 

To a survivor of rape or abuse, the delusion of safety that was the communal understanding of the society that they were raised in has been shattered.  Their mind is now conflicted between gnostic and epistemological knowledge.  They know from their entire cultural upbringing that we are more evolved than the rabid murdering, raping, lawless thieving ancients that gave us so much rich history of semi random carnage.  This is their epistemological knowledge, the shared learned beleifs of our society.  They know from bitter personal experience that we, as a species, are capable of the basest acts of cruelty, at any time, for the most transient and venal of reasons.  Where once the face of every stranger was a fellow citizen, now it must ever be a potential enemy.

 

From its first line the Hamaval teaches us to be wary always.  Enemies can be anywhere.  Bad things are always possible, and people who have reason to harm you, or who desire what is yours, are indeed out there.  This is not reason to cease living, or going out, or building relationships, but it must ALWAYS be near the top of our ancestors thoughts, when looking at the world.

Valknut-Symbol-triquetra

 

A person who has had he delusion of safety, of the innate goodness of humanity, stripped away from them will have a hard time talking with those who are still comfortable in their innocence.  Like a seal swimming happily in a pod of orca; unaware that some of their playmates regard them as no more than a twinkie that they may or may not feel like consuming at the moment, but are definitely considering.

 

Society holds the delusion, a modern invention based on trappings of law enforcement, and the public face of justice.  The fact is one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lives, 80% of their abusers were known and trusted by them.  When those you trust can turn out to be the ones you should have feared, how hard is it to trust again?

 

My father’s generation was raised on the myths of the Second World War, the battle of good versus evil, the coming home to parades.  My grandfather got back from the war too late to get the truth of it into his sons, so they went to war in Africa believing a myth that was turning most of the returning veterans of WWII into borderline alcoholics, and giving us the kind of marriages that made Valium nicknamed “mother’s little helper”.  My father and uncles got to watch African tribal warfare, see baby’s heads dashed on building walls by laughing men of other tribes, while European Mercenaries paid by funds from Canadian Churches did the brunt of the fighting against the UN forces.   Coming back from that, they did not receive their parades, but shouts of “baby killer”.   The veil was off their eyes, but no one who had not “been there and done that” could they talk to about it.

 

When I was in Canada preached the myth of the Peacekeeper.  We had some of the best killers on the planet, but we told the public that we were glorified crossing guards.  When the politician believed their lies, a lot of ours got left in some bad places with no support.  A generation of soldiers who grew up listening to the Jewish Holocaust stories and the UN declaration that such would never happen again got to be on the ground when the UN forced its troop commanders to stop using the word Genocide, and use Ethnic cleansing.  Never Again was happening in front of our troops, and rather than honouring the UN Charter that all the Superpowers and leading nations of the earth swore to, and stopping genocide from happening again, we switched what we were calling it, to allow us to not go to war, as long as all (insert name of ethnicity) everywhere weren’t being killed, its not genocide.  Wiping out all of them in one region or one country is not genocide.   Under current UN rules, Hitler would walk.  Soldiers that trained their whole lives to stop this from happening, were being handcuffed by their political leaders from stopping it, and gagged by their officers from talking about it.  PTSD rates among over used troops who can’t talk to anyone about what they have been through were brutal.

 

Those who followed me into service got away from Peacekeeping and back into war fighting in Afghanistan (and Iraq for US/UK).  While the need to watch passively was taken away, the level of violence and pressure was far higher than we needed.  The myth of the good clean war was being sold hard at home, and ladies and gentlemen, that myth has killed as many of my fellow soldiers as IED.  It isn’t.  It can’t be.  It will never be.  Selling that myth makes those who support the troops being impossible to talk to because they have no idea what happened, and those who don’t support the troops being impossible to talk to because they have no idea why its necessary or how often the “terrible tragedies” are the cost of bringing about almost unnoticeable Improvements, or stopping rapid escalation of bad.

 

Again, the problem that the returning soldiers have is that the myths of our society are commonly accepted and hold the force of holy writ.  Those who administer and populate the mental health systems do not share the reality of those people who have been down in the mud and the blood, the stress and the fear.  The people defining normal have an understanding of reality that is, honestly, flawed.

 

Our ancestors did have mental illness, and did have clear cases of PTSD.  They had a society that understood a version of reality that was close enough to their warriors, to the women and children who had been on the receiving end of brigandage or the sack.  Their poetry was as often created by professional warriors as poets, celebrating the reality they shared.  The customs of the bragaful, the use of mead and wine to break down the barriers, of establishing a sacred space in which men could speak freely and without shame of their struggles, their losses.  Egil Skallgrimson showed the depth of how a warrior, a mercenary and noted berserkyr could openly mourn his lost son without fear of losing his perceived status or manhood.  The reality of our ancestors accepted that terrible things happened to the ones we love, and it is bloody hard to cope.  Coping mechanisms are often best described as going just insane enough to not come apart completely.  Egil is a wonderful case in point.  His dealing with the death of his brother, and then later his son shows how acting out was accepted, as long as once you were done dealing with your losses you got your act together and took care of your duty.  There was no need to pretend everything was fine.  It was alright to come apart at the seams, to not be OK with what happened.  There was no shame in bleeding from wounds without or within.  There was healing to be done in sharing the pain, and loss.  Life goes on.  Hard, unforgiving, cruel, tiresome, seductive, amusing, inspiring, exciting, glorious life-goes on.

 

Our society accepts the delusion that fair exists, that we have a right for bad things to not happen.  It teaches that there is always a better way than violence.  It teaches that if something bad happened to you there must be a reason (you got raped, where were you, what were you wearing?).  If somebody dies in a war zone it is a crime and somebody must be punished.  Our society teaches that when something terrible happens to you, and you realize the myths are false, that now something is wrong with you.  If you are not OK with having a stillborn baby because your doctor says you “can just have another one”, then clearly you are the one with a problem.  If you got raped at a transit stop and are now afraid to take a class that will force you to take transit home after dark, you need to “get over it”.  If you are a soldier who did what you needed to do when you were over there, and now can’t go to bed alone, unless you have a bottle or pills to keep the things behind your eyes at bay when the  night comes,  then you need to “suck it up buttercup”.  We eat our wounded to cover the lies of our society.

 

Our own faith is a world accepting one.  We are taught to accept the world for what it is.  Our code of ethics is not a perfect world system, but a functional roadmap for dealing with people the way they are.  Violence, greed, malice are all parts of humanity.  Those with the power to abuse will often be as free to do so as they think they can get away with (observe the “good people” in mob situations and see how many people have been straining at the leash to indulge some pretty dark appetites).  There is the good with the bad, but we are taught to as much how to protect against the latter as we are to build upon the former.   A person not coping well with stuff that was too much to handle was accepted by the ancients.  Madness was holy, in its own way.  Coping strategies based around sharing your trauma in a way that was not victims talking about what broke them, but strong men and women boasting, sharing, ranting, and raving about what they survived.

Female EOD

 

Why do so many of our gods bear wounds openly?  The Battle Glad gave his eye, while the lord of honour gave his hand.  Our gods bear their wounds with pride, their loss not hidden in shame but boasted.   There is always a price to be paid for life.  A terrible price, for the greatest possible prize.  To pretend that life should be free of price, is to cheapen its worth.  Bad things happen, mistakes happen, bad people are out there, and even some good people are going to be set against you.  Accept this.  You will encounter things that are beyond your power to deal with, unless the gods have blessed you greater than any I have yet met.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and it is enough that you muddle through and seek to do your duty regardless of the price paid.  Remember that, take pride in that.  Grow strong in the broken places and boast of your scars, both the outer ones and the dark secret ones that society tries hard to make you ashamed of.  Pain overcome is honour won.  Claim your victory, and pox on the shame society would use to protect its pathetic tissue of make-believe “normal”.

John T Mainer

Hometown Battlefield

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized, Yule

The Story of Mistletoe

Inside the greatest stories are a hundred little stories that get forgotten.
In the story of the first winter, the death of Baldur the bright, there is a story too of little Mistletoe.
At Yuletide now we hang mistletoe, and whenever a boy and girl pass beneath it they must kiss, but so many have forgotten why. The tale of mistletoe is one of love and pride, foolishness and forgiveness.

First and best of the sons of Frigga and Odin was Baldur the bright. The shining one, his laughter and courage were beacons to the Aesir, and his gentleness the offer of peace when the battle din had faded. Where the world carved by Jottun and Odin from Ymir’s bones was cruel and cold, would Baldur add a touch of gentleness and wonder. Where spear sharp mountain was cut by icy stream, would Baldur carve a hidden flowered glen, and softly whispering pool. Where Muspelheim’s fire clawed at the ice and rock of earth would Baldur twist and twine them to forge a bubbling spring of warmth to bring the promise of life to the most forsaken fell.
When the first war raged between Aesir and Vanir sweet Frigga feared for her son, for ever was he first in battle, and all too swift to offer mercy where death strokes were safer. In time the Aesir and Vanir swore to peace,
and the Vanir too grew to love Baldur. For a time the nine worlds were near peace, the Aesir and Vanir united, the raiding with the Jottun more friendly sport than earnest war.
At this time did Frigga vow to make her Baldur safe from harm from all.

To the dwarvish deeps she went, and begged favour of the dwarves:
“Let not stone or steel, nor metal forged dare harm sweet Baldur’s hide!”
The dwarves looked deep into the secret earth, at the ropes and rivers of gold, the sparkling diamonds promising the wonders of the night sky, and the thousand secret riches that Baldur had woven into the iron deeps when the world was new forged and so they swore. To the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the whales and fishes of the deep did she go and beg safety for bright Baldur, and as each would look to the beauty Baldur had woven into their world, they would promise his protection.
From Yggdrasil and all lesser trees did Frigga then beg favour, and one by one they all swore Baldur’s weal for the beauty he had given them.
At last came Frigga to the youngest of plants, the newborn Mistletoe. She begged protection for her son, and Mistletoe said no.

Mistletoe in tree

Mistletoe lives on the oak, and never sees the sun. Far from the ground, it sees not beyond the mighty oak´s dark leaves. The oak itself did lend its voice to beg and plead with Mistletoe, but Mistletoe had never seen the gifts of Baldur’s making. All Frigga’s tears and oak´s stern words did not move Mistletoe to mercy, in ignorance and pride it swore no oath to the lady mother.

Alone of giant, man and god was Loki is his jealousy. Baldur’s love meant nothing to him, and he ever sought to mock him. For all his jests did him no good, as Baldur never angered, but laughed instead with right good will
when Loki’s wit did best him. With envy and rage did Loki plot to do fair Baldur evil, at last he thought to ask of Frigg the protection she had won him. In the high feast hall with a gentle smile did Loki come to Frigga.

“How you must fear with such a bold son, that evil must befall him.
Of all the gods your Baldur’s courage in the vanguard ever finds him”

At Loki’s words did Frigga smile, never suspecting evil. She shared with her kinsmen her sons defence, the secrets of his protection.

“The stones of earth, all metals forged, all beasts of water, wind and land have all sworn him protection”, did Frigga smile.

Loki pressed for answers, “What of tree and leaf and nut? What of dandelion or rose?”

Frigga laughed at his silly words, and revealed the last of her secret:

“Trees and grasses, bush and vine have all sworn his protection. Only lowly mistletoe of all that lives still dares withhold protection.”

Loki laughed and slid away, his mission now completed. Sweet Frigga did not suspect yet that Loki plotted treason. Down to midgard with a silver knife did Loki make his harvest. A slender wand of mistletoe
that in the fire with spells he hardened. His arrow forged of mistletoe, and murder in his heart, Loki crossed the rainbow bridge and came to Odin’s court.

“A game!” cried Loki shouting loud, “A sport to test our mettle!”
Loki’s challenge drew every eye and he worked his trick so vile.
“Let Baldur stand before the host, let every warrior try him.”
Loath were the gods to raise hand against him, but Baldur did beseech them.

“What harm in this? Lets have a game, let all my friends and brothers try their mightiest of strokes and let me judge the winner!”

Baldur’s words stirred every heart with honest love for battle, and laughing
did they all array to try their strokes against him. Odin’s spear and Thor’s dread hammer, swords of Frey and Heimdall, the bow of Uller all did fail amidst the warriors laughter. Blind Hod alone did not take part, until dread Loki urged him on and promised his assistance.

“Come now brother, what’s the harm” smiled Loki in his treason.
“I’ll guide your hand upon the bow, let your warrior´s heart remember”

Hod then smiled and drew his bow, and Loki fit the arrow,
dread mistletoe struck Baldur dead and the light of the world fell with him.

All remember what happened next, how sweet Sunna (the Sun) fled from a world without Baldur,
how winter came to the world. All remember the punishment of Loki, a binding and torment
that would last until the end of days. Each Yule we remember Baldur’s arrival at Hel’s own hall,
how she bade him to sit beside her and join her in her hall until the end of days, when he
will return to lead the survivors. Who now remembers the fate of Mistletoe, the agent of Baldur’s bane?

When Baldur fell, sweet Sunna turned her face away and fled. Without the light of the sun, the world grew cold and dark, the trees lost their leaves, and for the first time Mistletoe saw beyond the embracing arms of oak. Everywhere the dying light showed emptiness and loss, but here and there would beauty shine and mistletoe did weep.
“Who has made this?”, would Mistletoe ask at each thing of majesty and wonder, “Baldur” was the answer every time until the heart of mistletoe was shattered.

Mother Frigga in her rage demanded the death of her sons dread slayer.
Of Odin and of Yggdrasil, of Frey and gentle Nerthus she begged the price
of mother’s vengeance, until every god condemned it. Alone of all the gods did Freya hear the weeping.

Goddess Freya true
Alone of all the Vanir did she stoop to hear the reason. To mistletoe she swiftly flew within her falcon cloak, upon the oak tree did she land beside the weeping plant. Love´s golden goddess softly asked, why mistletoe did weep?

“For Baldur slain, for beauty lost, for love gone out the world!”

Freya asked of Mistletoe, what wergild would it pay? How could it give back the beauty lost, the love that Baldur offered? When Mother Frigga in her rage came down the Bifrost bridge, Freya stood with mistletoe to greet the grieving mother.

“Blessed Frigga, will you accept the wergild of the weeping flower?
Or will you slaughter and stain the memory of the loving son you’ve lost?”

Frigga stared hard eyed and cold to hear the wergilds terms, Mistletoe in humble grief did make this solemn vow:

“Where Yuletide brings the pain of loss will Mistletoe bring love, beneath my humble leaves let love be now kindled.

What fairer grave goods for the sun bright lord than the promise of love new kindled? When two now meet beneath my leaves, let loves kiss light between them.
Let the light of love remember him that the world weeps for this season.”

Now down the ages we remember beneath the mistletoe, a kiss the promise of new love, within this coldest season.

Mistletoe hanging
© John T Mainer

Story of Mistletoe

 

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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

http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=1399625

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