Tag Archives: Germanic

On adversity, loss, and the process of excellence

As first stated in the Eddic poem Lokasenna and later reflected in Snorri Sturlusson’s Prose Edda, “Tyr is no peace-maker”.

Some take this as a negative assertion within the context of Tiw’s (ON. Tyr’s) association with the Thing (legal assembly). And yet, as with war (Tiw’s other popular association), law is fundamentally dualistic and adversarial, with an offender and an offended, each arguing their own case against the other, and ultimately with a winner and a loser.

And true enough, nobody likes losing. Nor should they.

Nevertheless, up until the advent of Christianity in the North, the Thing proved that, whatever lingering resentment might have existed in the hearts of the losers of court-cases, it certainly served the collective peace of the community; even if accuser and/or accused still harboured resentments on an individual level. Moreover, Tiw’s specific role within the context of the Thing was as “divine judge” invoked exclusively in regards to punishments carried out by the state (ie. flogging, imprisonment, execution). And while I’m sure this left the accused quite unhappy, it again served the common weal of the community.

Finally, in the greater scheme of Germanic law, society and divinity, there certainly were deities who were able to weave peace between men, such as Fosite (Forseti) from who’s court all disputing parties came away reconciled, while in the Lokasenna Tiw Himself praises Ingui-Frea, the god of frith (peace), as the BEST among the gathered host of gods.

I suppose some people simply can not see the forest through the trees, the whole for the many parts that comprise it. But forsooth, who can deny the adversarial nature of law? The spirit of mediation in law? The spirit of judgement in law? These things are not exclusive to each other, and all exist side-by-side even within the context of modern law.

It might also be noted that not everyone came away from a dispute settled at Thing with a grudge; as the historical success of the Thing again testifies to. It could have no general success over time without specific successes that both parties involved came to terms with and so left the matter settled. As Tacitus remarked,

“It is a duty among them to adopt the feuds as well as the friendships of a father or a kinsman. These feuds are not implacable; even homicide is expiated by the payment of a certain number of cattle and of sheep, and the satisfaction is accepted by the entire family, greatly to the advantage of the state, since feuds are dangerous in proportion to the people’s freedom.”

But no, it is a truth … Tiw is no peace-maker. Tiw is an glory-maker. An excellence-maker. And adversity is a prime ingredient in the cultivation of excellence. And so is loss … showing us where our weakness lay and so where we need to make improvements if we are to better ourselves, ie. continue to strive for excellence.

This quest for excellence applies universally to all endeavors. As much, as Sturlusson asserts in his Edda, to the hero as to the sage, and far beyond, ie. to the craftsman, to the herdsman, etc. to encompass the great diversity of glory that is the essence of the Heavenly realm.

And so, while no one likes losing, a competitors culture reacts very differently to a loss. For starters, it acknowledges loss, owns the loss, and has come to terms with the loss. And after a certain point in one’s upbringing, if one has lived any sort of competitive lifestyle, indeed if one has lived any sort of life (eg. break-ups, death of family/friends, etc.), the last thing that loss should be is crushing.

If one is striving, if one is reaching, if one isn’t afraid to play the role of “small fish in big pond” and challenge one’s self, to realize in the true Olympian spirit that the only possibility for glory is to be found in the strength of your adversity, then sooner or later, you shall have your ticket punched. And that is not a crushing experience, but rather something to be taken in stride as par for the course and as testament to one’s sense of competition and desire for self-betterment. 

Do not cringe at the prospect of a loss. Rather, accept no competition that does not offer that prospect (unless they insist of  course). And do not dwell on a single loss as definitive, much less blame the winner, as all losers do. Rather, take control of the only thing you can control, the only thing that will actually better your situation — yourself. Embrace the suck, let the loss drive you forward, learn from it, and improve your game, as all champions have done.

“All the Einheriar fight in Odin’s courts every day; they choose the slain and ride from battle; then they sit more at peace together.” — Vafthrudhnismal, Poetic Edda

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Heritage, the Swastika and Vilification

swastika

An Anglo-Saxon grave urn. The swastika was, next to the Tir rune, the most common symbol to be found on grave urns.

It would seem that the LARPers of British Columbia Heathenry are up to, well, their same old LARPing. I read a blog posting from their current headman, John Mainer, today that seemed to be in regards to the use of runic symbols on the sweaters of the Norwegian Olympic team and the vocal denunciation of them use as “hate symbols used by the Nazis”. In his blog entry Mainer took what at first appeared to be an admirable stance in defending Norway’s use of the runes. Unfortunately, it all quickly devolved into an entry on “racists” and how “the swastika most certainly is a symbol of hate.
 
Yes, some racists will continue to try to steal the glory and worth of the symbol for their own perverted uses, but it is clear they are trying to pervert something they don’t own. The runes are a part of our heritage. The Swastika is different. We lost that one.
— John Mainer, Swastika and Runes; Heritage or Hate
 
Let’s forget for a moment that this was written by a man who has explicitly stated, regarding an ancestral belief system, that he doesn’t care what the ancestors believed and is happy to selectively use the lore of Germanic belief as a rhetorical veneer to advance his own personal and political beliefs. The same man who falsely accused the Asatru Folk Assembly of trying to speak for all of Heathenry; when in fact AFA headman, Matt Flavel, had explicitly mentioned that his statements were organizationally specific and in reference to the AFA alone. And the same man that waged a veritable flame-war on the co-founder of the organization that he stands as head of, the B.C. Heathen Freehold, for allegedly stealing from the organization, but when challenged on why he didn’t bring the matter up to the police, said that he didn’t want to make (B.C.) Heathenry look bad; because apparently a year+ long flame-war all over the internet doesn’t make (B.C.) Heathenry look bad.
 
But yes, the swastika is lost … because Mr. Mainer said so. For all of Heathenry. Or you’re “racist”.
 
In his blog entry, Mainer states that the swastika, “… was not a major cultic symbol during the timespan our surviving lore was collected“.
 
In fact, the peculiar truth of the matter is that, despite the swastika being clear and present in enough early Indo-European cultures and cults (Hinduism, Buddhism, Persian, Greek, etc.) as to give the impression of Proto-Indo-European origins — and does in fact pre-date the Proto-Indo-Europeans — the only time span in which the swastika was a cultic symbol among the Germanic peoples was precisely “during the time span our surviving lore was collected”. It’s use spanned the 3rd century AD to the Viking Age.
 
He goes on to state,
 
It (the swastika) had been forgotten by Europe, by the turn of the last century, and it was exhumed in a most terrible way, and for a most terrible purpose.
 
And to the extent that this is true, the same could be said for Germanic belief in general, and the runes in specific. And it often is said of the runes and Germanic belief. As such it might strike one as odd that Mr. Mainer wants anything to do with so “historically tainted” a belief system as Germanic belief, but of course, as already noted above, he doesn’t and, not at all unlike our glowing P.M. of Canada, is just playing at fashion and dress-up … and calling people “racists”.
 
As ever, these types are gifted at the art of projection, such as when Mainer writes,
 
Those who are taking up the Swastika now are very much carrying on the vision of the Nazi party, and those working to “reclaim it” are either innocent dupes, or far more commonly, very cold calculating propaganda masters, with an overarching vision of transforming the identity of European descendant peoples through the conscious reshaping of national/cultural symbols and faith.
 
Apparently, it is not enough for people to use the symbol in a form that is not contextually associated with the Nazi party, and so, according to Mainer, such people, rather than being insistent yet sensitive, are “dupes” or, even better, “calculating propaganda masters”, even though it is very clear the Mainer and his ilk are the only one’s possessed of “… an overarching vision of transforming the identity of European descendant peoples through the conscious reshaping of national/cultural symbols and faith.”
 
Nothing could be more apparent.
 
The swastika is still openly and proudly displayed on Buddhist temples throughout the Orient today. Even here in downtown Victoria, they can be found “tiled” into the floors of shops in China-town. It is a symbol that is thousands of years old, within the context of which, the Nazis are barely even a blip on the historical radar. There are those among us however who, for some perverse reason, would like to see that blip turned into a line that extends down through time and into future generations. Oddly, these perverse people are not neo-Nazis, but rather people who claim Asatru as their own; understanding of course that anyone can make a claim.
 
Personally, when I took up the proverbial relics of the gods, lost on Idavoll over the course of our historic Ragnarok, some some 34 years ago, I took up all of my heritage — no, I haven’t performed a human sacrifice … yet ;), but I certainly strive to understand even that on the terms of the ancestors — and not merely those aspects of it that meet with the approval of the politically correct thought police.
(Memorial) Stones seldom stand by the road, unless raised by kin for kin.
— the Havamal

Musings on the Vanadis

freyja

It is often said of the Nordic goddess Freyja that she is a goddess of sexuality. While that might very well be the case, the notion is often carried out into the murky realm of whoredom which folk seek to rebut simply by trying to recast “bad” as “good”.  Lending to this notion of “Freyja as whore” folk will cite the Eddic lore that states that she has lain with all of the gods, her own brother included; that she is comparable to the mythic goat Heidhrun prancing about in heat, and of course the tale in which she lays with four dwarves so as to win the fabled necklace Brisingamen. Of course, the first two bits of lore come, within the stories, from the mouths of her detractors (Hyndla, Loki) and can hardly be taken at face value, while one of the Icelandic sagas, Njal’s saga I believe it was, relates how a Christian Icelander was outlawed for calling the Vanadis a whore/bitch. So, all we truly have in this regard, beyond some very questionable hearsay, is the tale of the Brisingamen, the precise nature of which we today are left largely to guess at.

My purpose however is not to disprove Freyja’s association with sexuality or, really, to wax at all academic on the matter. Rather I would simply shake up such conventionally accepted notions as surrounds the goddess and offer a perception of her that is not the product of those out to discredit and undermine her (and indeed out indigenous beliefs themselves as a whole) by an utter reluctance to see beyond the base carnal realities that all higher truth is rooted in.

It is that “higher truth” that we should be interested in.

As with all good lies, there may indeed be some kernel of truth to the words of Freyja’s detractors. Freyja may indeed have been regarded as having a strong sexual component. Rather than casting her as some two-bit mortal whore however, one might be inclined to say that she is the spirit of the passion that exists between lovers. And so that where there are lovers engaged in a “passionate embrace” there is Freyja. Following these carnal lines alone, one might say, in this regard, that highest expression of Freyja would have been more similar to Hinduisms Kama Sutra and certain Tantraic teachings rather than the “Girls Gone Wild” nonsense of the low-minded and uncultured.

Indeed, I have reason to believe that the magical art of seidhR, that is so strongly associated with Freyja, and was so “strongly opposed” by the early Church in Norway, was a cult that taught mysto-magical arts of seduction, ie. the generation of sexual energy and it’s use to manipulate the mind of other beings.

But as the spirit of sexual passion, to refer to Freyja as a whore is to misunderstand and cheapen the fundamental value of sexuality, the intense passion of lovers for one another, and to drive the very spirit of passion itself from one’s bedroom; a passion that extends well beyond the bedroom and into the higher realms of passionate devotion for one another as reflected in the supreme value the indigenous Germanic people placed on monogamy, and mythically reflected  in Freyja’s own longing for her absent lover OdhR (Mental Excitement).

But Freyja is more even than the spirit of sexuality, or even of passion in general, but also of sensuality and what my high school Western Civ. teacher would have called “the aesthetic experience”; which itself was basically a recasting of Plato’s hierarchy of thought. Freyja promotes a fine appreciation of all the better things in life, noting, indeed, relishing in their fine and subtle details, like the brush strokes of a painting, the subtle differences in taste of a fine wine, etc.

A stately connoisseur of beauty. A Lady. A Freyja.

Indeed, I would tend to think that much of Freyja-lore survived, after a fashion, and can be gleaned in Eleanor of Aquitaine and her so-called “court of love”, where the ideas of ideas of courtly love, chivalry and the troubadours were brought together; not so much as a pure expression of Eleanor’s native Germanic spirit, but as a reaction of that spirit to the increasingly rigid structure of NW European society that began with the absorption of southern European culture and the introduction of Abrahamic Christianity.

The knightly notion of the lady as muse, be it in battle, or as found re-expressed in the Renaissance, in the production of art.

The Law of Ymir

leowolf

 

“Not at all do we consider him to be a god. He was evil and all his descendants. We call them rime-thursar.” — Snorri Sturlusson, Prose Edda

By the indigenous worldview of our ancestors the present is an accumulation of interwoven *layers* that set the context of our lives, both individually and collectively (in ever expanding circles of relation out to all of humanity).

We see this in the evolution of the primal realm of Niflheim, formed by the layers upon layers of rime and frost that built up around the primal spring called Hvergelmir (Seething Cauldron), and we see this in the actions of the Great Mothers at the Divine Counsel of the Tivar in Upper-Heaven, as they “lay the layers/laws” (of Divine Judgement) into the holy spring of Wyrd. And of course we see it in the folklore and the appearance of the Little Mothers at a child’s birth who would set the baby’s “orlogR”, the “primal layer/law” or “basic context” of their life … which would of course be deeply influenced — wherever that stops short of “micro-managed” — by the “primal law” of the family, tribe, culture, etc. that they sprung from.

Layers upon (interwoven) layers. Laws upon laws. A veritable three dimensional tapestry.

This is a useful perceptual tool in approaching the “Creation myth” of the Germanic peoples as embodied in the Norse-Icelandic Eddas; that each event along the path to Creation (and forward) represents successive “laws” or “precedents” that set the context of human existence on a fundamental level.

And THE primal law of all existence is, arguably (ie. Ginnungagap), the “Law of Ymir” whose “offspring” it is said are all brutish and hostile, the very forces of hardship and adversity as inherent in nature and natural existence; to which all things, great and small, are and ever shall be subject too (to one degree of another).

There is no escape from this primal law. It is set. Indeed, if one can rely on nothing else in life, it is an undeniable fact that one can always count on hardship and adversity. It shall always be there to hurt you, to make you suffer, to kill you, and then to casually step over your broken form utterly heedless that you were ever even there to begin with.

And this is how it should be; a fact that one can most certainly argue against, in all futility, but which remains a fact nevertheless. And it remains a fact that has and shall prove itself, over and over and over again, and never show itself off as anything other than the cold, hard truth.

No malicious intentions necessary.

There are of course mitigating factors, mythologically speaking, in the form of the All-Nourisher, Audhumbla, the Tivar and of course in the the foundation of the “innangeard” or “in-group/community”. But that combination of adversity (Ymir) and nurture (Audhumbla) is what gave birth to the first of the gods, to glory, and the process of the cultivation of resilience, strength and excellence, of divinity, in which adversity is a key component. And in which adversity remains ever-present, regardless of one’s degree of strength, fortitude, and excellence.

The “Law of Ymir” remains ever in place.

Adversity is a given.

And the best life is had by the those who accept that, who look upon it as a challenge; by those who have an inkling of exactly how adverse life could potentially be without the buffer of the innangeard established by the gods and maintained by our ancestors since time immemorial. And this keen awareness also makes such people some of the most thankful.

“the hardships of the freedman mark the freedom of his condition.” — Tacitus, Germania

 

Courage and Wisdom

“There is yet another AEsir, whose name is Tyr. He is very daring and firm-minded. His counsels rule over victory in war, and so it is good for men of valour to call upon him. There is an old-saying, that he who surpasses other men and does not waver is Tyr-bold. He is also so wise, that it is said of anyone who is very smart, that he is Tyr-wise.” — Snorri Sturlusson, Prose Edda

The connection between courage and wisdom was, clearly, not lost on our ancestors … though many today are happy to attribute Tiw (ON. TyR) with great courage while over-looking the great wisdom part; for all that one only has to read the very next sentence

But it is not at all difficult to see the connection between the two … a connection made long before Aristotle was rediscovered by the West. After all, what is the essence of courage? Is it simply to face a danger? Well, that certainly is a manifestation of courage, but on a more quintessential level it is selflessness, the ability to place one’s own self aside, a trait well demonstrated by Tiw in the tale of the Fen-Wulf’s binding. One might be tempted, in terms of the cultivation of wisdom, to call it objectivity … the ability to see and judge a thing for what it inherently is rather than as one would have it be as a result of one’s own subjective hopes, fears, guilt, pride, preferences, etc., and then to act accordingly, no matter the consequences to one’s self.

There is a word for a man heading towards a war-zone that is all wrapped up in his own well-being. Coward. And how could it be otherwise? But one need not be heading towards a war-zone to demonstrate that most despised of qualities. Take the general reaction to U.S. President Trump for example, or the Left in general. All fear-based hyperbole and projection, done from within the safety of a mob.

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” – Aristotle

After Death: Certitude or Mystery?

skeleton

The importance of the remains of the dead, their treatment, their burial, the tending of graves and honouring of one’s dead kinsfolk and heroes. It was an important aspect of the elder Germanic beliefs; with enough parallels in both the beliefs of their fellow Indo-European cultures and the associated archaeological record, to nail it down as a very ancient, very significant, and very enduring thing.

But was Hell simply the grave and grave mound? Was the soul truly and irrevocably bound to it’s remains? Was there in fact no Germanic “afterworld”, beyond life in the grave-mound, as more than one well informed person has proposed? And indeed if the remains of one’s ancestors were lost and/or forgotten so to were their souls to the kindred?

Well, I like this perspective. It’s something that began to dawn on me a couple of decades ago after reading Gronbech’s “Culture of the Teutons”; in which he drew a parallel between the cosmology of the Eddas and the physical realities of a tribe’s surroundings. And there is a lot in elder Germanic lore that certainly points in this direction.

However, while this understanding is a very good foundation — rightly shifting our attention, energy and emphasis away from the otherworld and on to this world, away from the goldstar we will get in some otherworld and on to the legacy we leave for the benefit of our community and descendants that remain in this world after we have departed, ie. world accepting — it nevertheless presents certain inconsistencies with other aspects of both Germanic and Indo-European lore; which, from subtle indications of language and elder figures of speech to ship-burials are suggestive of both a journey, and hence a destination, following death … undertaken from within the gravemound it would “certainly seem”.

For all of that, I still find that the Eddas, paint too detailed and too certain of a picture about such things. Who knows what lies ahead in that great journey taken after death? The dead … of which none of us are at this moment. As with the nature of the Tivar, I tend to dislike sharp and certain definitions of things a person doesn’t really know anything more-or-less about than anyone else. Certainly we have a sense of “life after death” … a sense that is of course the strongest in the presence of the bones of our ancestors, but if the ancient Greeks are any testament, a mound is a mound is a mound, each as the other a gate to Hades apparently, whether or not their ancestors or heroes were actually buried in “that” particular mound or worshiped at many different mounds in different localities. But no, certitude was never a promise or pretense of elder Germanicism, which was always happy to own it’s sense of things while happily letting those things be whatever they actually are apart from their sense of them. As can be gleaned in the following passage from Bede’s History of the English Nation, the elder culture knew how to honour to *mystery*,

“The present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the hall wherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately out another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry weather. But after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short while. But of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”

And in the poem Beowulf as it pertains to the death, funeral and otherworldly fate of Scyld Sceafing,

“Men do not know
truth be told, neither counselors
nor heroes under heaven, who unshipped that cargo.”

And in Book I of the Gesta Danorum,

“she drew him with her underground, and vanished… <snip> … purposed that he should pay a visit in the flesh to the regions whither he must go when he died. So they first pierced through a certain dark misty cloud, and then advancing along a path that was worn away with long thoroughfaring… <snip> … Going further, they came on a swift and tumbling river of leaden waters, whirling down on its rapid current divers sorts of missiles, and likewise made passable by a bridge… <snip> … Then a wall hard to approach and to climb blocked their further advance. The woman tried to leap it, but in vain, being unable to do so even with her slender wrinkled body; then she wrung off the head of a cock which she chanced to be taking down with her, and flung it beyond the barrier of the walls; and forthwith the bird came to life again, and testified by a loud crow to recovery of its breathing.

Did our ancestors believe in life after death? Certainly. But certitude about such things as no man can be certain about is not a selling point of the elder beliefs. As ever, truth is more about questions and less about answers. Beware the man who is certain about things no man could possibly be … for within him grow the seeds of evil.

Our Story

Indigenous Germanic belief was never so sharply compartmentalized a thing as we think of today when we think of religion. Certainly, our ancestors had their notions of what might properly be thought of as religious … those things “set apart” in dedication to the gods and their worship, and which were mostly the preoccupation of the tribal priests and/or head of household … but those beliefs impacted all other aspects of their culture. Language, poetry, mead, farming practices, battle formations, social institutions, tribal land masses, etc. were all ascribed sacral origins by our ancestors. There was no sacred-profane dichotomy, but rather a “trichotomy” of the sacred (wih), the blessed community (holy), and everything else outside of that (unholy, ie. not whole, not integral to the community).

While, in the past, Christianity came to replace the theological aspects of our indigenous beliefs, it did not mark the end of our beliefs from a properly heathen point of view. Ideology does not define our folk in the same way as it does universalists. The conversion was not the end of our story. Our languages continued, our folk cultures continued, our cultural perceptions and biases continued … not only to BE impressed, but to IMPRESS itself upon Christianity … and our blood continued.

Our story has continued, as ever, to grow and evolve in accordance with our historical experience … in accordance with our native notion of law, of precedent. Our Christianized ancestors of yore, for better and for worse (but mostly for worse), laid down a new precedent … and we have laid down other precedents since … the Eddic “laying of layers” … that have enabled us “heathens” to arise again and lay down a new precedent of our own, which is itself an old one … that recognizes our sacral origins as a people and the value of who we are. But it is all our story as the offspring of NW Europe. There is no Christian history or Heathen history. There is only European history, Germanic history. Our story.