Tag Archives: Germanic Heathen

Germanic Belief and Religious Tolerance

The preChristian Germanic peoples have often been characterized by historians, particularly by early Catholic historians,  “hateful of a higher religion, and so, like spoilt and envious children lashed out to destroy it”. We hear the same thing, though mostly from modern historians, about their character and regard for Imperial Roman civilization, but, while fundamentally similar, that is a matter best dealt with separately and on its own.

As for this supposed intolerance of the Germanic people for Christianity; it is best exemplified in the martyring of Sabbas and other Gothic Christians in the latter half of the 4th century AD.  According to the 5th century AD historian, Sozomenus,

“Athanaric’s men placed an idol on a cart and conducted it to the tents of those who were thought to be Christians. Suspects were ordered to worship the idol and to offer sacrifice. Those who refused were burned in their dwellings.”

That however is just a snap shot of a moment in history.

In fact, the Goths first came into contact with (Arian) Christianity in the mid-3rd century AD via their raids into the eastern Mediterranean region, from which they carried home many Christian slaves. And within the space of 100 years, the Bible had been translated into Gothic and Christianity had grown enough among the ethnic Goths to invite the serious attention of their kings and nobles.

Strange is it not? That a people supposedly so “envious” and “hateful” of a foreign faith would not only allow its presence but also its proliferation within their community. Indeed, when Athanaric’s men began their persecution of Gothic Christians a number of their non-Christian kith and kin, for better or worse, attempted to shield or otherwise hide the Christianity of their loved ones from the King’s men. Good ol’ St.Sabbas however denounced got wind of this and utterly denounced such Christians. And so went and got himself (among others) martyred.

It is worth noting that Athanaric’s distaste for Christianity was not a general phenomenon, directed against all Christians, but was directly mostly against Gothic converts. It is also worth noting Sabbas’ own willful contempt for the customs and community of the Goths. It is nothing at all unfamiliar to us from the earlier interactions of Christianity with the Roman Empire, when zealous converted went out of their way to blaspheme the state divinities in hopes of being fed to the lions and becoming a martyr for the cause. And it is also all too familiar from later interactions between the Continental Germanic tribes and Christianity; as perhaps best characterized in Willibrord’s baptism of a number of converts in the sacred spring on Fosites Island, followed by his slaughter of a number of sacred cattle for a subsequent feast. For this, Willibrord was brought before the Frisi-King, Radbod, to face capital charges for sacrilege.

Yes. Our ancestors most certainly had blasphemy and sacrilege laws. More properly, they had pious thew, they were what the Anglo-Saxons called aefast, while the law was an offender’s best hope of not being executed on the spot by an outraged mob.

Just ask Willibrord.

As for Sabbas and his ilk, they refused to partake of the sacrificial meat served up at the holy tides, which is of course tantamount to publicly rejecting the community,  refusing to take part in its spirit. He refused even just a token sign that, “despite your different beliefs, you are one of us”. The kingly hostility that he and his invoked was less a matter of a rejection of the Gothic divinities, though it was that too, and much more a rejection of the (holistic) community itself, gods and all. Basically, they proclaimed themselves to be subversives; more than happy to profit from their position among the Goths, but utterly reluctant to embrace that community and take part in it’s sacral identity.

Centuries later in the Viking Age, King Hakon the Good of Norway would find himself in a similar predicament when presented with the sacral mead at one of the holy tides; which caused a lot of concern among the gathered. He found a way around this Christian inspired reluctance by making the sign of the cross over the draught before taking it, while his confidants explained that he made the sign of the hammer over it.

This saved the king from an ordeal not entirely unlike that of wretched Sabbas, and born of much the same reasons.

Nevertheless, from Clovis of Frankland to AEthelbeorht of Kent to Penda of Mercia to Angantyr (Ongendus) of Denmark to Radbod of Frisia, we see time and time and time again Heathen kings receiving Christian missionaries with a right good will; extending protection to them, provisioning them, giving them the freedom to preach and win converts, sending them off with noble youths to be educated in the foreign beliefs, and treating them about as well as anyone could honestly ever hope or expect to be treated.

Not all of these kings ended up converting. And forsooth, not all of them remained at all friendly to Christianity; as one might expect when you extend every hospitality to a guest who then goes on to repay you by “destroying your house”, but, while Germanic ethics are not at all above “putting one’s best foot forward”, they ultimately hinge on reciprocity.

In fact, it was never the Germanic peoples who had any baleful preconceived notions about Christians or had any kind of special, or even common, hatred for them, or any other religion or culture. History itself utterly refutes such an absurd suggestion. And one need not look very far to discover where the inherent contempt for foreign beliefs comes from. It is clear and evident in historical Christianity. Not so much in our regard for outsiders, their culture and belief, save in reactionary retaliation for assaults on the heart and soul of our people, and the integrity of our community.

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“(King) Raedwald (of East Anglia) was long ago made acquainted, in Kent, with the sacraments of the Christian faith, but in vain; for on his return home, he was perverted by his wife, and certain perverse teachers, and having been turned aside from the sincerity of the faith, his last state became worse than his first, so that, after the manner of the Samaritans of old, he seemed both to serve Christ and the gods which he before served: and in the same temple had both an altar for the sacrifice of Christ, and a small altar for the victims offered to demons.”

— Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

“King Penda himself did not forbid the preaching of the Faith to any even of his own Mercians who wished to listen; but he hated and despised any whom he knew to be insincere in their practice of Christianity once they had accepted it, and said that any who despised the commandments of the God in whom they professed to believe were themselves despicable wretches.”

— Bede, the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

“Early in spring King Olaf went eastwards to Konungahella to the meeting with Queen Sigrid (of Sweden); and when they met the business was considered about which the winter before they had held communication, namely, their marriage; and the business seemed likely to be concluded. But when Olaf insisted that Sigrid should let herself be baptized, she answered thus: — “I must not part from the faith which I have held, and my forefathers before me; and, on the other hand, I shall make no objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best.” Then King Olaf was enraged, and answered in a passion, “Why should I care to have thee, an old faded woman, and a heathen bitch?” and therewith struck her in the face with his glove which he held in his hands, rose up, and they parted. Sigrid said,”This may some day be thy death.””

— Snorri Sturlusson, Heimskringla

 

Virtue and the Guiding Principle

“Tir (Glory, Tiw) is a profound token, it holds true with the noble,
it is ever on course, over the mists of Night,
it never switches.” — the Old English Rune Poem

The GUIDING PRINCIPLE of a system of morals…

We often get lost in the details of morality, of specific virtues, the 10 Commandments for example, or the Nine Noble Virtues, eg. honesty, courage, hospitality, love for all, etc., and fixate on them to the exclusion of the *guiding principle* of ethical systems.

This is in part due to the guiding principle of most post-Conversion ethical systems; which is *obedience* to the author/authority, be it a pretense to God, a prophet, the Church, or the secular State.

Contravene the stated virtue, and you are “a criminal”. You are “evil”. Because, in keeping with their guiding principle, disobedience to authority = bad in those ethical systems.

And of course, under such systems, everyone is inevitably guilty. Mankind is fallen. Some just hide or otherwise rationalize or justify it better than others.

The guiding principle for Anglo-Nordic belief, and most other ethno-cultural or heathen/pagan belief systems however, is the maintenance of the health and wholeness, ie. the holiness, of “the tribe”; in the pursuit of which the “toolbox of values” contains the full range of potential, ingenuity and resourcefulness as found in human nature. And some of these might usually be considered deplorable, and justifiably so, when divorced from the guiding principle and outside of the appropriate circumstances.

Take lying for example. Germanic society was a very forthright culture, in which honesty meant the difference, legally speaking, between a run-of-the-mill offense an individual could wash their hands of with payment of fine, and a serious offense to the entire community, for which the offender would be manhandled by the powers-that-be in a manner that might otherwise breed division between folk and state. eg. imprisonment, flogging, execution.

Hence why the pronouncements of such penalties was taboo and allowed to the priest-king alone; who himself had to consult the will of the Tivar via the casting of lots.

Nevertheless, we have plenty of examples in the Norse-Icelandic mythology of even the most solid and forthright of the gods engaging in or otherwise acting as facilitators of acts of deceit.

“How can this be? Hypocrites!”, one might cry.

Indeed, many have cried exactly that regarding, most poignantly, Tiw (Tyr) and his role in the binding of the Fenwulf. Of course, they are estimating the act within the context of a foreign paradigm, in which the guiding principle is one of obedience. Hence why, within the native paradigm, Tiw so easily silences Loki on the matter in the Lokasenna, and Loki is left fumbling for some other matter with which to shame the God.

Even Loki understood what many of his would-be Heathen fans in the modern world don’t; Namely, the guiding principle of Anglo-Nordic belief, ie. the maintenance of the health and wholiness of the tribe.

To illustrate this in more homely terms; let us say that you, a parent with young children, heard of lunatics moving through your neighbourhood kicking in doors and kidnapping or murdering children. So, you’ve hidden your children safely away somewhere in your home. Hopefully you’ve also armed yourself and set up “inconveniences” for unwanted interlopers. But now the lunatics kick in your door, and demand to know where your children are. Do you tell them? Because lying is a sin? And that would be wrong? Do you refrain from killing them? Because man-killing is a sin? And that would be wrong? And if you imagine that such things would be wrong in those circumstances, do you honestly imagine that you are a good human being? A good parent? As you stand, glowing with self-righteousness, with your children dead at your feet, or spirited away into a life of suffering, abuse and misery? And you thinking, “well, at least I am still good with God/Church/State!”

Here we see how important the *guiding principle* is in determining good from evil, moral from immoral, wisdom from obedience, integrity from hypocrisy. How important in the application of the capabilities of our humanity.

And the guiding principle applies to one’s actions be they within the tribe or in relation to those outside of the tribe, ie. how shall my actions effect the well-being of my tribe?

Finally, lest we forget how the tale of the Fenwulf’s binding ends,

Then all the gods rejoiced, except Týr: he paid with his hand.”

Indigenous Attitudes: Magic and Germanic Belief

The “Lex Salica” or “Salic Law” represents one of the earliest recorded collections of Germanic customary law. In this case the Law Code reflected the laws of the Salian Franks and their Merovingian aethelings on the eve of Clovis’ conversion to Catholicism and some 50 years after their settlement in the northern region (Neustria) of the former Roman province of Gaul.

Among it’s various offenses we find those dealing with the practice of magic and harm done by magic, such as,

“If any one have given herbs to another so that he die, he shall be sentenced to 200 shillings (or shall surely be given over to fire).”

“If any person have bewitched another, and he who was thus treated shall escape, the author of the crime, who is proved to have committed it, shall be sentenced to 2500 denars, which make 63 shillings.”

“If somebody accuses another of witchcraft, and he brings to the thing the cauldron in which the accused is said to make brews, then let the accused be fined 2500 dinars which makes 63 shillings.”

“If somebody causes another person to waste away by means of witchcraft, and he is able to prove it at the thing, then let the accused be fined 1008 dinars which makes 200 shillings”

Some observations on the above…

To start, these are not my translations and the term “witchcraft” does not reflect the original language of the laws and/or that of the document they were record in. The specific term or terms that were used were certainly not *witchcraft*, which is fairly English specific in the Germanic world, and, for better and for worse, simply the term deemed equivalent in these modern translations.

The technical terminology really does matter, more-and-more, as one gets increasingly intimate with the subtleties and nuances of the subject, ie. not everything called “witchcraft” or “seidhR” (etc., etc.) actually reflect the practices of *witchcraft* or *seidhR* (etc., etc.).

Anyway, most of the Salic laws deal with *harm* caused by magic; lending a general no harm, no foul sense to the spirit of the laws There is however the one exception where presenting evidence of the mere practice of “witchcraft”, ie. the cauldron, no harm to anyone required, invited a legal penalty.

While this suggests a fundamental, and very understandable mistrust of “magic”, dealing as magic does in the hidden, the unseen, and indeed the anti-social, one will note that in each of the above citations, proof is explicitly demanded by the Salic law; even if the laws only outline the details of what constitutes proof in one instance; no doubt assuming what for them and theirs was culturally obvious. This suggests an equally fundamental mistrust of the very *accusation* of witchcraft, which again is very understandable given it’s “hidden” nature.

Finally, except for the one vague reference to being “given over to the fire”, ie. burned, the Salica Law prescribes “common penalties”, ie. fines, to these acts. Both of the acts that indicate the practice of harmful magic, but result in no harm, are otherwise prescribed at 63 shillings. This is an amount equal to those fines associated with the theft of an entire flock of 25 sheep, the *rape* (sexual) of a freeborn woman, the assault and plundering of a freeman, and attempted killing of a freeman. All of which were serious offenses.

Curiously, the two instances that result in death, result in a fine of 200 shillings, which, while clearly marking it as a far more serious offense than such others as mentioned, falls on the low-end of the wergild (life-price) system within the context of the Salic Law. This is equal to the fine for having been found guilty of grave-robbing, opposed the settlement of a migrant vouched for by king and thing, and the wergild of a woman beyond her child baring years and your average freeman.

By way of comparison, to have killed a freeman and then attempted to hide it (ie. murder as opposed to man-killing) carried a fine of 600 shillings; whereas death caused by magic was reckoned at 200 shillings.

One will also note the relative lack of reference to women in the Salic Laws as they pertain to the practice of “magic”. And that even where they are explicitly referenced in relation to witchcraft, they must also be viewed within the context of the greater body of Salic law and it’s valuation of women; which, as just referenced, reckoned the life-price of a vibrant and virile young freeman as equal to a woman beyond her child-baring years, and at THREE TIMES LESS than a freeborn woman in her child-baring years!

The AD 6th century Gallo-Roman Catholic, Gregory of Tours writes casually of those with prophetic powers within the context of royal Merovingian interactions. (eg. Guntram and the seeress).

The Merovingians were of course the same people who, some 35 years prior to the birth of Gregory, gave us the Salic Law, with it’s laws involving “magic” and “magical harm”.

Gregory also related a story in which a Merovingian queen, one of the wives of Chilperic, Fredegund I’d presume — who lived at the time of Gregory, and appears to have been loathed by him — ordered the torture of “a number of Parisian women” (and a man named Mumulus), believed to have killed her young son, Theodoric, via the use of herb potions and magic.

As Gregory wrote, “They admitted to the practice of witchcraft and the perpetration of many deaths… The queen afflicted them with even more horrendous forms of torture. Some she beheaded, others she cosigned to the flames, and still others were killed on the wheel with their bones broken.”

The Edictum Rothari (c.643 AD) is to Lombardic law what the Salic law is to Salian-Franks; a compilation and writing down of the formerly oral legal traditions of the Lombards. On “witchcraft” it states,

“If a man accuses a girl or free woman who is under the guardianship of another, of practicing witchcraft or prostitution,… if he shall persevere in his accusation and insist that he can prove it, then let the case be decided by a judical duel or “camfio” so that the matter may be left to the judgement of God”.

It also states,

“Let no man presume to kill another’s female servant for being a witch (striga or mascam) for such things are not credible to the Christian mind and it is not possible to eat a living man from the inside out.”

Here we get some insight into the seeming impatience behind the relation of the duel to the charges of witchcraft, and the notion that it represented little more than a vile slur against someone’s honour than anything more substantial.

This very Christian, very unheathen view of “harmful magic” would find further expression, as we read in Charlemagne’s Capitulary on Saxony (AD 782),

“If any one deceived by the devil shall have believed, after the manner of the pagans, that any man or woman is a witch and eats men, and on this account shall have burned the person, or shall have given the person’s flesh to others to eat, or shall have eaten it himself, let him be punished by a capital sentence.”

— Charlemagne, Capitulary on Saxony

This trivialization of witchcraft, the refusal to acknowledge it’s power, and ultimately the impatient will to punish the accuser, was the initial Christian reaction to Germanic “witchcraft”. And it stood in direct opposition to indigenous Germanic belief and general mistrust in magic along with accusations dealing in the unseen.

The earliest Anglo-Saxon Law Codes make no reference to the practice of witchcraft. Of course, it took Kent almost 100 years to draft laws against “devil worship”, so that is perhaps not at all surprising.

Nevertheless, the fundamental mistrust, indeed hostility, of at least the Anglii toward “harmful magic” is very apparent in a story Bede related regarding King Aethelfrith of Northumbria (late 6th to early 7th century AD) and a band of monks he encountered who were praying “against the swords of the barbarians” (ie. against Aethelfrith). Bede further writes,

“King Ethelfrid being informed of the occasion of their coming, said, “If then they cry to their God against us, in truth, though they do not bear arms, yet they fight against us, because they oppose us by their prayers.” He, therefore, commanded them to be attacked first, and then destroyed the rest”.

It is not until the Laws of Alfred that we begin see witchcraft enter the laws as a punishable offense; though we should remember that the orthodox Christian stance of the matter of witchcraft among the Germanic peoples was, up til now, that witchcraft was just so much superstitious hogwash. With Alfred’s Laws however we not only see witchcraft introduced as a punishable crime, but we see it introduced firmly within the context of the Old Testament,

“the women who are in the habit of receiving wizards and sorcerers and magicians, thou shalt not suffer to live”.

By the time of Cnut’s Laws we see the beginning of the conflation of witchcraft, not only with “harmful magic” and it’s own more traditional associations with secret killing, perjury, adultery, and incest, but also with such “heathen practices” as the “worship of heathen gods and the sun and the moon, fire or flood, wells or stones or any kind of forest tree”.

Conflation of various distinct disciplines, such as that of the spakona and seidhkona, are themselves clear in the North Germanic lore, and likely went the way of England in growing to include all sorts of heathen observances.

By the time of the witchhunts of the 15th and 16th centuries, it had expanded to include non-orthodox Christian belief; where heathen, heretic, and witch could be used more-or-less interchangeably. We see a similar evolution to the word racist in modern timers. And it is here that we modern folk first picked up the now muddled mess that the old magical and religious lore of our ancestors had become.

As a result, such things beg to be questioned. What is worship as opposed to the practice of magic? What is good magic and what is bad magic? And to what degree should those who dabble in such anti-social pursuits as influencing society via hidden (and often solitary) means be tolerated in our midst? And to what degree should accusations regarding “things unseen” themselves be tolerated?

A Word on Apples and Mead, Youth and Poetry

The Apples of Idunn and the Mead of Poetry…

Assuming the reader’s familiarity, one will note a certain commonality to the two myths, in that both involve a flight and pursuit in bird form that ultimately carries the Apples and the Mead back to the yard of the gods.

It is the tendency of analytical reductionist thought, so foreign to the more poetic thinking of our preChristian ancestors, to chase after these things, the Apples and the Mead, in two different directions.

“Soma is the mythological cognate of the Mead of Poetry!”

And so it is.

And yet soma was also glossed as amrita by the composers of the Vedas. The word amrita is cognate, both mythologically and linguistically, to the Greek ambrosia, and like ambrosia it confers immortality upon the gods.

The two are thus mythological cognates to the Golden Apples of Idunn. And suggest a deep significance and relationship between between the “youth” provided by the Apples and the “inspired poetry” provided by the Mead.

It is our religious hymns that shape and maintain the youth of our gods, and more poignantly our relationship with them.

Still not convinced of the relationship?

Feel free to ask Bragi and Idunn about it.

Woden, Buddha and the Neoplatonist concept of “the One”

The neoplatonic notion of “the One”…

The “Supreme Truth” of which all categories of thought are mere emanations, but which is itself beyond all categories. And which the achievement of union with is regarded as the highest good.

Fundamentally speaking, a “greater than all” was not all that new of an idea by the time neoplatonism emerged in the 3rd century AD. Shades of it existed in recorded Indo-European thought as far back as the RigVeda, from which it was eventually fully developed in Vaishavism (c.6th century BC) and Buddhism (6th to 4th century BC). We see a similar evolution in Persian belief with the rise of the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC) and the emergence of Zoroastrianism (5th century BC), while such rare and oddball early Greek philosophers as Xenophanes  were offending the sensibilities of their fellow Greeks as early as the late 6th century BC with such notions; so fundamentally monotheistic in their thinking that the early (Greek) Christians were utilizing Xenophanes’ arguments against polytheism to promote their own Judaeo-Hellenic form of monotheism as early as the late 2nd century AD, ie. Clement of Alexandria.

The same can be said of neoplatoism and the various Abrahamic religions; Islam included.

To what degree Jewish monotheism — which evolved out of it’s own polytheism to monolatry (ie. acknowledgement of many gods, exclusive worship of one) in c.7th century BC — influenced or was influenced these thoughts is… a consideration worth following to wherever it might lead. For anyone who is so inclined.

Not that the acknowledgement of a “One” per say is at all alien to native Indo-European belief or the human experience in general. If nothing else, the “seed” of the idea is there, existing in an implicit, potential state. Most of our Creation myths are founded on the fundamental notion of (ahem) “oneness” or “singularity” from which all of existence and Creation emanate. Some of the early Greek philosophers referred to this “formless unity” as Chaos — though it’s place in the cosmology is not constant — while the Buddhists called it Nirvana; though for the Buddhist it is less “a place” or “a point in time”, or even “a frame of mind”, than it is the absence of such things, ie. “to blow out”, but the achievement of which nevertheless (ahem) “liberates” one from the endless cycles of reincarnation in existence and Creation.

In Germanic belief we have Ginnungagap as the primal foundation for all existence and Creation. But it is not perceived as a “One”, or even a “Zero”, but rather an “Infinite“. The meaning of ginnunga-, while debatable, and perhaps ultimately multifaceted, is reflected in the Eddic word Gylfaginning meaning the (ahem) “deluding” of Gylfi; though perhaps better, if more clumsily rendered as “a tricking of the senses” and associated with a surreal or dreamlike state of mind, as also found in the High One’s meetings with Olaf Trygvason of Norway, Edwin of Northumbria, etc.

Ginnungagap is thus where the senses, and so sensibility, fail; beyond or separate from all categories of thought, existing just beyond the “event horizon” of human conception. As such it parallels the meaning of the word rune (mystery) and reflects the fundamental meaning — and ultimately the hallowing nature! — of the word wih (separate).

And so we read of Woden’s ordeal in the Havamal where “none dealt me bread nor drink from the horn”, which indicates a rejection by (and/or of) society to Germanic thinking; Of how he hung on that “wind-swept tree of which no one knows from what root it rises”, which is the “World Tree” or “Truth of Germanic culture”, the origins of which are lost in mystery; And of how Woden peered “down to the depths” to ultimately “take up the runes with a roaring scream”, and then “fell back from there”, ie. from the Tree and into Creation.

By my interpretation, the Wodenic revelation here, born out of a collapse of the 1,000+ year long clock-work order of the Nordic Bronze Age, was a realization of the (ahem) “oneness” that rests at the foundation of the manifest All. He looked into what had hitherto been casually regarded and swept aside as “nothing”. Effectively, he achieved had “Nirvana” and union with “the One”.

The Allfather did not however then proceed to author and advocate any sort of (lasting) union with “the One”. After all, like all of the others — Buddha clearly included since we are able to talk about Buddhism at all — the Tree, ultimately rooted as it is in Ginnungagap, simply sucked Woden up and spat him back out into existence and Creation.

And so, more honestly in my opinion, we see Woden go on to embrace Creation, sacrificing an eye to Mimir (Memory) for a draught from his well-spring of experience; which is itself identical to the knowledge symbolized in the World Tree. And only then does he state, “Then I began to grow and wax well in wisdom. From a word to a word I was led to a word. From a deed to another deed.”

This is a typical Western response, ie. activist, world accepting, to the same fundamental realization that Eastern Quietism and it’s world rejection were born from.

The so-called “One”, the ineffable mystery, is not an end unto itself; as the aforementioned Indo-Iranians, Jews, Greeks, and Christians might have had it. It is the original means to an end, the hallowing force (wih) as opposed to the hallowed object (halig), the mystery that truth and law, as an organic and evolving thing, is rooted in and ultimately sustained by … keeping Truth fresh, relevant and up-to-date (integral, ie. trothful) with the challenges of existence and the influx of experience. It is respect of the Mystery that prevents the pretentious snobbery of locked in, cut-in-stone systems; as most evident in those philosophies that imagine they possess the Mystery, and particularly when accompanied by the belief that they must carry it to others.

Hence why the Old Norse called it simply Ginnungagap; the gap of magical play upon the senses, of bewilderment, of delusion. A nice place to visit, but one which, of those who have, none ever seem to settle.

And so, pray tell, if Buddha was unmoved by Maya (Delusion, desire), why did he touch the earth? Only to then, conveniently enough, imagine that he not only defeated Maya, and thereby achieved Nirvana, which in fact was his desire, but then went on to imagine he could teach the path to it?

As Garman Lord once remarked of Eastern Quietisms, they might well be “the ultimate ego trip in disguise”.

Spinning your wheels: Prayer Posture

Our great and noble ancestors knelt in prayer.

I’ve gotten a lot of “feels” over the decades, worthy of your most delicate snowflake, in reaction to pointing out the facts on this matter. But as for any actual evidence that our ancestors didn’t kneel, but rather stood in worship, I had to go out and do the footwork on that for these people; who themselves could only produce anger and insults and self-indulgence to defend their position. Maybe I will share my findings one day. But regardless, I did this because I’m not interested in “defending a position”, but rather I’m interested in understanding my actual  ancestors; as opposed to fabricated fictitious ones whose sole purpose is to bolster a fragile ego. In others words, ironically enough, because I refuse to bow to nonsense, no matter how many sheep bleat out the same slogans. And I have been surrounded by veritable herds of them, demanding that I bow to their imaginary ancestors. And these are, for the most part, the same “unbowing sheep” that spout their nonsense but, grudgingly or otherwise, then proceed to allow their boss, their government, their wife, their herd to periodically dry hump them.

But hey, you’re quite the stand up man for not bowing to your gods and ancestors! At least you “unfurl your sail of greatness” where you’ll get the most resistance and so prove what a champ you are.

At the end of the day, I personally don’t care how people choose to go before the gods. We go before them here, and so needn’t concern ourselves with such matters as go on there. There is however, a question of honesty and integrity in representing our ancestors involved here. And of course there is the matter of personal repute and obligation to challenge insults hurled, not only at ourselves, but also at the ancestors who’s beliefs and practice we have returned to; as Heathens who know what to give due respect to and what to never bend knee to; who know what is easy (ie. disrespecting the gods and ancestors) and what is difficult (ie. standing up to the peer group, to those in a superior position).

One need but look over to modern day Europe to see that some subordination to our indigenous gods and ancestors is in order; as opposed to blithely letting our governments and hordes of foreigners dry hump us. But then, we all have our priorities, don’t we? For some of us, it’s our gods, our ancestors, and our people. For others, it’s their ego.

Suffice it to say that the Germanic peoples were not alone in their practice of bowing in worship. I encourage all of the “stand-up men” out there — unbowed and unbowing as they helplessly watch their world crumble around them — to go out and try to make a slave of any of the people who bow in worship. Let me know how that works out for ya.

If your master allows it.

As for the rest of us, who have noted the evidence and extracted ourselves from the time-hole that is the “they did/they didn’t” debate; we are of course free to move on passed the threshold folks have been stuck at for some 3+ decades now, and sink our teeth into meaningful questions regarding prayer posture like why and who and where and when?

Incidentally, sheep don’t bow. Wolves on the other hand do. Guess who eats who? If you’re having trouble answering that, just look around the West.

The Great Divide: Ethnic Germanics and Germanic Christians

I was reading some comments over on a Norse Christian FB page the other week and came upon this comment,

“Neopagans always forget the last thing their ancestors did was choose to get christened.”

Well, there are a lot of things that no small number of would-be Heathens “forget”. And in fact, have no interest, and even counter-interest, in remembering.

But as for the “Norse Christians” of the world, they would do well to remember that we are not talking about “their ancestors”. The folk they refer to as “their ancestors” were also their own ancestors, ie. OUR common ancestors, whose ethno-cultural legacy their Christianity has been carried on and developed within as Norse peoples. And that ethno-cultural legacy is the product of an age-old relationship between the Norse peoples and the divine, and extends back prior to even the emergence of a specifically “Norse identity”. And of which Christianity is but a single, ill-fitting component; as evidenced in the comment “their ancestors” for example.

These people aren’t speaking Aramaic. Or even Greek or Latin. They are speaking in one of the tongues of Woden, and all that entails regarding their fundamental thought processes, idiosyncrasies, and worldview; as evidenced in their desire to hold on to and celebrate their Heathen-God-given Norse identity for example.

Christians can of course be forgiven for imagining that Heathenism is just about deities and worship, as this is what their Christianity is to them. To the Heathen on the other hand, while there certainly were threads of culture that were directly and specifically religious, our native spirituality touched upon all aspect of our ethno-cultural make up; from the creation of man, to the emergence of tribes and nations, to the formation of tribal land masses, to the birth of language and poetry, to values and customs, to techniques of farming and hunting and warfare and craftsmanship. As the term Heathen, itself ultimately a gloss for the Greek ethnos, implies.

The Christians might well worship Christ, maybe, but they do so on the proverbial altar of Woden. And they tend to despise the “altar of Abraham” like Cain despised Abel; as evidenced in the very evolution of Christianity throughout its history among our people.

Christians should never forget that what “they are choosing to do” RIGHT NOW is reject their heritage as both Christians and Norse. And this is occurring in exactly the same fashion as Christianity was first carried into the Norse-Germanic lands, ie. top-down via the formation and power of the state.

Now, the ideological divide that exists between Germanic Heathens and Germanic Christians …

This origins of this ideological divide was not put in place by Heathenry. Even among the Goths, while much us made of the martyrdom of Sabbas and his ilk, Christianity was first brought into their midst via (powerless) *captured slaves* and yet was allowed to spread and flourish until it was at last able to challenge the dominant Gothic culture and beliefs. Only then did Christians suffer any persecution. And even then this was done more out of the desire to safeguard and preserve the Gothic identity/community rather than out of any malice towards the worship of a different god; which, once again, could easily have been stomped out if such was the Gothic will.

Among the Franks, King Clovis suffered the constant nagging of his Catholic wife and her entourage of Christians; when in fact, like the Goths, he had the power to put them all to death.

Likewise, missionaries were received with open arms, provisioned, given freedom to preach, etc. by the likes of King AEthelbeorht of Kent, King Ongentheow of Denmark, and even such staunch Heathens as King Penda of Mercia and King Radbod of Frisia; the latter of whom had one foot in the baptismal font before he deigned to ask the fate of his ancestors under Christian belief. The response, ie. they are in “Hell”, but you shall find yourself at the right hand of “God”, was the catalyst that led to his rejection of Christianity and his subsequent wars vs. Charles Martel in an attempt to drive the missionaries and the advancing Abrahamic theocracy from his land.

Indeed, the typical Germanic response to the introduction of Christianity was to make room for Christ on the altar of the native gods, as in the (harshly criticized) case of King Raedwald of East Anglia. It is reflected in the words uttered by Queen Sigrid of Sweden when she her self was asked to convert, “I must not part from the faith which I have held, and my forefathers before me; and, on the other hand, I shall make no objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best.”

King Olaf Tryggvasson’s response to this statement, typifying early Heathen-Christian relations, was to slap her in the face and call her a heathen bitch.

And so we come to the manner in which our preChristian ancestors “chose to adopt” Christianity…

To start, it should be noted that missionary activity among the common folk of the Germanic tribes generally proceeded painfully slow and resulted in little to no success. The folk themselves were, on whole, simply not interested in adopting the fables of a foreign peoples and/or their inclusive “cult of universal brotherhood and urban salvation”.

And so, from Clovis forward (if not earlier), the Germanic mission focused heavily on the (nominal) conversion of Germanic kings and the securing/establishment of “state power”. The conversion of these kings was achieved via the (ahem) “exploitation” of the natural jostling for position that occurs, internally, between royal kinsman, and externally, between rival houses and tribes. A prime example of this is to be found in the first Anglo-Saxon king to be converted, AEthelbeorht of Kent; who, with the aid of his Franco-Catholic alliance (see the archeological record), was able to unite Kent into a single kingdom and emerge as the most prominent of his rivals within the heptarchy.

King AEthelbeoht utilized the same tactics, a form of proto-affirmative action, in the conversion of his people, offering friendship and boons to anyone who would join him in the new faith.

And so began the rat-race, as the lowly and unworthy were galvanized at the prospect of getting some glory on the cheap, while the wiser were forced to get there first for the sake of the kingdom. And this for a price that, in those early “Germanic Santeria” days of the conversion, must have seemed like far less grievous a prospect than we regard it today with full hindsight. The biggest change was that the animal sacrifice was divorced from the sacred feast. And sometimes the names of “Christ and the saints” were used; though sometimes long established titles of the divine were used (god, metod, drihten, etc) leaving the attribution up to any given worshipper.

And within a few decades came the destruction of the idols in Kent, and finally as the 7th century drew to a close, to the drafting of Kentish laws against “devil worship”; not to mention the new laws that accompanied and followed in the greater body of the Anglo-Saxon Law Codes… that made failure to observe Church services, customs, or pay Church dues punishable under (foreign) “law”.

That was the “choice” given to the preChristian Anglo-Nordic peoples. That was the “choice” they made in their conversion, ie. to not be regarded as a pariah, to not be driven into debt, to not be legally hamstrung in self-defense, to not be driven into slavery, to not be sold outside of the country.

So, again, what are “you” choosing today?

It is a tangled web we weave, as the Bard once remarked.

Freedom

Freedom. It is an interesting word. A word that has been with the various Anglo-Nordic peoples since (at least) the dawning of Proto-Germanicism, which, like Celticism, was the only branch of the greater Indo-European tree that developed the notion out of a root (*pri-) that originally meant “beloved”.

This is the same root that we get the word friend from incidentally.

One might think of the development of the word free — from “beloved” to “not in bondage” — in terms of, say, who you would have as a room-mate in your home. Or who you would invite to home-sit for you while you were away on some extended trip. In short, in terms of who you would grant the freedom of your home to. And the answer is of course, to one’s beloved, to one’s friend/s, to those who are trustworthy and so can be trusted to conduct themselves as you yourself would; and who are thus free to “act as they will” (ie. in a beloved, friendly manner) within one’s home.

Certainly, one could argue that such a state isn’t exactly “unburdened by constraint”, but it is not a conscious matter of legalities and/or a check-list of criteria either. Friendship and the freedom that walks hand-in-hand with it are mostly organic evolutions, the unconscious attraction of like to like, such that among friends there is not a feeling, much less a manifestation of constraint. Each are acting, unrestrained according to their own habits of conduct, as they please. It’s just that the conduct that pleases one is also the conduct that pleases the other, eg. I don’t have to demand that you wash your dishes because you dislike dishes piling up just like me and act accordingly.

A common thew is shared between friends, and in a broader cultural sense between the free; thew being an Old English (and uniquely West Germanic) word that means “custom, habit, morals, conduct” and carries implications of “sinew, muscle, strength”, acting as what we today might call “social fabric”.

One could thus easily say that, like friendship and freedom, thew and freedom walk hand-in-hand; though again one is forced to acknowledge that thew doesn’t necessarily leave the individual “free of constraint” in any universal or objective manner, and contains within itself an implicit set of criteria which, if not organically met, will certainly leave a new-comer feeling constrained, a long-stander ashamed, and in either case, as the odd-one-out.

“Everyone! Look! There’s Johnny!!! He has no clothes on!!!”

Freedom it would thus seem is something of a relative state, that comes with implicit constraints that are most apt to be imparted and enforced socially, organically. Indeed, by the reckoning of our ancestors — in fact by the reckoning of common sense — freedom had no effective existence outside of social interactions and relationships, outside of human society, and was a thing that could only be achieved in relation to one’s fellow man.

To be free meant, to our ancestors, the freedom to take part in society; shouldering it’s obligations and benefiting from it’s privileges.

In contrast to the free, our ancestors had, not so much the thrall or slave, much less the young — both of which had no rights under law, but nevertheless benefited from the rights and freedoms enjoyed by their owners or adult relations — but rather the wretch, who, regardless of his degree of self-sufficiency, was left without either law or loved ones to shield him and secure his rights, to care for him in sickness and/or old age, and who was left to contend with the merciless tyranny of nature and any man or group of men that wanted to work ill-will upon him. And whose line would, at best, end with him, or alternately, produce offspring who would be damned to a wretched life of loneliness, hopelessness, and perhaps even inbred dysfunction.

As the Havamal poem says, “Man rejoices in man”. Likewise the Old English Rune Poem.

This freedom to take part in society, as a member of society, was imparted by our Anglo-Nordic ancestors at the tribal assembly, the (ahem) “state” assembly, as noted as early as Tacitus, who wrote,

Then in the presence of the council one of the chiefs, the young man’s father, or some kinsman, equips him with a shield and a spear. These arms are what the “toga” is with us, the first honour with which youth is invested. Up to this time he is regarded as a member of a household, after-wards as a member of the commonwealth.”

It can also be gleaned in the respect of the indigenous Germanic state for freedom and thew, as seen in it’s largely fine based system of crime and punishment. Their system of crime and punishment was itself a manifestation of Anglo-Nordic thew, representing one aspect of our shared customs and habits of conflict resolution; a thew evolved to deal with the inevitable sprains and tears in thew, which, as such, remained largely in the hands of the people and their locality, to be used or not used, used well or poorly, as the participants saw fit, and in which the state played little to no role. This led to the characterization of the Icelandic gothar for example as being “lazy” and/or (ahem) “too permissive” in regards to the conduct of their folk, ie. “too respectful” of their freedom. Only in the most severe of cases, such as deeds which threatened to undermine the collective trust, eg. secret killing, was the state empowered to mete out more familiar legal punishments such as flogging, imprisonment or execution. This attitude extended to military service outside of a certain distance from one’s own locality among the Anglo-Saxons. No law could be invoked to oblige a man to take part in his king’s call to muster or force a man to go aviking; though thew might well prompt a man to do so at least once in his youth. Whatever the case, as a matter of both law and thew no man would be forgiven for failing to rise to the defense his own locality and he would be dealt with very harshly, be it by law or mob, and understandably so I would think, by his neighbours within that locality for refraining to do so.

It can also be seen in the beliefs and functioning of the Germanic hierarchy as well; in which the free could fall into thralldom (play at dice anyone?), the thrall win his freedom, and being the firstborn of the reigning king vouchsafed one nothing. As the Havamal states, a king’s son, an uppity thrall, none should be so trusting as to trust in these. Unlike the caste structure of our fellow Indo-European belief system, Hinduism, the indigenous Germanic hierarchy was dynamic rather than static, and while ancestry certainly meant something, the ability of the individual was given it’s rightful due. And the right of even a thrall to self-rule — not to mention basic obligation of self-sufficiency — under his own roof-tree was recognized and observed; albeit by thew rather than by law.

The problem with freedom in this post-modern world is a lack of thew, a lack of common identifiers, and the self-regulation that comes with it. And it was toward the notion of thew in general that Tacitus was speaking when he wrote, “good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere.”, and provide the real reason why, among the Anglo-Saxons for example, state executions were so rare (ie. based on an examination of felon graveyards).

Not strong laws, but strong thew.

Freedom flows upward, out of the soil, into the sole’s of one’s feet, and throughout one’s entire being. And only then can it, not so much descend, from “on high” as it were, from the state, as simply turn about, reflect and affirm, that which gave it life and upon which it’s continued vitality relies. Freedom does not come from political institutions, laws, or intellectualized social constructs or ideologies.

Freedom comes from the habits of a people. From thew. Or not at all. And thew cannot be all things to all people. It cannot be intellectualized and instilled. It evolves through local, first person interaction.

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

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