Tag Archives: Religion

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”.

Tuisto Revisited. Again.

While I have been enamoured over the past few years with the notion that Tacitus got the relationship between Tuisto and Mannus wrong (not at all inconceivable), that they are in fact brothers rather than father-son, and that Tuisto might thus indeed mean “twin” or even Grimm’s hypothetical “*Tiwisko” (son of Tiw), I was looking over some random etymologies last night, and my own pet theory, that the name Tuisto is related less to twin and more to twist, came back with unexpected force.
 
As we have it, the name Tuisto is obscure; passing as it did through one or more Latin minds until final reaching the pen of Tacitus. And in fact, when it comes to “Tacitus'” pen, we have a number of surviving manuscripts of Germania, one of which renders the name as Tuisco rather than Tuisto.
 
Hence we find even Grimm reaching with his self-admittedly conjectural (alternate) proposition that Tuisto/Tuisco was a Roman corruption, as noted above, of a Proto-Germanic *Tiwisko; which itself is not an attested word, but rather Grimm’s hypothetical reconstruction, ie. if this word (tiwisko) ever actually existed, Tuisto might stem from it. The theory becomes interesting later, but only after following other theories more firmly grounded. So, interesting though it may be, it simply has too many “moving parts” as we swim in already uncertain waters, and requires too many presumptions to stand on it’s own.
 
The best theories look to what can be said about the name; namely that it is rooted in the Proto-Indo-European *dwoh1 which yielded Proto-Germanic *twai, which itself ultimately yielded Modern English two. And while both the Proto-Germanic and P.I.E. are themselves reconstructions, they are reconstructed based upon a wealth of linguistic certainties, ie. the word for two.
 
From here various academics and scholars have immediately lept on the related word/concept of twice (Proto-Germanic *twiyes, P.I.E. *dwis-) and twin (P.Ger. *twinaz, P.I.E. *dwino-), compared Iron Age Tuisto to Viking Age Ymir, and noted a possible etymological link between Ymir and the Sanskrit Yama, and then Yama’s own sibling relation to Manu, whose name and nature is cognate to that of Tuisto’s offspring, Mannus.
 
And from here we come into the notion that Tuisto and Mannus, like Yama and Manu, are brothers. And not just any ole brothers, but in fact the Divine Twins; who clearly stem from a P.I.E. prototype, are clearly present in at least a majority of Indo-European belief systems, whose cult was clearly dominant in both southern Scandinavia and across Europe over the Bronze Age, and which could still be perceived in Iron Age and Migration Age lore in the dual rulership of migrating tribes and the establishment of new identities (eg. Hors and Hengist, etc.).
 
This theory is in fact a very nice piece of work with lots to sink one’s teeth into. It is not without it’s problems however. Such as, how did the name Ymir, meaning “noise-maker” in Old Icelandic, evolved from a word that originally meant twin? How is it that Ymir, who was deemed “no god” and whose offspring were all brutal and surly and largely the enemies of god and man, evolve from Tuisto, who was celebrated and whose offspring *were* god and man? Why does the pattern reflected in the “Ancient Hymns” (god begets god begets trio of gods) match Tuisto with Buri (who begat Bor, who begat Woden-Will-Wih) rather than Ymir? And of course, even just eyeballing the Proto-Germanic words *twiyes and *twinaz, one can see that they make a clumsy, reaching fit for Tuisto, and even, if to a lesser extent, for the variant Tuisco.
 
Indeed, the only absolutely clear etymological clue to the name Tuisto links it to the P.I.E. *dwoh1, from which arise a veritable host of derivative words that devolve upon the quantity.
 
One such word, a better match in my humble opinion than the aforementioned, preserving most of the elements of Tuisto intact, is Proto-Germanic *twiz (in two, asunder, apart); which, in one form or another, academics have indeed hit on in the past, but only to immediately abandon in the “pursuit of Ymir”. And yet stemming from *twiz we have such words as the Dutch twist, the Low German twist, the German zwist, the Danish tviste, and the Swedish tvist, all of which (with the exception of Modern English twist) express the notion of “two *divided in conflict*”.
 
This becomes particularly interesting in consideration of the Roman association of the Germanic Tiw with their Mars; the former of whom is said in the later Eddas to be “no peacemaker”, while the latter was not merely celebrated by the Roman’s as the (ahem) “god of war”, but even more so as the father of Romulus and Remus, and the divine progenitor of the tribes of Rome. While the conflict inherent in the word twist is general, ie. not inherently martial, such a general application can be seen in the Frisian gloss of Tiw as “Mars Thingsus” (Battle god of the Legal Assembly). Indeed, both Swedish tvista and Danish tvist carry definite legal connotations, ie. legal dispute, negotiation. Or perhaps, in light of the title Mars Thingsus, we might more properly say that they *continue* to carry such connotations.
 
We might also consider the recurrence of the quantity two in Tiw related lore. This is immediately evident even when limiting Tiw to the role of “god of war”, and observation of any field of war, on which there are, alliances not withstanding, two sides. The same can be said of any conflict, martial or otherwise, or even, albeit more loosely in some cases, of any competition.
 
It really does take two to tango, after all.
 
More explicitly, we see Tiw’s association with two in the Mars Thingsus inscription where he is associated with two female “battle spirits”, in the counsel to “call twice” upon Tiw found in the Sigdrifumal, in his forming of a duo with Thunor in the Hymskvidha, as well as his two attempts to lift the cauldron of Hymir in that same myth. Indeed, from a broader Indo-European perspective, the Divine Twins always appear as the offspring of the Skyfather, who names are etymological relatives of Tiw.
 
it is a curious fact that each of the proposed theories on the meaning of the name Tuisto, even Grimm’s *tiwisko, all point in the direction of one another at some point or another. As such, while it might certainly be “un-Tiwic” of me to suggest, it would seem foolish, not so much to judge one theory as superior to the others, but to do so and hold it as exclusive, such that the others are foolishly dismissed as holding no merit as a result of a mere comparative weakness in merit, ie. they still have some degree of merit and in relation to something whose own merit is not exactly “beyond reasonable doubt”.
 
As unenviable a proposition as that might be to analytical reductionist type thinking, it is nevertheless in form with the poetic thinking of our ancestors, in which meaning (of words for example) was heavily reliant on context and position and relation, and myths and symbols could have multiple interpretations, layered and interwoven meanings,all equally valid, despite superficial differences, from within same cultural paradigm.
 
Sometimes these differences are a clear matter of variations on an underlying cultural theme, such as we seen in the motifs of Tiw and the Wolf, Woden and the Wolf, the Sun and thew Wolf, the Anglo-Saxon Sunheaded man and the Wolf, ie. Glory/Eternity and Death/Transience. Or they might be more profound and bewildering, but nevertheless clearly related, as in the case of the Bronze Age axe and lily representations.
 
And so, in the final analysis, each of these theories, together, might well tell us more about Tuisto, than any one might in and of itself. Which of course is the point of “tvista” (debate), ie. not to change the mind of the opposition, but to better inform the broader audience.
 
Tiw is no peace-maker. He is an edge-whetter.

Thoughts and Musings on Halloween

halloween

 

Prior to the late 4th century, Christians celebrated their dead martyrs as local traditions at a variety of different times of year. By the 5th century AD the Church was at work trying to unifying the celebration of martyrs and saints into a single holiday. The date for this celebration tended to fall in the month of May until, in the early 7th century AD, Pope Boniface the IV nailed it down and established the “dedication Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres” on May 13th.

This is the Latin origin of what is known among today’s NW Europeans as Hallowtide, and includes “All Saints Eve” (Halloween), “All Saints Day” (All Hallows), and “All Souls Day”.

How then is it possible that this Catholic “feast of Martyrs, Saints and the dead” came to be celebrated beginning on the eve of October 31st and on to November 2nd?

Is it really just a syncretism with the Celtic Samhein; the Celts themselves having been conquered and Romanized by the Roman’s in the 1st century BC and then Christianized as an act of political correctness in the 4th century?

Well, maybe.

But our first clue on how that came to pass is to be found in the language itself. Halloween is of course a word firmly rooted in Old English, which itself is firmly rooted in West Germanic, and from there Proto-Germanic.

It is neither Latin nor Celtic in origin.

Similarly we have the flow of time, in which Hallow Eve pre-cedes All Hallows Day; a peculiarity (ie. reckoning the day from sundown to sundown rather than sunrise to sunrise) which is witnessed in Germanic time reckoning from as early as Tacitus. This Germanic sense of the flow of the day is likewise the reason that Christmas Eve pre-cedes Christmas Day.

The historical time frame of the move of the Catholic feast from mid-May (7th century) to early November (8th to 9th century) is also telling, as it was precisely within this time frame that the Anglo-Saxons and their continental Germanic brethren were converted to Catholicism.

Now, in a letter dated AD 601 and addressed to Mellitus, his missionary at work among the Anglo-Saxons, Pope Gregory I mentions a custom among our ancestors in which “a large number of cattle are slaughtered”, and that this heathen rite should be made over into “a feast in honour of the saints”.

Meanwhile, according to the Anglo-Catholic historian Bede, Blotmonath or Blood month, was a time in which “the cattle which were to be slaughtered were consecrated to the gods.” The Anglo-Saxon Blotmonath more-or-less corresponds to the modern month of (the Latin-rooted) November, and the slaughter that took place in this month was substantial and represented the annual thinning of the herd; required so that resources would be sufficient to see the herd through winter.

In reflecting on the matter of what the Hallowtide meant within the native beliefs of our English ancestors, I don’t think that we should become too preoccupied with the consecration of “the cattle that were to be slaughtered”. Such things would have occurred in regards to any sacrifice/feast, save here, the number of cattle to be slaughtered was quite substantial in comparison, and probably set the stage for the sacred rites of the tide, as we see in the reference to the fall-tide disablot in Egil’s saga, “there was the best banquet and much drink within the hall”.

Basically, the over-abundance of meat, not to mention the abundance of food in general, ie. from the recent harvest, set the conditions for a particularly abundant feast.

But what was this feast devoted to? Afterall, it was not just “a feast”, but a sacral feast in which the animals were consecrated.

To the extent that the Viking Age North Germanic tradition of Snorri Sturlusson is indicative of anything pan-Germanic, the winter nights sacrifice was for good luck in the coming year. Other bits and piece from the lore — which might coincide and devolve more precisely with harvest than with the herd-thinning — include the disablot, the alfablot, Freyblot, and of course the widespread custom of the “Last Sheaf”. Each of these have their association, be it strong or weak, with the dead and/or the exceptional dead, while the Last Sheaf customs were generally associated, strongly or weakly, with Woden, particularly in his guise as the Wild Hunter.

As the Catholic associations of the tide are strongly focused on the veneration of saints and martyrs, and as the later, but inherently related (to West Germanic) North Germanic traditions are themselves strongly focused on the veneration of the dead — a general phenom. well represented in earlier law codes and similar legal treatments of “heathen practices” on the Continent — it is fair to suggest that the native Anglo-Saxon “Hallowtide” may likewise have involved veneration of the dead. And of course, that keeping up relations with the dead was of vital importance to the good fortunes of the community.

“42. In order that no new saints may be venerated or invoked, do not allow their monuments to be erected along the roads, etc.”

— Charlemagne, Synod of Frankfurt (AD 8th century)

“1. sacrilege at the tombs of the dead… 2. sacrilegious funeral songs made to the dead… 9. sacrifices made to some saint… 25. Those who carve images for dead persons whom they say are saints.”

— Index of Superstitious and Heathen Practices (AD 8th century)

Reflecting on the raw nature of the tide itself, we see a gradual retreat of of the spirit of life from nature. The fields lay bare, the trees have begun to lose their leaves, and nature itself has begun to cool and discolour. To top it all off, the blood of life, quite literally, flows freely and saturates to land.

The spirit of death has come into power; itself betokening a “thinning of the veil” between the world of man and those less seen “otherworlds” that “surround” it.

This “thinning of the veil” allows the spirits that occupy those “otherworlds” to wander into our own; attracted to the substance of life, the blood, that has come to saturate the earth. And while some of these spirits might not represent anything more mysterious or malevolent than “late grandfather Harold”, many are the otherworlds and varied are their denizens. Others would be the starving souls of the evil or otherwise neglected dead, or things more primal that had never existed in association with man, eg. thursar, all particularly attracted, like hungry predators, to the life-force inherent in the blood of the slaughter.

Such beliefs would thus have made the fall slaughter something of a dangerous thing, from whence, we might speculate, the season took on it’s more “horrific” associations, ie. above and beyond the Christian association of anything non-Christian or heretical with “horror”.

This horror element would subside and morph with the first snowfall, ie. the washing away of the blood of the slaughter, and the promise of the Yuletide.

Creation and the Power of Words

We must be very careful about the narratives, the stories, we weave about ourselves, or allow others to weave for us.

It is not without reason that the god who breathed the breath of life in Mankind at our creation, ie. Woden, is also the god who gave us the gift of language. Nor is it without reason that this same god gave us the gift of poetry, of magical songs, and indeed, the gift of Creation itself.

I recall watching some documentary a couple of decades ago, perhaps it was “Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World”, but whatever the case, it spoke of this shaman from one of those obscure hunter-gatherer cultures that still dot the world today, and how every morning he had to chant creation back into being by reciting his tribes creation hymns. If he were to fail in his task, creation would begin to unravel.

Creation is of course less a matter of conjuring, or even arranging the objective universe as it is of coming into an understanding of existence and our place within it. More poignantly, it is the ability to express and share (and gain further insight) into that relationship. As such the evolution of Creation, as a thing distinct from aconscious existence, is tantamount to the evolution of a peoples cultural matrix (world tree, mjotvidhr), in which language plays a significant role.

If you think back to just before your earliest memories, and then move forward, through your bewilderment at the greater world around you, the senselessness everything seemed to move with, how lost you were in it, only for the world to gradually order itself, to begin to make sense, you can get an inkling of the unfoldment of Creation, and the power of words in giving it shape and sense.

We can see the effect that negative language has on people who have been verbally abused as children. Some are stronger, less impressionable than others of course, but we have an inclination to conform to the stories we are told about ourselves, such that the person who is always told they are an idiot for instance might very well come to play the idiot. And all the more so the smarter they actually are; those smarts removing them as it does, not unlike the idiot, from the sensibilities of the common person. We see it in a more culturally pervasive form in the stereotypes of the smart but uncoordinated nerd and the dumb jock, when in fact the hallmark of the truly gifted individual is a fair to above average measure of competence in all fields even if they only excel in a few. The stereotype of the intellectual vs. the spiritual is yet another, that of the dumb blonde is yet another, despite the fact that such a gulf does not exist between spiritual and intellectual, and that blondes actually have a fairly high average IQ, ie. are smart, not dumb. One of my biggest and oldest pet peeves in this regard is the insistence that any person interested in their Germanic identity must be some “eyes of hate” reject from the Geraldo or Jerry Springer show, and how if you don’t look like that caricature, you must not be interested in your Germanic heritage. And yet for all of that, our need for identity reaches out… to whatever presents itself, and we conform, through no real fault of our own.

And so, as we see, having failed to “chant our creation hymns with each dawn”, for who we are as a people, forgetting our relationship to each other and our environment, our culture has unraveled and Ragnarok set in… just like that primitive shaman, chanting each dawn, knew it would.

This power of language is at the very heart and soul of the English word spell, as in a magical spell, as seen in the word gospel, which is Old English in origin (like so many other familiar terms frequently but erroneously deemed “Christian”) and literally translates to the “Spell of God”. The word spell itself refers, primarily, to the enthralling power of moving speech, of a powerful narrative.

Words have the power to build, mold, and/or breakdown Creation itself.

As such, we must be careful of whose stories we take to heart; stories about us, about our ancestors, about the world and our place in it.

Words have power. Respect that power. And where you play the role of the Shaper, eg. parent, wield them wisely.

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.

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.

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.