High One, Just-as-High, and Third


This week’s homework assignment  (besides continuing Our Troth Vol. 1) is to dive into the Prose Edda, particularly the Gylfaginning, to consider  the idea of The High One, Just-as-High, and Third in the context of my post The Lore and The One. I am curious to explore the idea that this tripartite aspect of Odin might be extended as a framework which in corporates The Axis (adopting Hendrix’s term over that of the jazz culture just because, well, I can), the Æsir and Vanir, and lasty the jontun, alfs, disir and vættir. Three is a sacred number throughout Indo-European culture, as my reading tells me, and for the our eldritch as well. It is not just a leftover scrap of my trinitarian religious upbringing, but rather something the Church took from IE culture to explain their divinity in non-Arian terms.

I am posting this publicly as I know my trusty Steward will have some thoughts, and I invite others to speak what you think of the idea as I read and meditate upon it.I will likely take my question to Odin, as he is much on my mind as I read his chapter in Our Troth with the crows calling lustily outside. That is my other burning concern: what my relationship as poet and writer from inspiration should be with the Alfather. This latter is a question I approach with some trepidation and eyes wide open


Won’t bow. Don’t know how

This Mardi Gras Indian formula, part of a ritual exchange between the chiefs of meeting tribes, represents in context a powerful affirming statement by oppressed African-Americans. It comes to  mind when I read this line from  Our Troth, the epigraph to Ch. 8: “The god/desses are our eldest kinfolk, to whom we give the greatest love and respect, but before whom we do not kneel or bow.” [Emphasis mine] This is where my Promethean spirit finds a home with the Vanir and Æsir.

Won’t bow. Don’t know how.

The Lore and The One

You are trapped in that bright moment in which you learned your doom.

— Samuel R. Delaney, The Fall of the Towers

I have a friend who is a Humanistic Pagan, a concept which places humanity and its ethics at the center of the cosmos, around which whirls the wheel of the year and the forms of deities associated with it. Deity is archetype at most, something larger than ourselves and psychological as well as spiritual, with spirituality growing out of the psychological construct of the archetype out of a universal, human memory pool we share as we share basic DNA. [A friend corrects me: much of Humanistic Paganism is eco-centric, as he terms it. Fair enough.]

I take a rather odd, middle ground approach between the gods as primal beings and the gods as archetypes. My view partakes of both views. The deities are real to me in two senses, because we make them so, and because they are presentations of the face of what spiritual jazz musicians of the 1960s frequently referred to as The One, a form I have adopted. [Already someone is now rushing to the comments below to tell me I Am Doing It Wrong. Fair enough. I am not proposing my personal gnosis as Doctrine. We have no real doctrine in Heathenism, so I’m not sure how, precisely, I am Doing It Wrong but please feel free to explain.]

“…and the spirit of Fimbultyr moved upon the face of the deep…”
Snorri, Prose Edda*

The One** is a transcendent force, although concepts of omniscience and omnipotence suggestive of an over-mind with an interest in human affairs–the monist god of the people of the book–does not enter into it, at least not as I understand it. it just Is, somewhat in keeping with the Bookish notion of Yahweh: I Am What Am. I would not even assign it a personal pronoun. This implies the idea that it can be known to some extent, is capable of issuing dictates like the tablets of Moses which can be comprehended and ultimately obeyed. To the musicians from whom I borrowed the term The One the force is one of universal love, an external source only comprehensible through love and best represented by the figure of Jesus in the bookish tradition. Love is the one commandment, and they see a force of love permeating the universe.

Obedience. Commandments. This is where I part from my upbringing in the tradition of the book. I had rejected all mainstream religions not because I am an atheist, but because I am a Promethean. What I reject in the lore of the people of the book is the concept of a religious surrender, whether it is surrendering to the authority of the Holy Roman Church in which I was raised, or the surrender of born-again, Pentecostal protestant Xianity. I am humanist enough to reject gods which require surrender.

That is likely why I found a comfortable spot when the gods of my ancestors began calling to me this past Yule and Imbolc/Carnival. As I have read the lore and its glosses so far, I see in the northern pantheon deities which do not require surrender but would in fact frown upon it. Heathenism is a devotion of relationship, not surrender. Forget the old saying about having a “personal relationship with Xst.” We’ve all heard that but it requires that initial surrender, “let go and let god.” To the extent Heathenism can be said to have a doctrine of devotion it is one of personal relationship without surrender in the Bookish sense. This fits well with my Promethean tendencies which rejects religions of surrender.

From whence then come the gods and goddesses of our devotion? In my own semi-Arian-flavored heresy I go back to the creation myth, and invert it. Deity is a creation of man (drifting awfully close to humanistic paganism here, old boy), born out of an archetypal impulse to give comprehensible mind and form to the spirit of The One. This occurs differently across different cultures because the archetypical impulse must take a culturally comprehensible shape. What is culturally comprehensible varies as do the languages we speak, as people of Indo-European descent spread themselves about the planet. The gods and goddesses are real because we take the role of Ve and Villi, and they become. This does not lessen their superior position, because they are aspects of an ultimately superior One. They are more powerful than us, and take their spirit not from Odin but from The One. We simply give them form and mind we can, to the best of our inferior ability, comprehend.

Within that pantheon called Heathenism we develop relationships with these beings (with all of their projected foibles, and their ultimate mortality), and as I said above it is the basis of our relationship with them that allowed the call I felt earlier this year to take root in my Promethean soul. To simply accept the deities as primal in a literal sense involves a form of surrender I will not brook. If they simply Are, and are the true gods of our folk, then that is a surrender I am not capable of. To me they do exist because we give mind and form to the personal experience of spirit we find laying on the beach like bits of driftwood. This is a powerful metaphor, involving comprehensible bits (Ask and Embla in our lore) birthed by the vast and incomprehensible ocean. This partakes a bit of the anthropic principle, the idea that the universe exists in the form it does because it must be capable of perception by our minds to exist. This does not deny it other forms of existence. We are simply trapped in a dimension if you will which we are capable of comprehending.

To me personally deity takes similar forms–one which exists as the universe exists, as inexorably as gravity–because that is the form we are capable of comprehending. The same can be said of Jesus or Ganesha for people for whom that is a comfortable context. I was once a devotee of Ganesha after my own syncretic fashion, and could simply accept the story of how he got his head as easily as I could accept Ymir and Audhulma, Misgard and Asgard and its inhabitants. A system of belief both powerful (as an aspect of The One) and comfortable and comforting (as an aspect of our humanity, an aspect creation of which is a gift of the gods as in the creation myth, and being a gift of the gods ultimately a gift of The One) is what is needful, and which my own cosmology however heretical some may find it affords me. This extends to the vættir as well. The miraculous occurrences in my sacred grove of oaks–the face and the seated boar in the root boles, the not entirely random occurrences of wildflowers, my personal glimpses of the retiring anhinga spirit of the bayou–these are visible to me because of that reciprocal psychological relationship, and my personal relationship, with the divine.

To come full circle to the epigraph at the top of this piece, which over time has become my Swiss army knife for opening spiritual containers: I am trapped in that bright moment in which I learned my doom. Doom here is of course the wyrd, a very comfortable and intuitive concept to me, and so one I readily accept. I am trapped (in a kinder sense than the original, let us say “captured”) both by The One, and by my own gifted impulse of inspiration which gives It comprehensible mind and form. It is a bright moment because it partakes of The One, of the spirit Odin first breathed into Ask and Embla, and enables me to return belief in the minds and forms of the gods, a gift for a gift.

* The Wikipedia page listing the kennings of Odin lists Fimbultýr which it translates as “Mighty God,” citing a kenning in Völuspá (60)

** To turn again to pop culture, musical references consider Jimi Hendrix’s The Axis in Axis Bold as Love, and then think of Yggdrasil, which transcends Asgard and Misgard, which is both before creation and after Ragnarok. The World Tree exists outside the life cycle of the Gods and Goddesses. It is The Axis, represents the enduring One.

Eoster Glory

If Eoster dawn the sun should come
cloaked  in clouds of weathered grey
it comes proudly, wearing the weeds

of wisdom, bringing thunder and showers
with which it conspires to dress the world
in verdant splendor again and again.

The resurrection fern green on the oaks
will jewel glisten when in its glory
sun lords over flowers at spring’s  birthing.

— Marcus Trúasóngr

The Boar in the Forest

It is not a forest buIMG_20160310_111236729_HDRt a park. It is still my noble and holy grove. And it seems I continue to find things there that resonate like the bell bowl at the end of yoga, profound and sustained.

Hail Freyja on (arguably) her day!


N.B. When I went to leave an offering to the vættir of this noble oak on Friday, someone had draped another flower chain on the statue of the Lady. The resurrection fern was bright green with the rain, all was dripping quiet and everything was spring.

My Noble Nine

I seem to have started a discussion in two places–a Facebook page I created to try to collect local Heathens, and on TheTroth.org mailing list–about what are called the Nine Noble Virtues. If I understand the modern lore history I have read the last several days, these were first promulgated by the Odinic Rite and adopted later by the Asatru Free Assembly. They are often criticized as a modern creation, but given the texts we have to work with what is not a modern (re)creation? I learned in a podcast that many Heathens look down on this code as inauthentic, and that it is more popular in the midwest and south.

I don’t recall where I first encountered this code–in one of the primers, perhaps, Lafayllve or Paxon, or else Thorsson; I think the latter–but it immediately resonated with me. I was at a stage in my life at which all my preexisting structures were toppled, and I am a person who functions best with some structure. I have Attention Deficit Disorder and Spectrum Disorder, the polite, diagnostic manual term for the milder form of manic depression. This means my energy level and my emotions can be all over the place (although much better of late with medication, a see-saw instead of an octopus-arm, snap-the-whip thrill ride, thank you). No shame in that. These are well documented medical disorders, just not as obvious as the heartbreak of psoriasis; unless, that is, you caught me at a bad time and were sucked into what I call a chess-timer conversation. If you wanted to be able to talk in this conversation, that is, then I would need to be limited by a chess timer; otherwise it would be all Marcus, all the time working on perfecting his circular breathing so he could get that digeridoo he’s heard is so good for sleep breathing disorders and all that in one breath, no time to interrupt and have a turn.

Whew! I feel a bit “up” just having typed that long sentence. The point of this confession is that my condition became much worse over the course of a year-long commitment to a job from hell. The hours were governed by two antipodal time zones: Eastern and China Standard Time. After six months of developing requirements we began doing business-end testing of the new software. It was a train wreck as delivered, but we were pushed toward artificial deadlines which would only be yanked back at the last minute, after a two week “dearth march” to release. I became sedentary because the time I used to exercise became precious sleep, sleep often disrupted by work worries because of my condition.

I stayed a year because I became exceptionally good friend with my business partner. I was a contractor; she was staff. When it was clearly time to bail, the decision was weather I was going to dump all of my work on a single mother of two small children, mid-career, never having worked anywhere else in her adult life. She couldn’t just pull the ejector seat, unhide the online resumes, and wait for the recruiters to call. We because so close I would consider her kindred, not a religious affiliation but by all means a blood-sister, for we it was all blood, sweat and tears and a lot of long-distance handholding of each other to make it as far as we did.

Let’s see, I think we’ve covered fidelity, industriousness and perseverance, and loyalty to one’s kindred. All this is hindsight, but these virtues clearly apply. The job, sadly, broke me: physically, emotionally and psychologically. Bailing on my partner was almost as hard as bailing on my marriage, which was on much shakier grounds by the time that decision was reached. It was emotionally wrenching. Physically, I had gained 30 pounds from inactivity in spite of a generally healthy diet.  As a result, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. This is partly the weight but also a known “co-morbid disorder” (i.e., people with anxiety or spectrum disorder often become diabetic, or at least have blood sugar issues). This is largely stress, the psychological factor. And all of the combined stress greatly exacerbated my anxiety/spectrum disorder. What was previously diagnosed an anxiety disorder, an unpleasant tightness in the chest similar to a heart attack accompanied by feelings of panic, something I have managed most of my adult life, blossomed into something much worse.

So I find myself at the end of November, 2015 out of work and pretty much broken in mind, body and spirit.

When I approached the holidays stumbled upon Frau Holle, which eventually became the theme of the ex-voto shelf outside my house that doubles as The Shrine of Jazz and Heritage. I have a German neighbor who found it surprising and charming to find a figure from her childhood venerated on my ex-voto. When she asked about my shrine, I said something vague about, ” getting in touch with my German roots.” And as that door opened via the Internet, and Xmas/Yule, I was. Or rather, they were getting in touch with me. I went searching the pagan roots of Carnival for something to place on my ex-voto shrine and instead of the usual Greco-Roman stuff to which Carnival is commonly attributed I found Nerthus, pulled in her cart by a white bullock. Rather like the flower-draped white bullock figure that precedes the Rex parade every Mardi Gras Day. The door opened a bit wider, and I began exploring.

Clearly the mumbled remarks about getting in touch with my German roots held some weight. As a syncretic seeker universalist I had a altar but it was unfocused and, after the year from hell, rather dusty and disused. I was too busy bailing the lifeboat to do more than toss off a silent prayer to no one in particular for the strength to go on. As I began reading my way through the Internet on all things Heathen (sometimes manic episodes and the accompanying doggedness are a blessing, as it is this moment as I write). The more I read, the more I was attracted to this, the faith of my German ancestors. And then I stumbled across the Nine Noble Virtues. They resonated like the bowl bell the teacher sometimes strikes at the end of yoga: a profound, sustained note. I had health issues. I had issues with my children I needed to be a firm father to address when I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning. I had a house that had not  been properly cleaned for months. (If you go through an entire box of Swiffers in a 10×14 kitchen, it’s time to buy a mop and bucket). Discipline. I needed discipline, and some outside structure to keep my ADD mind to it. I needed to recover the industriousness and perseverance of which I had been drained dry by the job. And as the AFA reinterprets hospitality, ” kinship is better than alienation.” I needed to rebond with and properly father my children who–while technically adults–both need some firm guidance at this time each in their own way. And that’s not just the AFA version of hospitality. It is also a form of fidelity, of faith in my children and the obligation fidelity also implies, the obligations to be a good father.

Nerthus and Frau Holle had some role to play, as did not doubt other deities who noticed me poking about in their lore and the vættir of my beloved oak grove,  but it was that simple code which sunk the hook and landed me for Heathenism. Count it up as a form of personal gnosis. If that was the revelation that opened up the door to Heathenism, so be it. It obliges no one else to say the Mjollnir blessing you would find below a few posts back. That prayer matters  immensely to me, speaking it as I don the hammer symbol of the God who among our fickle deities best exhibits many of the virtues is profound. I would not just be back from vacuuming and mopping (OK, Swiffering) if I did not have this reminder around my neck. I would probably be napping, to escape a few recent stressful events. And I cannot nap the rest of my life away. I have a life to rebuild, and to rebuild better: freed from the fetters of mortgage and tuition, free to follow the dictates of my heart and not my wallet.  If you find the Virtues trite, or unfounded in the lore, or perhaps they smack too much of a sect you dislike, that’s fine. A rising tide only lifts the boats in that particular harbor, and mine was lifted by them as they no doubt have lifted many others.





On Thursday I struggled with a writing assignment, and returned to the mantel of my hearth atop which sits my altar of sorts with an offering of fiery red curry and a glass of absinthe for the All Father. I needed the breath of inspiration again, as I had asked the week before in a whorl of job interviews for a dream writing job. I did well in three interviews in four days, the right word always to hand. A gift was owing, and with it I asked again for help.

Later that day, at the end of yoga (when we are all laying on our mats pleasantly spent and deeply relaxed), I meditated on the gods, thinking of Odin and Thor (as I have just consecrated by a daily prayer a new Mjollnir) At the end, when the class chants OM, I say Thorn. I treat the yogic path now just as I do in Tai Chi, as an aspect of my faith. Tai Chi  I offer to Thor as that path is a meditative form of kung fu. It was born from the quiet studies of warrior monks in China. I still make the fist-and-hand salute when we circle up at the end, although that is not the way of my current teacher. My salute is the book and the fist, the way of my first teacher who was of a martial arts bent.

Before yoga, I was contemplating finishing cleaning the front of the house, putting away the boxes stacked in my bedroom and giving that part of the front of the house a long overdue dusting and vacuuming. As I lay on the mat in a great state of piece, meditating, I felt the presence of two figures i took at first to be Odin and Frigg. It was very clear to me, however, that the feminine presence was wearing a large necklace. It was then I realized that this visitation was the Lord and Lady, who are often on my mind as I walk among my blessed oaks.

The lessons I took from all this is that Odin is not tight-fisted with his gifts, so long as he is repaid in gifts. (I got the article finished, although the editor who asked for it has vanished. Another test. Life is a series of them). I also learned that the gods and goddesses come to one as they see fit, and the amount of time I spend among the vættir of my blessed oaks, passing the fountain statue I call the Lady of the Oaks, had opened a door through which the Lord and Lady came. Tonight I took my grandfather’s wedding ring, which I wore in my first marriage, and asked Odin to cleanse it of Xian oaths as I passed it through a candle flame. (My own oath I  broke, and have paid for it. I have frith with my ex-wife who is listed on Facebook under Family.)

Tomorrow I will wash away the soot and all the rings past with pure spring water, and offer it to the Lord and Lady, to rest on my altar until I am done. Thor I shall call on every morning when I lift my Mjollnir from that same altar (I actually can’t work the clasp except I stand in front of the altar, or in front of the bookshelf at my girlfriend’s where I brought a copy of the prayer and laid it this weekend.). I will call on Odin for inspiration, and Bragi for pure poetry. The golden ring, however, will rest there always, and be ever in my mind when I enter the grove of the blessed oaks, stopping always at the grandmother oak to pray that frith and beauty ever reign in that grove, so that I and all others may daily partake of it.