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.

Advertisements

Fishing for Trouble

“23. The unwise man     waketh all night,  
         thinking of this and that— tosses, sleepless,     
         and is tired at morn:     nor lighter for that his load.”
         — The Havamal, trans. Lee Hollander

Morbid rumination is always my curse. I know enough of the ways of mindfulness to try to still the obsessive thought that possess me like a song stuck in the head, but when the djinn serotonin runs rampant in the brain it is hard to free the mind from dwelling on what seems wrong or fearful. Fifteen years as a project manager, trained to envision the worst and plan for it–always imagining the light at the end of the tunnel is a train–has programmed me too well, and i could not have chosen a worse career for someone of my particular melancholy complaint.

This verse resonates powerfully with me, and I pray to Thor for strength to confront directly the real troubles of the world with a spirit of clear joy in my wyrd, as he took the jontun’s challenge and fished manfully for the world serpent of Midgard Jörmungandr, an expedition that could only end in failure or death. Thor’s final, fatal battle with the serpent is reserved for Ragnarok, the final battle, and the God did not slay the serpent on his fishing expedition but did bring home with whales and the cauldron of Hymir in which the mead of Asgard is brewed.

My lesson from this verse is that the morbid worries that posses me must be put out of my mind until the proper, allotted time for dealing with them, and to confront them when they trouble me–as Thor lustily fished and fought Jörmungandr–with a clear spirit until they can be cut loose and returned to the deeps of my mind.

Thoughts on the AFA

Just to be clear, after much reading in my search of the Internet for lore and kindred, I where stand on this issue. I stand with The Troth.

From the Lay of Sirgrdrifmuál:

37. “That counsel I tenth,      that thou trust never oath of an outlaw’s son;…

38. “Seldom sleepeth      the sense of wrong nor, either, hate and heartache. Both his wits and weapons      a warrior needs who would fain be foremost among folk.

39. “That counsel I eleventh:      to keep thee from evil, whence’er it may threaten thee:55 not long the lord’s      life, I ween me. Have fateful feuds arisen.”

 

I am of the Folk, an unbroken line of almost 300 years since Johann Jacob Folse came from the Palitinate to Louisiana. Many of my folk stayed behind, and lived the horrors of the mid-twentieth century, when the spear was cast and men ran wild with the blood froth of madness, and the sun sign was made the crooked and broken cross.

I was raised in the tradition of the white south, in a land blooded by slavery. I was raised, not by my parents but certainly by my mother’s parents and my peers, to the ways of the white south. That wyrd is woven, and I cannot unwind it. I can face the future, bravely and with a clear mind and heart, and be the person I choose to be. I choose not to be what my grandparents and some of my childhood friends were, and likely still are.

I am of the folk but not folkish. I will Light a Beacon on May Day, and welcome all who welcome all to join me.

 

 

What More Would Ye Know?

800px-Odin_og_V__lven_by_Fr__lichWell, Yahoo mail doesn’t have an IMAP/Sent folder so I’m not sure when I sent out my email to everyone on TheTrorth.org in Louisiana who published their emails. Thursday, I think; maybe first thing Friday. At the frantic pace most people check their email, it would be good to have heard from someone. Patience is not listed among the Heathen virtues but Steadfastness is one of the Noble Nine, and patience is a part of that and so is continuing my reading, finding forms of simple daily practice, and hopefully awaiting word from any of the people I emailed.

Frith,

Marcus Trúasóngr
Hail Allfather (first always, a gift for a gift)

 

The Poetic Idea

As I publish some of my private rituals here, I struggle with the idea of adopting a pen name for them. As a poet and heathen, the idea of adopting a kenning-like surname appeals to me. It also allows a certain privacy, although my picture and general WordPress identity hangs up their to the right. My universalist, goddess following friend and early guide V frau Oakland is never-the-less very familiar with Heathen lore, as a person of Norwegian descent with Sami blood. She cautioned me about approaching the Grim Allfather directly, but in a moment of concern I prayed and offered ale and a spot of blood, asking for the gift of inspiration and warrior spirit to get me through the interview process. I felt my boon was granted and so I will likely sign future posts “Hail All Father (first always, a gift for a gift).

As the Spirit of Inspiration, I toyed with adding to my name altered as Marcus a surname/kenning dedicated to Odin, playing with and Old Norse dictionary. From that source I came up with:

Óðinnródd (Odinvoice),    Sannindisǫgumaðr (Truthspeaker; too long and hard to pronounced), Óðinnsǫgumaðr (Odinspeaker). Also Fólksóngr (Folk Singer, but a singer of the folk, sort of a humble sub-skald, not somebody with a guitar).

I am mostly settled on Trúasóngr: Troth Singer. I like this one a lot.

So for now, I sign off,

Marcus Trúasóngr
Hail Allfather (first always, a gift for a gift)

(Comments/votes/suggestions welcome).

Light the Beacons

Living in the South, as I make my first outreach to The Troth steward and a local pan-pagan group, one of my concerns is obviously the possibility to turn folkishness into outright racism. Everyone raised in the south above a certain age is a racists. It was indoctrinated by elder family members and one’s peers from the earliest age, and it is a curse one struggles with as one struggles against alcoholism: one day at a time, never completely cured but stronger than the curse.

A group of heathens is organizing an event on Mayday called Light the Beacons. I let the Facebook post speak for itself:

On this coming May Day we call on all Heathens around the world who stand for inclusive, tolerant, and diverse practice to light a beacon in solidarity with all other Heathens who stand for these values in our spirituality. Whether you are lighting a candle in your home with your loved ones or are hosting a bonfire party open to the public we ask you help us shine a light on all the good work, good practice, and good people in Heathenry across Midgard.

As I have shared a few other ritual invocations of the gods (so far, but mindful of the strong women of the Heathen pantheon as well, and that sexism has no place; and I am drawn toward Nerthus as the embodiment of the The Lady in the Germanic feminine), here is a redrafted invocation after some helpful criticism from my region’s Troth steward.

Hail Báleyg

Baleful eye of the battlefield
Lord of the cohort of Asgard
Father of all troth knowledge

The Troth  of all—Æsir & Vanir,
lofty Jöntunn, bright Alfheim
& the Folk of the Troth—
are threatened by the crooked of Ásatru.
.
Shine your flaring glance upon them
as we light this fiery beacon of true troth
so that the glory of all Asgard
& the people of the holy troth
be unblemished in the eyes of all men.

The Eddas

What more would ye know?

— The Seeress in the Voluspá

Did I mention Bragi below? Yes, I did. And perhaps that is why when choosing whether to read Snorri’s Prose Edda or the Poetic Edda, I chose the poetic. I scoured Amazon reviews before settling on Lee M. Hollander’s sometimes difficult translation, which is difficult because he attempts to recreate the style of the originals, because he chooses to use archaic terms out of English-language balladry to lend a voice of antiquity to it. I devoured his introduction, and must go back and study it, to learn the difference between the gnomic and the magic stanzas. There is much to learn, much more than I expect the prose Eddas would present. Still, besides my primers (Lafayllve and Paxton), I have Myths and Gods of Ancient Europe under my belt, so it is not as if I am wandering blindly into a maze of alien names and concepts. Hollands’ footnotes appear comprehensive, at least as far as I have gotten. His introduction was clear  and scholarly, if a bit fond of the double negative and other scholastic nonsense that would not pass in a modern classroom.

Which to read first is ultimately a personal decision, and obviously if I felt I had enough prose discussion under my belt, I would go for poetry. When my distant friend asked a prominent pagan friend of hers if she would take me under her wing and help guide me toward good kindred, she mentioned I was a poet. Her prominent friend said, she reported to me, ‘good. We need more of those.’ And so the poetic Eddas. When I tire of the Eddas themselves, I will study Holland’s introduction further, to learn the terms and forms of the various Eddiac and skaldic styles. It is simply a matter of following my nature, as is my attraction to the religion of my ancient Germanic ancestors.

Hear thou, Loddfáfnir,            and heed it well,
            learn it, ’twill lend the strength,
            follow it, ’twill further thee.
— The Sayings of Har

As go the runes in the “Sayings,” so for me goes poetry.