Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Truth About Mankind

Revealed religions tell us that humans are dangerously flawed. The concept of "sin" is the double-edged sword of Christianity particularly, for while "sin", or "missing the mark" and falling short of the standard of holiness and righteousness set by "God" is a belief held in common by the monotheistic religions of the modern West, Islam and Judaism at least allow human beings to overcome this "sin" by living according to the words of their respective laws, whether from the Koran or the Torah.

In Christianity, however, no human being is believed to be "good enough", nor can they become "good enough" through their own efforts- only their God's forgiving and sanctifying grace which is made possible through the sacrifice of the "christ" can spare a person from sin.

In other words, until a human being falls onto their knees, accepts that they are irreparably flawed, and begs for mercy and for the "christ" to come into their lives and take control, to spiritually fix things as it were, a person is nothing short of doomed. Without "christ", these people reckon, no person can be noble enough, brave enough, kind enough, or good enough to earn the grace of "god" and the final home of Heaven, no matter what they do.

This is the central tenet of the Kristjan madness. With some variations, it is found all over the Christian world. Any person with their wits about them can see the foolish nonsense for what it is- a means of using fear and falsehood to scare or force people into a religion. These Christians actually deny others the possibility of being truly noble and good unless those people agree with them about "christ" and accept "christ", along with all the other things that come along with "accepting christ", which includes rejecting the worldview of our ancestors, turning your back on the Gods of your people, turning your back on the animistic truth of the world, and most importantly, turning your back on the truth about mankind.

I will tell you what I think the truth about mankind is, and don't be fooled by my words: when I say "mankind", I mean it in the original sense of the word- "mankind" doesn't just refer to males; it refers to all men and women everywhere.

I am a religious man, and I have a religious duty to offer guidance to people who seek it out. In the modern day, this duty extends to being open and public about what I believe, and what my co-religionists believe. Of course, we don't feel the need to go door-to-door on Saturday morning spreading the words of the Gods; a real shame, too, because hammers make fine door-knockers.

But the evangelical home-invasion ministry tactics are simply not part of our way; the Gods call whom they will; Fate gathers those fated to our kindreds and circles, without fail or error. I have no worry on this point.

As a religious man, it is my Wyrd to make it known what I and those like me think about important issues. Even though modern day social issues like abortion, same sex marriage, drugs, and all the like tend to take up most of our media-time and dominate most of our conversations, there are deeper issues that you don't hear covered much anymore.

And it's odd that we don't. The issue of mankind is one of the most important issues we can discuss, and yet, it seldom ever is. Who and what are we, exactly? What does it mean to be "man" or "woman"? Are we simply unstable, rotting mortal flesh accidentally arisen on a backwater planet in some randomly spinning galaxy, as the atheists say? Are we the beloved creations of some God, suffering from the burden of sin, as Christians say? Are we karmically arisen piles of skandhas, stuck deep in delusion about ourselves and about all the things we fool ourselves into thinking are important, as Buddhists say?

Are we accidental? Just flesh? Parts of a great plan? Divine? Children of God? Children of Gods? Are we manifestations of something deeper? Are we parts of a "great mystery"?

I will say what I think.

My ancestors believed that mankind was no accident. In the web of Fate, Mankind had to arise, had to come to be. Odin, the Allfather, didn't create mankind on a lark, randomly, out of some boredom. He did what Fate required of him; He was and is a part of the world coming to be as it must. His great strength is the vehicle of Fate; he shapes and lays the bonds of Fate, for in his Wisdom, he knows what must be done.

As the Eddas tell us, He drew forth genetic material (in the form of two rotting trees) from the primordial earth and ocean- (this earth and ocean being the primal "mother", Nerthus, that was the source of that material) and Odin shaped them into the first men and women. He gave them Godly gifts of beauty and hue, of speech and vitality, and he breathed the deathless spirit on them, making them his kin and the kin of all his Godly family.

You can look at this myth in many ways; I don't feel the need to over-analyze it. Some see a "metaphorical" story of evolution: from the primordial sludge comes forth the seed and material of life that is "shaped" (read: evolves) over time into men and women, and somewhere in or about this mysterious process is Odin, guiding it in his wisdom, implanting the seed of his mystery in the products.

That's not a bad way of seeing it. That way certainly resolves a few of the current scientific myths with our ancestor's primal myths. Personally, I believe that what really happened is less important than what is happening right this moment. We know what our ancestors believed about our origins; we know what modern scientists say; but without a good, sane way of living now, none of that will help us.

My ancestors- or should I say, our ancestors- believed that Mankind was part of the web of life, and Mankind had to arise; Mankind is part of the Fate of this world, of this cosmos, every bit as much as the Gods are, or trees are, or the earth and sky. If you look at the Elder Rune-row, which reveals the 24 essential mysteries of Reality, you will find that MANNAZ or "Man" is one of them.

Mankind is no accident. We are a strand in the Fate of the world. We are a necessary expression of reality; we belong here and had to "become" what we are every bit as much as the Gods did. When one studies the Rune-Row, one sees a most powerful story, told in the careful ordering of the 24 Runes. That story is the story of the creation of the cosmos, the rise of the Gods, the rise of man, and the eventual end of the world, and its regeneration. We have some hints from history about what our ancestors believed regarding each Rune; the Runes were more than just letters. Each one was a symbol, a manifestation in symbol form, of a deep cosmic mystery.

It is said that Odin won the Runes, the Mysteries, from the deep places of Hel, when he died and came back to life, to teach this wisdom to mankind. Odin won the Runes, the mysteries that are concealed in the Beyond, and transmitted them to Mankind in the form of symbols and lore. The Runes are the "seeds" from which the World-Tree grows; the World-Tree means "everything". It represents the Cosmos itself.

As surprising as it man seem, one of those Mysteries is known by us as "Man" or "Mankind". This places human beings in a very lofty-seeming position in the world, and in the cosmos. The implications of this Rune also go beyond our world ("world" here referring to our planet): The cosmic principle of "Man" is part of this universe. Could there be humans in other places, or on distant planets? I certainly believe it is possible. But from the perspective of my spiritual life, Fate has given me one planet to deal with, and it's more than large enough.

Now, let me make those statements about Mankind that I've been promising. I've established that "Mankind" isn't something you can easily isolate and describe, as much as something that is an intrinsic fact about the way reality unfolds and appears. Mankind is a Fated part of the world.

Now I will go further; I will say that Mankind contains within itself a powerful, holy gift. This gift is the Spirit of the Gods. It is the world-animating Spirit, and it is the mystery that unites us to the Gods. It is why we are not mere lumps of wood or algae. This gift is the most kingly gift that we could ever have received, and that gift is part of what makes us "Man".

This gift endows us with not only great and boundless creativity, but with a dignity that cannot be stripped from us. This gift "demands a gift" from us in return, so as pledge our faith and Troth to the Gods in return, and this gift gives us the right to do so; the Gods are our kin; we belong to their Holy Kindred. This gift gives us the impulse to religion and the right to practice it.

I also say that this gift has endowed each and every man and woman with the power to come to Illumination- to do as the Allfather did, and discover the Truth about this Reality that we are parts of. A person who does this becomes truly wise, like the Allfather, and they go beyond the beginning and the end of this world. They go beyond life and death, in the hallowed "Odinic Paradox". Every human being has the capacity and the possibility of finding their way to this great insight and experience. The human person has the intrinsic capability to awaken to great wisdom and to unfold into the divine daylight of the spirit. This reason alone is enough to preserve our lives so long as we can, above and beyond the dignity that is our birthright.

I furthermore say that man and woman, and indeed, all human beings, were meant to live in harmony with each other, and that we are capable of doing so. Humans are not unavoidably stupid and warlike, despite the fact that they often do stupid things and destroy each other's lives. I think that we can and should get along, in the great and true peace and balance that we call "frith". I say that we are created for one another, that something deep inside us feels joy at our relationships and unions.

Lastly, I think that the human body and mind is not frail, weak, or flawed simply because it is prone to disease, deformity, and death. I believe it to be a powerful, vital, and strong vehicle at its very core, a divinely crafted and influenced thing, capable of great courage.

My view of Mankind stands in sharp contrast to the view given to us by revealed religions. But this isn't just my view; it was the view of my ancestors before me. It's the view I believe in, and which I will die believing in. It would be better, I think, to believe this about mankind and run the risk of being wrong, than to be a cynic and a pessimist about mankind while running that same risk.

Is there a risk that I am wrong? I don't think so; I don't think so because I don't buy into the human-hating, self-defeating cow dung that Christianity smeared all over the map of Europe, and every other place they spread. But enough people today have been battered since birth by very pessimistic ideas regarding mankind to make people wonder: what if Ule's right? What if he's wrong? What if I'm right? What if I'm wrong?

I discussed these doubts before, in a previous post. A day comes when you realize that you can't second-guess yourself forever. If you trust your ancestors, and trust the rather obvious truth that wisdom didn't begin with Christianity, then you can rest at ease.

But my statements about mankind are still strong. On what do I rest my statements? I could quote the ancestral lore that we have surviving, but I want to take a different route. I'm going to show you a Rune, and then, I'm going to show you a deeper look at it.

This is the Mannaz Rune, the Rune that symbolizes Mankind:

Not many people have been able to suggest precisely what this Rune-shape is symbolizing in abstract form. Thorsson suggests that it is a glyph showing the marriage between heaven and earth- but I have another idea which you may find interesting.

We know that the Lore tells us that Odin, the Allfather, bestowed the gift of his spirit upon two trees, two trees that he shaped into the first man and woman, Ask and Embla.

Here are two lines representing two trees, or Ask and Embla, the first Man and Woman:

And here is the Rune that represents the concept of "gift-bonding" and gift-giving, up to and including the Gift of Spirit that Odin gave to mankind:

If you put the two together, you get:

I find this to be a fascinating "co-incidence". There is the gift of the Gods, implanted in the center of the Mannaz-Rune, just as it is deep within all of us, and just as it was placed into the first human beings. But as you scry into the Rune of Man, and look deeper in, more Mysteries come to the surface.

You may recall that I said each Human had the potential to awaken to the light of Illumination. The Rune that represents the "day" of Illumination, the "Light" of the Godly "Ruler" (Odin) is called DAGAZ, which means "day". And its form is this:

If you look at the Mannaz Rune, you can see that this hidden potential of Illumination, this hidden light which bursts forth like day, is also implanted, bound into the shape of Mannaz.

I mentioned also that Mankind had the power and the capability to live in harmony, in frith. I meant it, and the Mannaz Rune also reveals it. If you divide Mannaz right down the middle, it yields two WUNJO Runes, and Wunjo represents peace and joy- true harmony, free from pains and sorrows and want.

And see how these two Wunjo Runes look at one another- see how Ask and Embla, Man and Woman, look at one another, both in balance, neither less important than the other, together making the true creature that is Man. Peace is a possibility between us because with the Spirit of the Gods in us, anything is possible. Mankind- both men and women, but humans in general- were meant for one another, and there is joy in our meetings, joy in our unions. This Joy is an essential part of our human experience.

The last thing I said about Mankind was that our earthly vehicle was a good one, a healthy, sturdy one, or at least that it had the power to be, and that it was meant by Fate to be. I think that the success mankind has had surviving in this world shows my point well enough. But this goes further. We are courageous and strong, at our core. Mankind is endowed with the great strength and virility of the old Auroch, the ancient Ox and if you pull away a few lines from the Mannaz Rune, you reveal the Rune-Mystery of URUZ, the courageous, strong Ox:

We are designed to last and to be brave. The Runes show it. The MANNAZ Rune, the Rune of Man, contains the shapes of these Other Runes- and I could, in fact, keep going. But that is enough for today. Be joyful that Fate has woven you into a Man or a Woman. It's a good thing to be, no matter what the half-wise may say.

We are meant to be here; we are not random accidents, but parts of Fate. You are right where you belong; things are just as they should be. We call this the "fitness of things". There is no sin for being what you are; there was no cosmic mistake made, nor any great cosmic disobedience on the part of our ancestors that led mankind to be "sinful" and to suffer. All is just as it should be and there's nothing wrong with being a Man or a Woman at all. It's a very noble estate, when you look at all that we can accomplish, all the bravery we can show, and all the love we can feel.

The Gods want nothing less of us than nobility and bravery, and we are capable of living up to their Godly standards. It is a challenge, but their spirit in us makes it more than possible, and besides, without the challenge, we might consider life to be a bit boring or not worthwhile. We have a path before us, and it is our duty and our privilege to walk it.

A "good" person walks it with trust in the Way of Things, and in the friendship of the Gods, and they do what is right by their fellow man and the duties of religion. They respect the dignity that comes along with life and they make the world a better, safer place for their families and kin, anytime they have the chance. They seek for wisdom most of all, and again- never forget- these things are well within our grasp.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Oak, the Acorn, and the Death of Death

Death eventually comes for us all. For some, Fate will call us away in violence or sickness. For others, a peaceful passing in the twin depths of sleep and old age. Once, I thought that religious beliefs would be the main comfort for human beings that had to face death, but now, so many years later, I realize that it takes more than just religion. Humans are, in some ways, a bit too demanding, a bit too clever for their own good, as the Allfather in Havamal warns us.
One of the curses of being over-clever is that we have much room for doubt. I believe that doubt has a place- a wise person cannot just believe everything they hear. But doubt is something that has to be utilized properly, or it becomes a great burden; it becomes the slayer of wisdom. There are things about our humanity and our reality that I don't think it is good to doubt; the sacredness of life is one example.

I always doubt the claims of modern religious leaders and politicians, for instance, and I think any intelligent person should. But I don't doubt things that I feel deeply about myself or the love I feel, because I don't think that we should live a life of second-guessing ourselves. I don't think any happiness or peace can be found in that sort of life.

Self-appraisal and re-appraisal of the contents of your opinions from time to time is a fine exercise, and indeed, I consider it to be the work of the essential human being. But re-appraisal of things inside you is not the same thing as doubting yourself or what you believe. The world grows; it changes; Wyrd is dynamic. Life is dynamic, forever changing. That our opinions and attitudes will change in response to that is only common sense. But what can we depend on in a world of changing and shifting Wyrd?

I believe that we can depend on the mysterious reality that is discovered when we discard the word-hoard and go beyond words and categories, to see what is real. I make it a point to keep this sort of exercise up as often as I can. We can depend on what we see, so long as we empty what we see of all our ideas and expectations of it, and let it be what it is. We can depend on the great power of Wyrd which brings all things into being, because the great, sorcerous, limitless, undying and open space in which Wyrd expresses itself IS our deepest reality, and it is not born, and it does not die.

The love we feel, the lives we lead- we can see what we need to see in those things, if we know how to look, because even the everyday life is a sorcerous event, a mystical thing. Learning to see life as a sacred manifestation of Wyrd or Fate is the first step towards finding what we can rely upon in this world. Not second-guessing your own sacred internal visions is another step which I consider important.

Yet, for all that, most of us claim to believe in things, in Gods, in myths, in ideas, but we allow our own doubts and uncertainties- which are sometimes well hidden- to remove much of the power of those things from us. Everyone wonders if they really will see the road to Hel when they die, or see the Allfather, or come back to the Ancestors in Hel's halls or in Folkvang. Everyone who believes in some religion wonders if heavens and hells await, if reincarnation awaits, if the Blessed Isles await, or what have you.

A very small percentage of these people have experienced the reality of these things, and have no doubts. But most people, despite their true activity of belief, do have doubts. And as I said before, doubts in this area of our lives may not be the best thing for us. It may be an example of humans applying doubt and skepticism where it need not be applied.

If we believe in the worldview of Wyrd, then what happens after our death isn't hard to divine: the sort of life you lead now, the passions you feel, the Gods, people and things you love all have direct impact on what comes "next" for you. Death isn't so much a vast interruption of life as much as a transition into a new condition in which many of the same fateful, subtle constituents that create this life-experience still exist. The consciousness certainly still exists after death.

Our mindstreams, our conscious mindstreams (and how they understand our experiences) are what actually create the emotional and perceptual character of our experiences. Change how you understand the world and your emotional experience of it will also change; Fair is foul to some, and foul fair to others. Perception is very much the key.

Some people wonder what leads me to believe that our consciousness or our conscious mindstreams still "exist" after our deaths, to be able to have further experiences. I have several answers to this question, but today, I will be writing to those who want a non-religious answer, an answer not based on myths or stories or trust in the wisdom of the ancestors.

I began this post by talking about how death was the Fate that eventually faced us all. Despite what we may believe religiously about death, doubt infects the minds of most people in our desacralized modern day, so the issue of death is difficult for us all. It is never more difficult than when we have to face the potential loss of close loved ones.

A few days ago, my friend Turanona's grandmother died. We had seen this coming for many months, but it is still hard, coming as it does on the heels of my friend Jason taking his own life. This is a season of death for me, as it is for many, and the fact that the Mother's nights and the twelve Wolf-nights should be the time that began these miseries is only folklorically poetic. This is hard winter, and winter is a time of death. Death, as a reality, has forced itself before my face in a way that it usually doesn't.

All people, if they would be wise, have to look to these events and see the lesson Fate is trying to teach us: death is inevitable. We have to carefully consider, everyday, how we are preparing for our own ends, and how we live, and what we think is important in life. Death is a lesson, not just an experience we will have one day; it's a lifelong teacher. Considering our deaths need not be a morbid thing; I find that it is very life-improving, life-affirming.

A friend of mine from Scandinavia has a mother who is going through a difficult time, and though I am working for her, she has an illness that could be life-threatening. That same friend asked if there was anything she could tell her mother to help her through this difficult time. I think that anyone who has a relative or friend who may be near death or dying should concentrate less on what to tell them, and more on opening themselves up to them and seeing what they want to say.

I think this is very important. Talk to them about the idea that they could possibly take a turn closer to death, or even die. See what they think about that, what they believe about that, and how it makes her feel. Try to discover what their hopes and fears are.

I think people who are in dangerous times want to be listened to,and supported in that way, every bit as much as they may want to be re-assured on other levels. It's re-assuring to have our loved ones around us at times like that, just listening, I think.

As far as what you can tell them, well, I don't know. Without getting too metaphysical or religious with them (as I am wont to do) you can bring up the point that life is a HUGE thing- human life, the life of this world, the life of this universe. It's massive. All of us, all human beings, as well as all other living things, are in the hands of a greater reality, no matter how you want to look at it.

Our lives are in the hands of greater forces; life is just bigger than us. We don't choose our births, our beginnings or our ends. We don't choose sickness or health. We also don't choose who we love. Try to make sure that your loved ones aren't seeing their sickness as some punishment from "on high", or something that they chose; they don't make life; life makes them. Life makes all of us. All we have to do is make the very best of the time that has been given to us.

Now, if your friend is afraid that death will be the end of them, some oblivion for their conscious mind or "self", you have a way to soothe their fears on that. You must apply the somewhat mystical (yet clear) logic of the oak tree and the acorn.

Examine the world; oak trees don't grow from rocks. Fires don't come from water. Winds don't spontaneously emerge from mountains.

In our world, all effects are of the same nature as their causes. Do you understand? A small flame lights a fireplace; the big fire inside (the effect) is the of the same nature as its cause (the small flame).

Oak trees grow from acorns, and acorns are packets of oak tree genetic material. Inside an acorn is the nature of a forest of oaks- and so big oaks (The effects) can grow from acorns being buried in the ground (the causes).

This is an immutable law of reality. And we can examine our human existence from this angle, as well. Consciousness cannot arise from something that is not also consciousness. In the same way that an oak tree comes from a previous oak tree, consciousness comes from a previous moment or event of consciousness. Do
you understand?

In much the same way a fire comes from a previous flame, and cannot come from a stone or a pool of water, our consciousness cannot come from just matter- the brain is not the cause of consciousness. The brain, the matter of the human body, cannot give rise to the continuum of consciousness. Blood cannot give rise to consciousness; bone cannot; marrow cannot; flesh cannot; teeth cannot; brains and hearts cannot. Consciousness arises from previous moments of consciousness within its own continuum; it arises from previous moments of consciousness in its own unique Wyrd-thread, which is always spinning.

Thus, neither your birth nor your development in the womb "caused" your first moments of consciousness; your body during life is not "generating" your consciousness; your death does not end your consciousness.

The body belongs to its own continuum, its own thread of Wyrd; consciousness belongs to another. These two continuums (body and mindstream) merge and become entangled during conception, and they interact during life, with the brain acting as a cooperative condition for the mindstream to help it create the experience of a human life.

If you understand what I have said, then your fear of death should be lessened. Our mindstreams are bound to these bodies by the forces of reality; we might as well call it Fate. Those same mindstreams are un-bound by the same forces of Fate at death. The mindstream, the consciousness, can no more begin with the body than flame can suddenly burst out of water, or an oak tree can suddenly come from a piece of marble. It requires other mind or consciousness to give rise to it. And such a fact immediately destroys the boundaries of life and death as we have been narrowly taught to see them.

The mindstream is a very subtle phenomenon, and it has no real beginning or end, just as the deep void of Ginnungagap has no beginning or end, and just as the great web of Wyrd has no beginning or end. When the mindstream interacts with the body, it experiences a more coarse sort of consciousness. At death, it falls away from that, back into its subtle, free state.

Who we loved and who loved us back means everything in that subtle state, because we are still "there", and still very much alive, even after what we call "death". And in that subtle state, this reality, ever larger than us, moves us on to the next
destination in this mysterious journey. Love never changes, however; it makes bonds that cannot be broken.

Do not give yourself over to doubt about who you love, or your capacity to love. Do not doubt that your mindstream will persist past your death; it will. You will lose so much energy that you need for living by doubting such things. Release yourself from those doubts and concentrate on the life you have now. The wisdom of our ancestors and the Gods will be there for you when you need it most- and their wisdom is about living more than it is dying. This should tell you something: they knew something that we have lost sight of. They knew that death wasn't the end that so many of us fear today.

What we should fear is doubt and despair. In some ways, doubt and despair are the real deaths; look at the lesson of the oak and the acorn, banish doubt, and let the dead tree come to life.

The Blacksmith of the Soul

A person on the path of the Native European Shamanic mysteries can never write enough about the sublime art of the blacksmith. To be a "tamer of fire and the elements" is not just to partake in a craft and technology that has changed the very shape and destiny of entire ages of man; it is a deeply spiritual art, to its ancient core.

The powerful work of drawing forth ores and metals, and putting them to the heat of the crucible, of pouring their molten elemental essence into molds, of hammering them in showers of sparks, and of thrusting them with the hiss of the mighty serpent into the bosom of the waters- we are dealing with a sorcery which comes from the oldest of times and places. We are seeing an image of the raw material of Man, drawn from the bosom of primal nature by the Allfather, and shaped by his creativity into the beauty and power of humankind. The creativity of the blacksmith is a direct sign of the gift of the Allfather in man. It is our capacity for creativity, in many ways, that links us to the Gods directly.

Enough cannot be said about the relationship of the shaman or the mystic to the blacksmith. In more than one tradition of modern Witchcraft, the "Coal Black Smith" figure is a great teacher, even the very image of the highest power. Esoteric traditions from all over the west give the Divine Smith a place in every pantheon, and even the biblical and Masonic traditions accord a special place to Tubal Cain, the first Blacksmith.

It is said that "Shamans and Smiths come from the same cradle". This is not hard to see- to tend the sacred flame of altar and sacrifice was the central role of all ancient European priesthoods, who were themselves guardians of an ancient shamanic line of mystics leading up to the time of formal priesthoods.

In ancient Indo-European Vedic religion, the Brahman priests prayed to Agni, the fire God, first and foremost, as his flame represented the living presence of all the Gods, and it received and consumed sacrificial offerings. Flamens were the priests of ancient Rome, and they too, presided over sacrifices on behalf of the people. The Vestal Virgins of Rome were especially charged with tending the sacred flame at the heart of Rome, a task that had to be done properly and purely, with the Fate of the entire Empire resting on the correct performance of their duties.

The Druidic priestesshood of Brigid in Kildare, Ireland, likewise tended a sacred flame; everywhere in ancient Europe does this motif re-occur. I have recently been turned on to the notion, captured so lovingly by Viktor Rydberg, that Heimdall, the God who guarded the Bifrost and who was the master of the Gjallarhorn, was likely a cognate to the Vedic Agni.

The reason why this is important is because while the old ways of Heathenry treat us to the most radiant and beautiful of Fire Goddesses imaginable- Freya- we must look harder to see true "fire Gods". Loki's connection with uncontrolled flames or disaster-fires is debated; but we cannot deny Freya's connection with flame, nor even old red bearded Thor's, for his lightning spreads purifying fire on the earth, and he was a special patron (so I am told) of Blacksmiths and other humans who used a hammer.

But Heimdall was said to be born of nine or ten maidens- thought by some to be daughters of Aegir, a powerful God of the sea. His daughters could be seen (on one level) as white and beautiful-topped waves on the sea; could a fire God arise from nine or ten waves of the sea? Certainly; in Vedic belief, the fire God Agni did arise from the water, though he is a God. One wouldn't see a regular fire simply arise from water. Heimdall was also called "Gullintanni", which means "gold-toothed"- which is (in my mind) possibly a kenning for "flames". His horse was called "Gold Top" and rams often end up being associated with Heimdall.

Who does Heimdall fight with at the Ragnarok? He faces off with Loki himself- if Loki is (as some believe) the God of the uncontrolled fire that destroys wantonly and wastefully, (or perhaps the unwise human mind that does the same) Heimdall is the controlled fire of the hearth, sacrifice, and the forge that is an agent of creation and craft. Surely they must be foes, to the bitter end!

Rydberg pointed out that the mysterious ten maidens that were the mothers of Heimdall could also have referred to the ten fingers that all human beings have- the ten fingers that work the bore-stick that produces fire. And what does "Heimdall" mean? "World-light", or "World-bright" or "World-radiance"- all fine names for the bright fire that forever lights the world from every hearth and from countless other sources.

We are children of fire; we are all kin to Heimdall, as Voluspa states without hesitation in the first stanzas. I do not believe that the God Rig who sired the three classes of mankind was Heimdall, as it is so often believed. I think that the beginning of Voluspa is only calling human beings kin of Heimdall because as long as we live, the fire of life burns in us. The very same fire that burns in a candle-holder before you, or in a bonfire in front of you, is burning inside your flesh, in the warmth of your body and blood. On the cellular level, fiery, energetic metabolism is consuming the food you ate, and generating much heat.

Freya's Brisingamen gem is a symbol, I believe, of the fire in every human and in every living thing, but in a greater, more mysterious sense; the Brisingamen was won from the four dwarves who are masters of the four cardinal directions of the world. The fiery gem and its golden chain is the golden circle of fire that represents the perfect, living circle of existence itself, of which we are all a part. It is the circle of life; the circle of the seasons and the sun and the moon, and the fiery spirit that unites them all. In this we begin to approach one of the deep mysteries of Seid, but that is another tale for another night.

But Freya's gem represents the awakening of the human spirit, the highest craft of the spiritual Smith. In Freya's bright form, we see the warmest, deepest, and most mystical image of the human soul and its deathless fire, of which our body heat is only the most surface-level manifestation.

This mighty Goddess is to be felt in the heat of our bodies just as Heimdall is, and this answers yet another mystery about Heimdall- why do some passages suggest that he is of the Vanir? Because I believe he is, and the connection is in the fire. I see an image of the human soul in its divine form when I look at the Vana-Dis, Freya; she represents ALL of the Disir, all of the divine female spirits that act as the immortal patronesses of human beings. She represents, in one form, the concept of the "Dis". She is the Frowe, the Frau, the spirit-bride of every mortal soul.

Where Odin or Woden breathed the spirit-breath of awakened mind into human beings, that breath is only part of what makes us human; it is the flame burning in us, the sacred fire, that also makes us human in the best sense of the word. And just as Odin entered into a sexual and initiation-based relationship with Freya, to learn the secrets of Seid, so must the wind of mind and spirit and the fire of intuition work in unison if we would be wise.

So I seek my spirit-woman, the Fylgja-Dis who follows me through my life and death, and I look to her to be my teacher. But she is more than that; as my guide into Hel, into the Underworld, she takes me into the mysteries of Fire, like her mistress Freya. She takes me, like all of the dead of this world, into the Underworld, where the great forges and fires below await. There, with ringing hammers, are the dwarven smiths of the Underworld.

Who are the smiths of our souls? Certainly the Fylgja can take any form it wants; but the fire-master Dwarves of the deep world offer their services, for they are truly the world-shapers in their own rights. And we must look at the soul, at our human bodies, minds, and souls, and consider what the ancient symbols of the Smith represent for us.

All magical and sorcerous arts make demands of us, even if we don't understand them, or if we want to avoid them. That's why so many people are uneasy with them, I think. You can try to deny the sacred dimension inherent in the art of the Smith but you can never escape it. You can deny the sorcerous reality that all human beings and all other beings are an inseparable part of, but you can never escape it. The more people try to see things just as "mundane", the further they are going into denial, and the further they are getting from the wisdom which can alone spare then the terrors of the giantish powers, the fearful tests of Hel, and the pains of this world.

A Blacksmith doesn't just beat hot metal with hammers. He is not just forging iron and metal. He is manifesting an act of sorcery, an act of shaping. And there are deep powers in what you call "yourself" that will hearken to every single ringing resound from the forges of this world and from the forges below. Why? Because human life is a matter of transformation and transmutation.

From the moment you are born, the raw material of your mind and body are dumped into the crucible of this world. And more than anything, this world is burning- a fire lives at the heart of every living thing, and even inside your own heart. In the heat of passion, new life is made, and everywhere are fights, wars, heartbreak, joy, violence, and death, all driven by the fire of life, the fire of lust, the fire of human emotions.

The danger of bright and beautiful Freya is seen here in her dark guise as Gullveig- the "Gold greedy"- 'gold' here meaning not just actual gold, and the lust and greed that causes so much suffering, but also the golden light and color of bright fire. Fire can consume and destroy as fast as it can help to create and shape and nurture; money can feed us and buy us shelter and medicine, but greed for it can (and does) destroy families, friendships, lives, and nations, on a daily basis.

The fire of life will reduce you, eventually, to molten slop. Into what mold will you be poured? What shaped and final product will your will and your deeds and your wisdom be worth, when the forge of life is done with you, and your spirit has aided you all it could?

So here we sit, feeling the pain of life, as we must- for we are exposed to the heat of the life-fires. Sometimes, a fire is a great source of joy and warmth. Life is like that, too, at times. Sometimes it burns and stings and destroys. Life is also like that. Either way, if you sit long enough in the crucible, you are reduced to your basic elemental components, and they flow out, into the hands of the Smith, who can shape them at his will.

Who is the Blacksmith of the soul? One day, you will meet this enigmatic being, whether it be in the deep Underworld, or in your own dreams and visions. You need to realize that the spiritual power that follows each and every human being is the shaper of that person's destiny, and for the sake of wisdom, we must see life's torments and trials as nothing more or less than a great craft that will shape us towards our own destinies, far beyond the boundaries of Middle-Earth.

Of course, there are two ways of approaching this reality which you cannot escape- with full consciousness, or in denial. In consciousness of what is happening to you, you are free to communicate with the spiritual powers that guide it- your Fylgja, the mighty smiths of the Svartalfar or the Dark Alfs or the Dwarves, who are not only real, existing powers, but transforming processes forever at work in your own deep mind. Undergoing life's ordeals with consciousness allows us a chance at freedom that comes very rarely. Being ignorant of what is happening to you only assures that you will miss the fiery glory that is your true birthright.

So make it a point this evening to realize that your life is a crucible for your body, mind, and soul. See all of the stress in your life, the troubles and tests, as the heat of the great fire that is the glory of this world, and the seat of life. Realize finally that you must reach out to the sorcerous powers that guide the destinies of mortal men and women, and appeal to them, ask them to hammer you, forge you, strengthen you, make you strong and wise in their great transformative power. Pray to the Gods and Goddesses of Fire, and make sacrifices for them; they are with us in every warm, burning moment of our lives.

This is the fire-prayer of a Sorcerer, but as I said, and as I always say, there is no human life out there that is not a manifestation of sorcerous powers. You may not consider the path of the Sorcerer to be your path through life, but that doesn't change the fact that you, like everyone else, is a product, a child of great and mystical powers that most of us sadly no longer recognize as such. Being a product of sorcerous powers and Wyrd, you have them as your birthright. They are yours to use, to understand, to communicate with, to enjoy, but only if you open yourself to them in the radical way that they demand. Wisdom demands no less. The path of "opening" begins in your basic belief in these realities, and in your relationship with the Gods and Goddesses- mentioned earlier- who are the guardians of these things.