Saturday, January 27, 2007

Seid, Vision-Asking, and the Bone Grove

Seid-working is a vocation. A person is admitted to this vocation through Wyrd, through Fate. Some say that if a person feels as though they should be performing a shamanic role in a modern-day community, this itself is a sign that the Wyrd of the shamanic vocation is there. I'm not so certain. For me, such things are a sign of the power of Seid and Shamanic workings; they bewitch the human mind with fascination.

I think that some people are simply curious, or enthralled with the powerful aesthetic of the Seid-worker or Shaman's task. These sorts of fascinations are also Wyrd, but not evidence of the true calling to the work. The true calling is known on a deeper level, by a sort of obsession that overrides the rhythm of everyday life. Some would say that it overrides everyday "common" sense. The Seid-man or Seidkona has little choice but to remain fascinated with all aspects of the shamanic art- myths and stories about shamanic experience, occult practice of spirit-contact, and trance work and the tools of the shaman's trade. But this is only the beginning. An inner awakening is required before the Wyrd of the Seid-worker or the Sorcerer becomes fully capable of living out the life that the Fate-weavers have woven for them.

Some people are thrown by Wyrd into situations and experiences that awaken their inner senses, whether they want them to be awakened or not. The situations and experiences I am talking about can be physical or mental traumas, traumatic or extreme life-changes, or the "lightning" that strikes at midnight: the spiritual insight, sent from Wyrd and the Otherworld, that re-defines how a person thinks about everything, and prevents them from going back to their old way of seeing the world.

Must the Seid-worker or Shaman experience something of this nature? The answer is yes- and more often than not, it isn't nice. But the timeless pattern of Shamanic initiation requires the candidate to undergo a "death" of types- from Odin's death on the Tree, up to the wild visionary and mind-transforming experiences of Taliesin, and his death in the maw of the great Initiatrix in the Underworld.

I'm not discussing "guided visualizations" in which a person "visualizes" themselves being killed or dismembered. I'm talking about something far more intense and immediate. At some point in most people's lives, they encounter a situation that they cannot escape from, a terrible situation that allows for no escape-scenario that seems bearable. This situation of dark Wyrd forces them to conform to it, not the other way around. This situation won't let them leave unless they sacrifice something they desperately do not want to sacrifice.

Fear and terror are normal parts of this experience. It can come in the form of facing the death of a friend or a dearest loved one, or in the form of facing one's own death, such as a sickness or condition that has a chance at being fatal before it gets better- if it ever gets better. We can be dealing with the white-hot terror that dawns on the minds of people who have their entire belief system torn away from them through the uncovering of evidence that what they have dearly believed is a lie.

The forms of the Initiation-Wyrd are countless. But they end in the same place- the person emerges and re-integrates themselves into this world, seeing it in a completely different manner. The more of these initiations that come, the more powerful- or perhaps crazy- a person will become. Some cannot deal with any sort of such experience, and they will succumb to death or psychosis. Others take longer. Some even survive many such experiences to achieve great power. But even those who survive don't fully recover to who or what they were before; and few are as happy as they were before, for dealing with shamanic reality- reality naked and unchained- is disturbing. It is natural and needful, but always disturbing for the mind that must be molded by Wyrd into an instrument capable of interacting with Spirits.

One must be cautious- not all people who have survived initiation experiences come out healthy on the other end. The Shaman, the Seid-worker, is not a victim of spirits. If a person claims to be constantly "possessed" by spirits or unable to control or influence the frequency of spiritual contact or shamanic-type work, that person is a victim of spiritual forces, not a worker with them.

Spontaneous spiritual experiences and spontaneous spiritual work is a normal part of Seid-craft and shamanism. I don't mean to say that shamans who fall into spontaneous trances or have visions in that manner are not good at what they do- but Seid, like Shamanism in any form- is a skill. It comes from an open mind, from spiritual senses inside that have been opened by Wyrd-initiation or by the hands of other spirits, but the techniques of utilizing those deeper senses, and the work of Seid, is a skill which must be developed after the awakening.

If not, the person will not be able to function as part of a kindred or a family or a society. In ancient times, Shamans were not merely maniacs wandering in the woods- they were people who worked on behalf of communities. They may have had times where they went crazy and wandered the woods, but this was a technique of ecstacy, an intentional submerging into the world of spirits and madness, which had a point and an end. The Shaman must return to ordinary consciousness, to the world of human beings, and mediate what they experienced, and what power they found, to others or to this world. The shamanic worker is not simply crazy; they are in possession of an ability to use madness, seeming insanity, and loss of self into another world, for the purposes of uncovering truth, healing, seeking advice and wisdom, and other needful ends.

Spirit-possession can be a part of this, but it too, is a skill, a sort of "abandonment of self" that shamans submit to with a purpose. They may not know where it will end or where it will go, but no shaman worth his salt is "taken" without warning, with the exception of when he or she is being initiated by spirits. Otherwise, if a shamanic worker is often victim to being "taken" by spirits and wights, without control or purpose, they would cease to be a use to anyone, and likely a danger to themselves. It is also doubtful that their minds could survive the constant radical shifts and "thefts" they'd have to endure.

Seid-workers or shamanically sensitive people who deal with spirits on a daily basis must always remember that the wights and spirits of this world are not the lords of this world; the Gods are. Shamanic workers that refuse to deal with the powers of Troth and religion, who refuse the Gods, are likely dominated and corrupted by the minor ghosts and wights and spirits of this world. Simple ability to talk to spirits doesn't make a person worth keeping around- spirits can have many agendas and be dangerous, and they can dominate people and make those people dangerous. I have, sadly, seen this with my own eyes.

To be a Seid-worker, or a shamanic worker, is not to be dead. It's also not a matter of being "alive" in the usual sense. The Seid-worker breathes and eats like most people do- but they are also "alive" in another way, a way that allows them to vividly experience the world of the dead and the world of spirits. Contact with such powers renders the Seid-worker familiar with some very deep and sometimes dangerous forces, and it transforms their personal power. The Seid-worker has not "given up" their power completely; they have transformed it, or should I say, it has been transformed by Wyrd. What Wyrd has transformed it into is a thing that is as familiar with the darkness of Hel as it is with the sun-lit spaces of this world. The more a Seid-worker experiences the otherworld, the more they begin to feel and seem "detatched" from this one. They may feel or even seem dead, but they are not- they are "transformed in the otherness".

By being capable of existing and operating in the worlds of humans and of spirits, the Seid-worker, in common with all shamanic trance-workers, really belongs to neither world. This is the original source of the legends of the "un-dead", the entity who is neither fully alive nor fully dead- the legends of vampires or upyrs, with all their shape-shifting, night-flying, cadaverous appearance, terrifying aspects, and other magical abilities, certainly come from ages of folk-memory of Indo-European and Native European sorcerous workers.

The Seid-worker occupies unfamiliar spaces "between" the threads of Wyrd, but is still very much a part of Wyrd, as all things must be. While they live in human forms, they are alive, but their inner essence belongs to more than one world, and they speak to spirits as easy as another person may speak to their husband or wife.

Western anthropologists originally tried to classify Shamans in primal societies as mentally ill, or schizophrenic. It is easy to see why; but these white anthropologists simply lacked the ability to understand the subtle world of the Shaman's mind and reality. With the Seid-worker or Shaman, nothing is ever what it seems, and nothing is "one way or the other". They can tread on paths of sanity and insanity with equal ease, empowered to do so by their spiritual helpers and the transformations they have undergone.

There really is no mental "category" that the Shaman can be put in; in some way, they demand their own category- and this is another aspect of "not belonging"- the Shaman doesn't belong in one world or the other, but goes back and forth between them, in the misty, indistinct border between the two. This is a hard place for some people to get used to, and the demands of being sensitive to the Unseen easily fills a person's schedule up- the Seid-worker has ties to another world that he or she can never again ignore.

There are some in the modern Germanic and Celtic Pagan communities that take exception to people using the term "shaman" and "shamanism". This is due largely to the abuse of the term by new-agers. I, along with every other educated person, know the Siberian origin of the term, and it's time that people accepted the reality: the term "shaman" now refers to more than just Siberian tribal mystics. It has come to exist in a new convention, referring to all cultural workers who use trance and ecstatic states to interact with the unseen world, on behalf of their tribes or people or communities.

There are some well-known writers who refuse to see that Seid and even Rune-Galdr craft are aspects of shamanic-type mysticism and operation. Seid and Rune-crafts among the Germanic peoples are products, descendants if you will, of primal European shamanic practices. It is the height of foolishness (and a species of intellectual dishonesty) to assume that Germanic or Celtic or other peoples didn't have "shamanic" practices, when these "shamanic type" practices appear worldwide as common denominators for all primal cultures.

It is important to bear in mind that "Shamanism" or "Shamanic-type practices" refer to a huge body of archaic techniques of ecstasy, and not to an easy-to-identify and specific "style" of practice that is common to all shamanic workers in every culture. Primal cultures alive today show immense variation in their mystical and shamanic practices and understandings. There is no reason to believe that it was different in the past, or even different in ancient Europe. To assume that it was- to assume that ancient Europeans were the ONE group of people on the planet that somehow managed to not have shamanic-style techniques in use among their mystics, is simply a position that cannot be justified or defended. Such a conclusion is only popular among those who have an agenda- an agenda to get as far from the "new age" as possible. It's a noble impulse, but it leads them to absurd conclusions.

With this overpowering desire to distance themselves from the "new age", some people who ought to know better actually make the statements that the Germanic peoples "had no shamanism".

No, it wasn't called "shamanism" in the lore, but that's only because the word "shaman" wasn't an Indo-European word, nor a Germanic word. They used the terms that they had- Seid, for instance; they refer to "seers" and "sorcerers" and "spakonas" and the like. I do not believe in any "magic" or "sorcery" that exists apart from the basics of mystical experience- and those basics were expressed simultaneously with shamanic-type workings and experiences which sprang intuitively from the minds of all primal peoples. There is no true "magic" or "sorcery" apart from trance and working with the powers of the Unseen world. "Magic words" and "magical formulas" are only degenerate understandings in the modern world of what were originally shamanic songs and invocations. The "highest" forms of theurgy and magic, the very intricate and boring forms of ceremonial magic and the like, are descendants of the same impulses that inform shamanic practices.

Fasting for "purity" and for contact with "god", a practice common to ascetics from the Christian tradition all the way to mystical traditions in India, goes back to a common shamanic starvation-ordeal used to aid in the receiving of visions. This "fasting ordeal" is common both in Siberia and in Native America. Even the act of invoking the Gods themselves for sacrifices with ritual words and actions is a distant relic of shamanic-type practices. If you go back far enough, "religion" and "magic" blend and overlap nearly seamlessly. Some have gone so far as to deny that Odin was a God of shamanic-type activities, and to deny that his vision-quests and ordeals to win wisdom from the Underworld has anything to do with shamanic-type practices!

Unless a person has set their mind to specifically ignore the clear shamanic elements in Germanic sorcerous lore, they will clearly see it there, just as it is there among the Druids of Celtia, or the Iatromantoi in Greece, and in practically every other Indo-European culture. I do not believe that "trance" or trance-induction is unique to any one culture; a person drumming or singing/chanting to achieve a trance is not "ripping off the Siberians" or "stealing from Native Americans". These sorts of techniques can be done in any cultural context, and were done in every culture, in some form or fashion.

While I admit there is a grave danger when using unqualified terms like "shamanism" and dealing with new-agers who violate cultural boundaries in their "do whatever works" free-for-all, there is no reason to swing so far in the other direction, or become so reactionary, that we alienate ourselves from the truths of the matter. If we do that, we cripple ourselves and our understanding even before we have a chance to examine the facts and revive these needed practices in our own ancestral context. Instead of saying the absurd statement that "Germanic peoples had no shamanic-type arts", why not say "Germanic peoples, in common with all people, had shamanic-type arts which were expressed in ways unique to them, and so while they had commonalities with others, you can't simply lump them together with Siberian Shamans or other cultural shamanic workers and assume you understand them"?

It is a fact that there were shamanic-type practices on the parts of the Proto-Germanic and Germanic peoples, and some of them survived well into the Christian period. The later lore we have is influenced greatly by worldviews espoused by Christianity, so Seid and other such arts take on a decidedly dark reputation, but then, there is a darkness in Seid, though not evil, anymore than Odin was evil- and he, as a God, was certainly possessed of a darker nature and character. Even among primal cultures alive today, Shamanism and Shamans are not always seen as wonderful "goodness and light" workers- they are seen as needful agents of chaos as well, and sometimes feared for their darker wisdom, their ability to manipulate others or know the secrets of others, and their experience with dangerous spirits. In some places, in ancient times and even now, such people have been targeted for persecution or killing by communities that fear them.

Dangerous sorcerers and shamans appear in the pre-Christian myths of many peoples, showing that even these spiritual workers could "go bad" as it were, especially those that succumbed to dark powers. Perhaps they were never "good" from the perspective of their people; "black magic" did not come only from Christian imaginations, and shamanic mystics are famous for their moral ambiguity and their potential for helpful aid or for destructive influence.

My own shamanic "birth" came on the wings of one of the worst sicknesses I had ever experienced- a fever that went untreated and got out of hand. As Wyrd would have it, this was right on the heels of the most powerful visionary experience I ever had- I had (somewhat frivolously) decided to descend into the Underworld under the influence of my Fetch-beast and reach the Elder-Mother. It was a few months from the time I had met my Fetch-beast, and I was intoxicated with the visionary states the Fetch could bring me to if I asked. This experience was strong; I felt "taken" from my body and far below, to a place where wooden masks were hung on trees guarding a wooden building and a large elder tree. At this point, the vision-experience, which was like a lucid dream that I couldn't wake up from, got out of control- I had no more influence over how it unfolded.

I encountered a powerful spiritual being in an Elder tree, who appeared as a wooden cat, among other things. I saw an old man in this wooden building near her, whom I knew was death, a ghastly old man who had images of all the people I loved and the things dearest to me on the ground in front of him. I was terrified that he should have them, and tried to take them away from him, but this was to his amusement. I was shown nightmarish visions of my own death, and the death of my family, in the future, and I was "examined" from the inner level by the powerful entity in the tree. I was treated to the presence of two spirits who knew everything about what happened after death; they showed me a vision of a man dying, and then his death, and when I asked them what happened after death, they just grinned in a very sinister way and refused to answer.

I finally managed to "come back" from the experience, but I was wasted, exhausted physically and emotionally. For three days I was like the walking dead, listless, depressed, and unable to interact with others. Every time I closed my eyes, I went "back" to that place, as though part of me was trapped there. For three days, it was. My fever came on top of this, and after one point, I was unable to speak. I suffered anxiety attacks as well, and looking back, I realize that I probably needed to go to a hospital, but my friends and roomate at the time didn't realize that.

At the end of those three days, I felt myself again, but things had changed. I was later to discover the identity of the Cat in the Elder- none other than Freyja, the Seid-mistress. Even to this day, I recall the entire experience as a non-stop nightmare that I couldn't wake up from, but then, I also consider it to be one of the most important experiences of my life. It changed who I was, forever.

I still don't know what to do about the vision of my own death, along with my family; of course it frightens me on one level, but then, I am skilled at blunting deadly Wyrd. But Fate will not be denied; to this day, facing the hard realities of Fate is the center of my spiritual path, and with this disturbing vision to haunt me, I remember on a daily basis what "accepting Fate" means, and I don't lose my sense of seriousness, nor do I forget that this path isn't play; it is literally life and death.

Thanks to this experience, a "connection" had been made between myself and the deepest underworld, a conscious connection that I have been able to use to explore that deep place, both for myself and for others. I say that I was "playing" around with trance-work, but now I know that it was Wyrd that led me to work on achieving trance states, and Wyrd or Fate that led me to the folklore and legends about the Elder-mother, and attracted my attention to her. It was Wyrd that I should have sunk down deep enough to identify with my Fetch-beast, so that he could bring me to that grove surrounded by wooden masks. That Wyrd is still playing out, as I type this very post, and you read it. That Wyrd connects me to you right now. My expeirences meet with yours here, our threads tangling.

All that I have done since is influenced by this and other experiences I've had. My realization of the stark reality of both the Unseen World and the powers in it changed me for the better, and in ways for the worse, because I find (at times) that I have little patience for people who are blind to other realities, or who believe everything they are told just because they were told it. I have felt the arising of anger in myself, giantish powers that rose up from that same Underworld, and which have hurt me at the times I could not sublimate them. My Troth with the Gods and the power of my Fetch is what keeps these powers safely contained, making their great natural force available to me to use for creative ends. But it wasn't always so.

I find visions for people. My friend Turanona has recently been made aware of the possibility that she can get a job working for a very small company which installs special software at plants and factories. Only about 200 people in the United States actually are certified to do this job, so she stands to make 90-100 dollars an hour doing it. She would have to travel a lot, but she could own her own house and land and be debt-free in just 5 years if she committed to it.

Sometimes things sound too good to be true, and I went to seek a vision for her, to see what her future there will hold. Like any functional Seid-worker or shamanic worker, I do not have to wait to be yanked from my body by spirits that dominate me; I have the ability to sing to them and invoke these powers to come to me and help me to enter the Unseen. So I did.

After moving through the inner landscape, I came to the "outside"- the place where my own consciousness of this world is lost, but lucid experiences continue for me, in a mysterious space of reality. My fetch-beast filled my chest with a great radiance, and once I was able to see in a pool of water, in this vision-questing, the radiance of it sitting in me. The feeling cannot be described; it is the best feeling imaginable, a feeling of being connected, intimately connected, to something that is more real than real, something spiritually "right" and vital.

I was shown, in vision form, my answer- I saw a sunrise landscape; or perhaps it was sunset, but it was all rough land, like hills and mountains, and they were bathed in burning orange light, from the sun. My field of vision was obscured suddenly by a great and dark bird that was in full flight, perhaps an owl or a hawk, but its left wing had a hole in it. I could see the light of the sky through this hole.

That was the answer I was given. What does it mean? I think I know, but I've spoken enough on this for now.

Today, I went out to the woods to walk, and the first thing I saw was a rabbit, who watched me for a moment before darting into a gully. A minute later I heard an odd sound I'd never heard before. Perhaps the rabbit was making this angry shrieking noise, or perhaps it was a bird I had never seen before, but I walked in that direction, and finally went down into the deeper woods, to see how bad our flooding had been.

While wandering through the flooded woods, I saw an oak tree standing alone in a clearing. The clearing had power; it was a powerful place. It "felt" different. It had a "comforting" feeling about it. In that clearing, as I wandered around, I found the remains of a deer. It was all bones now, but I found leg bones, a hoof, a skull, two jaw bones, and the entire spine. I looked until I found the skull (the remains were spread over about 10 square yards, because of foxes and other predators) and I dropped down and sang the proper songs and invocations to gain my fetch-beast's attentions.

I had my Fetch carry my words to the spirit of the deer, telling it that I would use its remains in sacred rites, and honor them. I made certain that the spirit of the animal had made its transition into the Underworld safely and well, and prayed to the Father from whom both the deer and I descended from, and our common Mother. I began to "slip over" and feel the threads of Wyrd shaking as I chanted. I felt the power of the deer there, facing me, deep below. I was guided to this place by sounds and feelings and many other messages from the Unseen.

While washing my hands in a stream, I found the bones of a snake. Repeating the process for the snake that I did for the deer, I gained a snake's skull and many vertebrae for my workings. As I write this, these bones are soaking in their own vats of water. If you find bones and respectfully ask to keep them, and you want to clean and preserve them, you should never boil bones or bleach them; boiling forces the fat into the bone and makes them an unhealthy yellow color, and bleaching weakens them, making them turn into powder eventually. If the bones still have flesh on them, put them in an anthill for several days, then retrieve them. The ants will have picked them clean.

You then soak the bones in water until the water becomes smelly and greasy, and then pour out the water, replacing it with fresh water. You do this over and over again, every few days, for several weeks, or until the water runs clear everytime you change it. That means that the bacteria in the bones are done. Then you soak the bones in hydrogen peroxide to whiten them and disinfect them.

There were many powers and signs in the woods today, but they are there everyday- entire communities of wights and powers, seen and unseen.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Nine Noble Virtues

Ancestral Wisdom

Most modern Heathens or Asatruar live according to a moral/ethical code which focuses on nine key virtues- nine ways of being human which allow a person to live up to their full potential. These nine aspects of our humanity have come to be honored as the "Nine Noble Virtues", and they represent the values and guidelines for human life that are the heart of modern Heathenry.

Various Heathen groups show some variation in what nine virtues they specifically honor, but most have evolved a "core list" which agrees with others in the most essential ways.

Why a list of virtues to emulate? Because the examples of virtuous behavior found by us in the lore of our ancestors tells us a lot about who they were, and who we are now. The flow of ancestral power is unbroken between "then" and "now"- each person that lives at this moment represents a modern manifestation of a flowing power that passed from grandmother and grandfather to now, and it goes back to what we might call "the beginning". What the ancestors were is what we are, because we are them.

We are not just their blood and luck-force passed down to the modern day; we are sometimes their very rebirths in more immediate ways. We are their eyes and ears in the modern world; we are the collectors of the experiences here and now that add to the fund of their wisdom. We could not be what we are now, if not for what they were. The seeds of who and what our own descendants will be are being sown now, in our own actions and experiences.

The Nine Noble Virtues are not hard to understand. Why did the ancestors believe that courage and loyalty to kin was vital to a man? Because without these bonds between human beings, and without the possibility of courage and self-sacrifice on their behalf, no human civilization could endure.

Did these values appear out of sheer evolutionary necessity? No. We are not speaking of mindless Darwinian mechanics here- we are talking about something that is human because the Gods and Fate have made it human. We are talking about Godly behavior on the parts of human beings, which was "taught" to mankind by the Holy Kindreds who are his forefathers.

The Gods maintain bonds between themselves and one another, and are willing to sacrifice to maintain the order of the world against the forces of chaos. That humans should show the same impulses and behaviors to maintain the order of their societies and families against those same forces is a harmonious and divine symmetry which is also one of the foundations of Troth or ancestral religion.

Consulting the Ancestors

Why Nine Virtues? The authors of "Our Troth" have pointed out that there are many other virtues which could have made the list, but which appear on few lists that you can find today. Why not have eleven noble virtues or thirteen? I believe it is because of the powerful presence of the concept of Nine in Northern Lore- there are Nine Worlds, after all, Nine Ways of existing in reality. Nine nights down the Hel-road, Nine months in the womb, Nine mothers of Heimdall, and this list goes on. The original creators of the first list of "Nine Noble Virtues" were probably men and women with sensibilities for the aesthetic of our Lore.

And when you read the Eddas and Sagas, you see demonstrations of noble and brave human conduct. This is the well from which the lists of "Nine Noble Virtues" are all drawn. True to the form of ancestral and organic religion, simply reading the stories of these people distant from us in time (but close to us in power and blood) reveals how they thought and felt regarding human behavior and relationships. The ancestors were very wise; ages of experience had led them to understand what virtues and behaviors led human beings to be successful human beings. We may not live in the same times as the ancestors, but we face many of the same challenges, making their ideas regarding noble behavior relevant to us today.

If you ever wanted to ask the advice of an ancestor regarding what to do in a certain situation, you actually can- by knowing how they thought and felt, it is not hard to see what they probably would have counseled you. Reading the Lore from that perspective is a fine way of communing with and talking to the Ancestors- read it as though you are being given advice, and seek the advice in the words. Read it as though it contains the answer to a question you just asked, and seek the answer in the ideas being presented.

Wisdom to rule them All

The typical (and most widely accepted) list of the Noble Virtues includes the virtues of Hospitality, Courage, Truth, Loyalty, Honor, Self Reliance, Hard work, Perseverance, and Discipline. The authors of "Our Troth" also go on to say:

"Other thews (tribal virtues or laws) which our forebears thought important were Evenhead (equality), Friendship, Strength, and Open-Handedness- and, perhaps highest of all, Wisdom." (Our Troth, p.525)

It's good that the Troth-folk should mention Wisdom as "perhaps the highest of all"; as a Seid-worker and Man of Odin, the search for True Wisdom in the tradition of the Hel-wise Shaman God is a central value for myself and my own kindred, as I believe it should be for all people.

In Wisdom, we achieve a vision of the world that cannot be tainted or obscured by falsehood, and so our safety and integrity cannot be challenged or done away with by deceit. The search for wisdom, occult or otherwise, does not destroy the need to honor or pursue the other virtues, nor does it degrade our respect and honor for the other Gods. Insofar as the ancestors believed Odin to be the Allfather among the Gods, the virtues that he embodies- Guile, Wisdom, and Insight- are the chief virtues among the virtues, at least in my consideration.

The seeking and obtaining of Wisdom is the center of any successful life, and Wisdom is the true "mead" that becomes distilled from experience. It is the wise who are needed to guide a society or a family to success, not merely the strong. The ancestors must have agreed, or they would have honored the strength of Tyr or the might of Thor before the wisdom of the Allfather.

Self-Reliance, the Tribe, and the Modern Day

It is odd indeed that the typical list of Nine Virtues should contain "hard work" and "self-reliance" as two separate virtues. Industry or hard work and self-reliance overlap greatly; A person who works hard and excels in his or her work is almost certain to be self-supporting as a matter of consequence. But there is another issue: it is debatable how much "self reliance" would have been focused on in tribal times, where kin groups supported one another. Working hard to support and protect others- as tribes and clans do for their members- strongly upsets the notion of "self-reliance".

Who in a modern tribe or a clan (much less an ancient one) would be taught to focus on "self reliance" as a "self" apart from his family or people? I have always felt that the authors of the original list were overly-influenced by their understandings of the place of the individual born in the modern day. No one denies that the ancient peoples of Northern Europe held the individual in esteem, and celebrated the great deeds of individuals- but celebrating the deeds of an individual who excels, and even preserving the rights of individuals to live their lives with freedom, is a thing apart from the idea that our ancestors expected everyone to be "self-reliant".

When modern people hear the term "self-reliance", visions of hard-working capitalists who have large bank accounts (and who need not therefore be a burden on anyone else) appear automatically. This is quite a distance from the Tribal ideal, and indeed, it violates the natural truth of humans working together for the good of all in a society. The virtue of "hard work" or "industry" answers this quandary- if each person worked hard and well, prosperity would be assured for the group as well as the individual.

In ancient times, a person lived and died by their family; no person was an island or "off to themselves", making a living without the support of clan, tribe, or friends. This is why I don't tend to treat "hard work" and "self-reliance" as two different virtues, but instead bring them together in my own life as "industry". Of course, very modernist heathens who have embraced the ideals of capitalism are perfectly free to honor the idea of "self-reliance", and to honor the ideal of "providing for one's self". I think this is an unhealthy focus on the self apart from one's kin, community, and friends- and indeed, what has the modern day devalued more than community? What bonds have suffered more than the bonds of kin and community due to unrestrained egocentrism and greed?

The Nine Noble Virtues of the Idavoll Kindred

Now I'd like to briefly discuss each of the Nine Virtues as honored by my own Kindred. Our criteria of Nine Virtues includes Courage, Endurance (or Perseverance), Honor, Truth, Hospitality (or Guest-friendliness), Troth (or faith kept with ancestral religion) Industry, Frith (or Peace and Belonging), and Wisdom.


"No matter what Wyrd weaves for you at any moment in your experience, you must face it with full awareness and bravery."

"Nor did courage fail
Those foes of the giant
In the seething vortex.
Those sworn companions
Regarded a brave heart
Better than gold."

-Thor's Journey to Geirrod

"Better is heart than a mighty blade
For him who shall fiercely fight;
The brave man well shall fight and win,
Though dull his blade may be."

-The Lay of Fafnir

"A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life."


* * *

It is right and good to be courageous. Facing the challenges of life with full awareness takes courage. Putting yourself in dangerous situations, where the cost to yourself can be great, for the good of your friends, family, or society, takes courage.

The ancient warrior placed himself in harm's way for his lord; the lord or leader of his host would have (in theory) made the decision to place his warriors in harm's way to preserve his people or his land, or for their benefit somehow. Of course, seeking glory through conquest was to the benefit of the princes and jarls or nobles, and warriors in the old days sought to gain fame and personal triumph that could be remembered and made into tales of glory. While we do not look kindly today on fighting and killing for mere personal glory, this was commonplace in ancient times.

In the modern day, this impulse still exists, though it has become a matter of winning fame and memory for one's creative works and deeds. Successful Writers, actors, artists, performers, athletes, scientists, activists and people like them, whether they wish for it or not, become embedded in the memory of our new culture and in the annals of history. Assuming your famous deeds are positive ones, deeds that add to the art of human life and the well-being of your friends, family, and community, to be remembered in such a way is a great honor, something worth aiming for.

The desire to be remembered or to be a publicly known person is a function of courage insofar as it takes courage to rise above crowds of anonymous people, into a life that is exposed to scrutiny and other dangers. It also takes a good deal of ambition, and ambition is seldom found in the non-courageous. Courage is a form of confidence. It is a vivid manifestation of personal power and luck-force.

Courage allows people to face life's challenges and terrors with full awareness and bravery. No matter what the twistings ands turnings of Wyrd weave for you at any moment, courage makes you able to both accept it and face it on behalf of something greater than yourself, whether that be your family, friends, community, or your values, ethics, morals, or your own glory. Wisdom can help us to be courageous as well, when we understand the ancient Heathen saying "None live till eve whom the Fates doom at dawning."


"Like stones under the hammer or oak-bark under the blows of the axe, we must remain steadfast as long as we are able."

"Afar didst thou go while Fafnir reddened
With his blood my blade so keen;
With the might of the dragon my strength I matched,
While thou in the heather didst hide."

-The Lay of Fafnir

"...Better the glad than the gloomy man
Shall face what before him lies."

-The Lay of Fafnir

* * *

It is right and good that you show great endurance to the challenges of life. Endurance, or Perseverance, is the unshakeable will to go on till the end, through storms of challenge and suffering. Life has many difficulties, and our ancestors had no illusions about this. As mortals who are all doomed to die one day, we are parts of a world that is also has a Fated end.

The world is slowly approaching that end; the world-doom is fixed in Fate, and as the destructive powers become stronger, life becomes more and more challenging. Life- which we did not choose- does not ask our permission to hurl dangers and loss at us. Instead, life demands that we endure what it unfolds. The Fate-weavers do not ask our permission to weave the world-doom and the doom of those in it; the Wyrd-wise are known by their ability to accept what they cannot change and to endure hardship, while still being courageous, industrious, and truthful.

Death and Danger are our constant companions. Like stones under the hammer or oak-bark under the blows of the axe, we must remain steadfast as long as we are able. There is no other approach to life that answers every concern that humans have had about proper behavior in the face of adversary. We do not ultimately choose the dangers we must face nor do we choose our Fated ends, but the noble person must still struggle for the preservation of what is right and good as long as he or she is able. All people, noble or wicked, are in the weave of greater forces, and the task of good, noble people is to endure and support noble action, the preservation of life and society, and fairness.

Enduring what Wyrd or Fate has woven doesn't mean giving up on your attempts to make the world a better place or fight injustice- far from it. But in every struggle, in every life, there will be setbacks, difficulties, and death, and these things, whose roots run to powers much larger than any individual man or woman, must be endured. We must rise when we knocked to the ground; we must charge again even when we are tired, when the battlefield is the world that contains the lives of our families and friends.

To bravely endure struggle in a doomed world may sound overly grim to modern people, but it is a sane way of approaching the necessities life introduces to us. It is our duty to struggle and endure as long as we can, in the name of what is godly and right. Heroes are not just people who gain glory in fighting and adventuring, but people who face self-sacrifice and hardship with a sense of duty. To do what is right even though it will make things harder on you, and even though there is no promise of a reward, is a true sign of virtue. In his "Tolkien and Iceland: The Philology of Envy", Tom Shippey writes:

"In some respects the Old Norse "theory of courage" might even be regarded as ethically superior to the Classical if not to the Christian world-view, in that it demanded commitment to virtue without any offer of lasting reward. Men must fight monsters because it was their duty, not because they thought the monsters would lose, or the gods would win. In the deep disillusionment which overtook the Western world, and England especially, after 1918, the Old Norse mythology seemed immune to self-doubt, precisely because it had no self-belief."

Endurance contains within it the idea of perseverance- it is noble to set helpful goals for yourself and reach them, despite difficulty, setback, or failure.


"A person of honor who makes an oath, keeps the oath... or dies trying."

"Then second I rede thee, to swear no oath
If true thou knowest it not;
Bitter the fate of the breaker of troth,
And poor is the wolf of his word."


* * *

it is right and good to be Honorable. Making oaths and keeping oaths is the heart of honor. A person's honor and goodness are known, on an essential level, by how they keep their word and how they uphold the responsibilities and deeds to which their word binds them. A person of honor who makes an oath, keeps the oath... or dies trying. For the person of honor, there is no option where oaths are concerned.

Oaths are sacred; they are expressions of Ur-Law, of the Cosmic Law. They are total expressions of Wyrd and they cannot be sundered without terrible consequences- even the Gods are bound by them. When the Gods broke their word to Fenris, it was Tyr who had to pay the price; he had to lose his hand. Nobility and worth is found in the honor that leads one to keep their oaths, respecting oaths as expressions of Ur-Law.

Our Ancestors' entire social structure was held together by Honor and the Oath-system. Without these things, nothing they did as groups or communities would have been possible.


"Find the Truth, Know it, and Uphold it, even if the cost to yourself is high."

"Not good to me appear Granmar's sons, yet 'tis right that princes should speak the truth: they have shown, at Moinsheimar, that they have courage to draw the sword."

-HelgakviĆ°a Hundingsbana Fyrri

"Thou wilt account only as angry words all I to thee shall say, but I will say the truth."

-The Lay of Fafnir

"Much I have said, and more would say, if the sword would grant me power of speech. My voice fails, my wounds swell: truth only I have uttered; so I will cease."

-The Third Lay of Sigurd

* * *

It is right and good to be truthful and honor the truth. Truth is a thing of holy power. The Sooth-sayer, the woman or man who "says sooth" is saying the truth- using words to express What Is, and of course the Sooth-sayer sees deep into things, to see Truths that are hidden.

The power of Truth is known in words and other human expressions that are in accord with the way things really are, no matter how hidden from everyday human perceptions that may be. Expressions of truth should not be confused with the Truth itself, but then, the Truth itself cannot be known without these expressions, so any attempt to devalue expressions of Truth is a folly.

But all of that sort of talk is a bit esoteric- on the level of everyday life, lies and deceit form armies of giantish forces that stand arrayed against wisdom. Wisdom itself is the "anti-deceit"- it is found in the experience of reality at its deepest, most vivid and essential level. People who are wise and experienced cannot normally be deceived with ease. Like all manifestations of destructive selfishness and manipulation, true people should struggle against falsehood, upholding the Truth as a needful and precious virtue.

Find the Truth, Know it, and Uphold it, even if the cost to yourself is high. Do not tolerate falsehood. Our spirit-endowed minds which the Gods have given us to guide us through this human life have the capability to know the Truth, and the Gods intend for Humans to do so. The bonds of friends and family are undermined by falsehood faster than almost any other wicked power. The bonds of society are undermined by it as well. That is enough reason to be truthful, and to expect the same from others. There is no peace without the Truth.


"The true person is generous; they extend hospitality to friends and strangers, even when it is a burden"

"In thy home be joyous and generous to guests
discreet shalt thou be in thy bearing,
mindful and talkative, wouldst thou gain wisdom,
oft making mention of good."


"With raiment and arms shall friends gladden each other,
so has one proved oneself;
for friends last longest, if fate be fair
who give and give again."


"...Growl not at guests, nor drive them from the gate
but show thyself gentle to the poor."


"...Hold not in scorn, nor mock in thy halls
a guest or wandering wight."


* * *

It is right and good to be hospitable. All Indo-European peoples placed a high value on hospitality, and the same can be said for people around the world. The idea of "guest-friendliness" or treating people well who pass through your door must trace back to tribal times, when the comforts we take for granted now- food, drink, shelter, and warmth- were a firm matter of life and death. To receive sustenance, to receive shelter, these things assure a person one more day and night of life- and to share these things perpetually, like family and kin-groups do, binds their lives together into one holy participatory event. The wandering person longs for the stability offered by a kind host, and in turn, should be a kind host when they are able.

To welcome a person into your home is to allow them access to the Odal space, the sacred spiritual and physical enclosure that houses the essential power and peace of your family and kin. For a short while, the guest who is admitted partakes of that power and shares a bond that is nearly as strong as family. That guest, so long as they come with honesty and no ill-intention, is protected by the same powers and bonds that protect the family.

The true person is generous; they extend hospitality to friends and strangers, even when it is a burden. They never threaten guests or allow them to be threatened or come to harm.


"Keep good faith and fidelity with the Gods, the Wights of the Land, and the Spirits of your Ancestors. Troth is the essential duty of the true man or woman."

"I will not go from the faith I had before, and my kinsmen had before me."

-Queen Sigrid refusing conversion to Christianity, from The History of Olaf Tryggvason

* * *

"Troth" refers to faith and fidelity towards the heathen faith, as well as the community of kindreds, both in this world and in the other worlds.

Keep Troth with the Gods, and with the ancestral faith. Being true to the religious and spiritual values of our foremothers and forefathers preserves a path of life that leads to successful, fulfilled humans, peace between humans, strong relationships between humans and the Gods, and balance between humans and the Land.

It is as vital as breathing that each true man and woman honor the Gods, honor their ancestors, and all living beings. "Honoring all living beings" means accepting that all lives- all powers and wights- are part of the necessity of the world, that Wyrd has woven all of them into this world and that they serve a needful role. Honoring all life means accepting them as being "in place" where they are, and just as "in place" as you are. Honoring life means that when you have to take life, you do it only out of necessity, and only with a basic respect and understanding that this too, is part of the way of things.

To keep Troth with the faith of the Heathens requires that we show great respect for Nature as a whole, for She is the very tapestry of Wyrd- she is "That which has become", full of vital, holy powers. We cannot ignore or dishonor the very Earth-goddess under our feet: Erda, Fjorgynn or Jord, mate to Allfather and the mother of the high Thunderer as well as many other Gods and Goddesses. Keeping Troth leads, with great certainty, to a strong spiritual awareness, to wisdom, and to the protection and guidance of the Gods.

Keep good faith and fidelity with the Gods and Goddesses, the Wights of the Land, and the Spirits of your Ancestors. Troth is the essential duty of the true man or woman. Strong Troth makes us true people. Troth includes the living people to whom you bond yourself with ties of family and kinship- Troth is a reality that binds together the kindred and the family in this world, as well.


"There are many ways to extend one's own power into the web of Wyrd; to be industrious is to be a valuable member of the community and to make good use of the gifts the Gods have given."

"Not reft of all is he who is ill,
for some are blest in their bairns,
some in their kin and some in their wealth,
and some in working well."


"One's own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at home;
though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
'tis better than craving a boon."


"The halt can manage a horse,
the handless a flock,
The deaf be a doughty fighter,
To be blind is better than to burn on a pyre:
There is nothing the dead can do."


* * *

It is right and good to be Industrious. Few people are truly helpless. Most of us have the power to work, create, produce, and to aid others in this world. There are many ways to extend one's own power into the web of Wyrd; to be industrious is to be a valuable member of the community and to make good use of the gifts the Gods have given.

The main efforts of the essential human should be directed towards upholding the peace and prosperity of their family and community. Working to provide for one's self includes providing for those closest and nearest them, for man and woman are indivisible from their families, friends, and kindreds. The rewards of industry are stability in one's own home or dwelling, pride in one's efforts, and freedom from the uncertainty of having to beg or ask for help. From this place, one can reach out to help others.


"To seek frith is to seek where you belong; it is to seek peace and tranquility, the serenity that is only found when you live where you belong, and when you live how you should live."

"Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame."


"Too many unstable words are spoken
by him who ne'er holds his peace;
the hasty tongue sings its own mishap
if it be not bridled in."


"...They universally join in the worship of Herthum; that is to say, the Mother Earth. Her they believe to interpose in the affairs of man, and to visit countries. In an island of the ocean stands the wood Castum: in it is a chariot dedicated to the Goddess, covered over with a curtain, and permitted to be touched by none but the Priest. Whenever the Goddess enters this her holy vehicle, he perceives her; and with profound veneration attends the motion of the chariot, which is always drawn by yoked cows. Then it is that days of rejoicing always ensue, and in all places whatsoever which she descends to honour with a visit and her company, feasts and recreation abound. They go not to war; they touch no arms; fast laid up is every hostile weapon; peace and repose are then only known..."

-Tacitus, Germania

* * *

It is right and good that you should seek frith and uphold it where you find it.

Frith is often translated as "Peace", and indeed, it does imply peace in the sense of a harmonious community of people, without want or strife to divide them or burden their minds. But the meaning of Frith goes further. "Frith" derives from the Proto Indo-European word *PRIYAS, which refers to things that are proper to a person- "one's own". This can mean "one's own community" or "one's own faith". To be a part- a harmonious, free part- of one's own community, friend-group, family, or religion is frithful. In this idea- the idea of harmonious belonging- we believe the greatest peace is found. To belong to a greater whole is implied; human beings belong not only to their communities, but to the greater whole of the Nine Worlds; Frith takes us to an ancient vision of a spiritual ecology.

The Anglo-Saxon Dictionary says that Frith means "peace", "tranquility", "security", "refuge", "privilege of special protection and the penalty for the breach of it", and "the restoration of rights to an outlaw". A person who is divided from a group of people, such as an outlaw, knows frith when he is restored to the group. In the peace of frith, the group protects the members, and in the bond of frith a lord owes protection and security to his own people.

Frith is the true goal of human society, while Wisdom (the only thing that brings true peace to the soul) can be seen as a goal of the individual- so long as that individual seeks wisdom for the causes of his community. No individual can find wisdom without a stable basis from which to journey and work- and this is found in safety and preservation of life and peace, in strong bonds between people, in support and provision. Frith is the holy peace of Asgard, of Vanaheim, of the Gods. There is no cost too high when it comes to preserving Peace and Life in the name of Frith.

Frith is a life-perspective, a deep and unspoken understanding between people in a community, family, or kindred. It is the sense of belonging and of being protected by those two whom you belong, and who belong to you. In frith with the Gods, the Gods protect the mortals who are their kin, who belong with them.

To seek frith is to seek where you belong; it is to seek peace and tranquility, the serenity that is only found when you live where you belong, and when you live how you should live. Frith is a condition of repose or rest, when you can finally rest in the certainty of belonging to something greater than yourself- when you rest in the peace of Fate or Wyrd, when you rest in the assurance of your bonds with others and when you rest in your unbreakable bonds with the Gods.


"...wisdom is a hard-won insight which reveals when something is not what it appears. The wisest of people have more ability to "see through" the surface-level appearances of people and situations, discerning what is real, and not just what appears to be real."

"A better burden may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
It is better than wealth on unknown ways,
And in grief a refuge it gives."


"Happy is he who hath in himself
praise and wisdom in life;
for oft doth a man ill counsel get
when 'tis born in another's breast."


"...the dwarf, at the gates of Dawn;
he sang strength to the gods, and skill to the elves,
and wisdom to Odin who utters."


* * *

Understand that wisdom is vital to life, and seek to be wise. Wisdom answers to the world of Midgard, situated at the center of the World-Tree, where influences from all the worlds come together to create a vision of wholeness. Insight into this wholeness is wisdom, the wisdom of the totality of Wyrd.

There are two kinds of wisdom: The wisdom of men and wisdom of Gods or alfs. For men, wisdom is a hard-won insight which reveals when something is not what it appears. The wisest of people have more ability to "see through" the surface-level appearances of people and situations, discerning what is real, and not just what appears to be real. With such a perspective, the wise are good counsel. Wisdom for men is also that- a great fund of experience born from years of traveling the world and encountering many situations, coming to know the people and wights of Midgard. Of course, mortal wisdom remains firmly limited by the reach of mortal wits, memory, and force of luck. Mortal wisdom may reveal many hidden things, but there are things that can escape even the wisest of mortals.

Godly wisdom goes deeper. The Gods, such as the Allfather, see everything, hidden or otherwise, in any world. It is good that humans should be wise in the first manner of wisdom described above, but humans who follow Allfather's example and die to their lesser selves can become wise in the second manner, as well. The key to this second Wisdom is the force of Wyrd, and our everyday experience of it.

When a person experiences Wyrd, at any moment, in any "time" or "place", they are experiencing the mystery of the whole in a reflected form- all times and places are full expressions of the totality of Wyrd. The entire structure of the cosmos is found in every seed or grain or person. Let yourself understand this: Midgard (our human world) is the manifest reflection of all Nine Worlds together, and in your acceptance of that fact, let yourself experience the Totality- know all things as well as yourself as the roots, trunk, and branches of the World Tree. This is the key to the beginning of the path of deeper Wisdom, which leads to the omniscient wisdom of the Gods, and to the Steed of the All-Father, the Tree-steed that his greater Self awakened upon as he hung unto death.

The seeking and obtaining of Wisdom is the center of any successful life, and Wisdom is the true "mead" that becomes distilled from life-experience. It is the wise who are needed to guide a society or a family to success, not merely the strong.