Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Demands of Ancestral Religion

I was having a discussion with a gentleman online the other day, and I was deeply impressed with how well he summed up a current problem that I feel the Pagan world is facing. He wrote:

"New Age teachings lead to a kind of "blanket theology" of vagueness through which anyone's spiritual views can escape accountability. The expression, "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual" reflects this desire to have a personal religion cultivated to one's own self, as if it's just another private room in your house you can decorate any way you like, which has no larger social consequences."

These two sentences say so much, and I think I should use them as an invitation to talk about what belonging to an Ancestral religion can and should mean for us in the modern day.

I believe that Heathenry, Asatru, Forn Sed, or whatever you call the Old Ways of the North are first and foremost Ancestral faiths. This does not, in any way whatsoever, mean that I think these religions are limited to people of certain ancestry. I think that it speaks to people more who tend to be of certain ancestries, but I also believe that Wyrd connects all people together, and that the Allfather who shaped the world is the Allfather of all human beings. To accept something as absurd as the idea that Odin only created Germania and Scandanavia, and only created the people who eventually came to live in those areas is not an option.

Every human being has a relationship to the Gods and their Ancestors, no matter how unconscious they may be of it. Not everyone's ancestors trace back immediately to the same place, but all people's ancestors eventually trace back to the "Clan Mothers", the hallowed group of ancient-beyond-ancient historical women from whom all genetic lines- ALL genetic lines- come. They are the true Disir, the Mothers of us all.

As a Heathen, I honor them in similar ways to how my Heathen forefathers and foremothers did- that is, after all, a large part of what it means to be a Heathen: to honor the Gods, spirits, ancestors, and to live in this world according to certain values, all following the example of how our ancestors did it, as best we can in the modern day.

This is not the time or the place to go into the arguments and proofs and details about all of the ramifications of ancestry. I do believe that at a time not so long ago, we were all far more related than most people today are prepared to believe. I can give one small example that may shock you- start by giving yourself a mother and father, which all people have. Let's assume that no one in this example has any brothers or sisters- everyone gets one mother and one father.

Now, there's you and your mother and father. That's three people. Your mom and dad need parents, too, so now, there's you, mom and dad, and their two sets of parents. That's seven people and just three generations. Again, ignoring the reality of brothers and sisters, do you know how many people will be on your chart in just 30 generations?

You would have 1,073,741,824 people. That's over a billion people. Let's say each human generation is about 20-25 years. 30 generations is 600 years. By this logic and this math, (and don't forget we are ignoring the reality of brothers and sisters) in around 1400, you have over a billion people on earth.

The problem here is that in 1400, there weren't that many people alive. There wasn't anywhere NEAR that many people alive in 1400. The world's population- the entire world- was far below a billion before Columbus made his voyage to America in 1492.

So how can that be? How can this paradox be resolved? The answer is simple, though few people ever stop to consider it, and a few people don't want to believe it- the answer is that we all shared (and still share) many relatives and ancestors in common.

So now, you can laugh at all the racists who describe themselves as "folkish" when they spin tales about their "pure" Germanic ancestry. Welcome to the real world! All human beings are far more related than most of us realize. This doesn't mean that we should ignore the reality of cultural ancestral identity- no, in fact, we HAVE to emphasize cultural identity, because in that phenomenon, we see what the people *closest* to us by blood felt was sacred and important.

The idea that our ancestors 1000 or even 2000 years ago believed certain ways is not an invitation to lead us to look down on the ways of others, though many people take it to be that way. I strongly support standing up against negative cultural legacies that some peoples on earth have advanced- the simple fact is that not all cultural legacies are worthwhile, or worthy of respect or preservation. Female circumcision is the best example of a practice that must be stamped out at any cost. That being said, it is true that many people in the modern day- and some Heathens- feel very threatened by the existence of other cultures, and the influences they have. Many people (and many Heathens) feel alienated, feel a lack of deeper identity, which drives them to seize ahold of what they consider is "their" ancestral faith and "their" culture, and defend it like mad dogs.

Sadly for them, what they are defending, aside from being largely a modern construct, is usually more fantasy than reality. I've pointed out many times before that our Germanic ancestors (and our Celtic ancestors, and our Slavic ancestors, and the list continues) didn't seem to have any problem at all marrying women from other cultures, moving away from their homelands and taking up residence in countless other places, absorbing words, concepts and even entire languages from other people which led to changes in their own "native" languages, and absorbing a variety of other cultural influences from people they met- if they found a technology that they didn't think up themselves, but which could aid them, they took it! They used it!

These ideas we have today of "racism" simply didn't exist in ancient times. The cultures who were most known for their great snooty ethnocentrism- the Greeks and the Romans- are usually the people that modern Heathens least identify with, as Rome, with all its Greek influence, conquered all of Germania and most of Celtia, and pretty well brought about an end to the tribal way of life in Celtia, and in much of Germania.

The Romans with their talk of "barbarians" and "outsiders" all their self-assured cultural righteousness did more to hurt the causes of "freedom" and "tribal identity" among the ancient Heathens than most other people. So why are so many Heathens today looking down their noses at other cultures in precisely the same way the Romans did? I guess history doesn't just like repeating itself: it also seems to have a sense of humor.

The Romans were at least wise enough to realize that their Gods were also the same Gods that they found among the "Barbarians", and were happy to pray to the Gods of other people, and to take the Gods of others into their own cities, and to assimilate what good things they found among "barbarians". For all their talk of superiority, the Romans didn't hold all these other cultures they encountered at arm's length; they didn't feel that their own culture was threatened by so-called "outside influences".

I challenge any and all of the modern "folkish" Heathens who claim to be "pure Germanic" to give up MtDNA samples so that science can reveal precisely WHO they are related to. Sure, there'll be English or German or Scandinavian blood in most European-descended people in the United States, Mexico, a lot of Central and South America, and pretty much all of Europe. But what else will be there? Studies have shown some amazing finds in the genetic trees of people who were shocked to discover what was flowing through their veins.

Before I stop belaboring this point, I should say- the idea of "Folksoul" is baseless. The arguments against it- which I will sum up in a later post- are too many and too good; the "pro-folksoul" people have never satisfactorily responded to those arguments. What it boils down to is this: people have a construct that they have created, something that they dearly want to believe in, because they draw "identity" and solidarity from it- a modern construct of the "Germanic Folksoul", and they have their own contrived metaphysics which bestow upon them the power to determine "who is Germanic". Naturally, it's all bunk, but this minority of modern Heathens exerts a noticeable and negative influence on Heathenry as a whole.

Why? Because they aren't practicing religion as much as they are making up what they want to believe, and giving it a status that the True Gods and Ancestors deserve.

And this leads me back to the point of this short letter. Modern Paganism is tainted with powerful strains of "Me-ism"- the idea that you can believe "whatever you like" without needing accountability or justification.

So many people want to reject "religious authority" and "spiritual authority" without ever once considering the value inherent in such things. While it is true that our Ancestors had no such "hard authorities" in their religions of old, there are still many other Pagans who did, and still do- and certainly Christianity always did. What's the value in such things? Religious authorities, so long as they are not corrupt, have a way of preserving a spirit in a religious complex that keeps the people honest- because no matter what you may think, or what you have heard people say, even organic religions, religions without revealed dogma and beliefs, still make demands on the peoples who believe in them.

Demands? Maybe you don't like the word. Maybe you came to Heathenry hoping to get away from all the rules and dogmas and power-trippers you found in other religions. I have two lots of news for you, then: the first is a congratulations, because you will find that healthy, sane modern Heathenry has no genuine "dogmas" and "rules"- it has customs which have more or less grown up in the modern day, customs and traditions that some or all Heathens will tend to share, but that's about it. The second bit of news is not as happy: Heathenry still has power-trippers and it still expects things of you.

What does it expect? It expects that you will put its Nine Noble Virtues first, and your desire to behave however you like second. Any Kindred worth it's name will expect that of its members. It expects that you will put its Gods first in your life, first before any other Gods you may care to worship, if any. Some Kindreds and groups won't let their members worship ANY Gods but the Gods of the Northlands, but I draw the line on that sort of talk- that moves people into dangerous, cultish ground. But Asatru or Heathenry as a whole WILL expect your loyalty to the Gods and Ancestors of the North, before any other spiritual icon or idea.

You will be expected to defend your fellow Heathens. You will be expected to honor the Ancestors. There may be many ways of doing all these things, but when called upon, you will have to do them, will have to say, with assurance and honesty, "Yes, I believe those things. Yes, I will do those things. Yes, I am proud to believe and do those things."

That means that even if you meet a girl or a guy that you get tight with, who happens to belong to a non-Heathen religion, and even if they really badly want you to convert to their faith, you can't. I don't care if it costs you the relationship; you shouldn't be in a relationship like that anyway, if those sorts of strings are attached. Real Love, the last time I checked, didn't limit itself to whether or not you could get your partner converted. I don't care if it costs you getting laid; Heathenry makes demands.

Heathenry is not just a religious way of seeing the world; it is an identity, and it stands for something. It stands for honoring the men and women that we call "Ancestors" and telling their spirits, with our every Blot and Symbel, these words: "We know that you were wise, and that you weren't praying to false Gods. We know your Gods were real and we know those same Gods are with us now. We know that you exist, and that we will be with you one day. We will not ignore your words and we will look to your example, because we honor you and your wisdom."

Heathenry stands for family. It stands for unbreakable bonds of love and loyalty between husbands and wives and children and brothers and sisters and all Kindred members. We watch out for our own, because that's what community does. Commmunity in the best sense of the word is a team of humans banding together to fight and help one another through an often hostile world. I don't care if *your* personal life demands this thing or that; if your Kindred or family really needs you, then your personal life will have to stand aside for a time. That's just part of what Heathenry demands.

Heathenry may not have a bible, but it does have Gods in common, and it does have certain models of belief and theology, and models of cosmology and eschatology born from common surviving sources. These things are excellent models of belief and they provide a good basis for understanding the world in ways that our Ancestors may also have understood it. You can't believe *just anything* and consider yourself a Heathen; a certain amount of familiarity with the surviving lore of old will be required, if you want serious recognition from the "Heathen community" at large. But this goes beyond just recognition- these older models of belief do contain powerful seeds of Truth. You don't just help yourself with respect to others by reading them and accepting them as the basis of your religious life; you also help yourself, on the deepest level.

From top to bottom, true "Heathenry" is not a "believe what you want, do what you want" religion or culture. It is not well suited to the people who want to wander in the vague country of "their own spirituality", which is normally a watered-down version of whatever religion they were raised, with a dash of New-Age spirituality tossed in.

Heathenry is not well suited to the people who want to mix in modern day politics and seek justification for their modern ideas and ideals in the ancient Lore.

Ancient Pagans were not "politically correct"; their societies did not allow for unrestrained, consequence-free sexual behavior between anyone and everyone who got an itch; they didn't just all smilingly accept homosexual behavior without putting bans or restrictions on it, if they allowed it openly at all. (Note: I personally believe homosexuality to be a natural, normal thing on the part of a small minority of human beings, and I think that homosexuals should be accepted and allowed to live their lives in peace. I am merely making another point with this reference about what the past was like.)

Ancient societies didn't sit around encouraging their women to terminate pregnancies, or turning a blind eye to it when they did, either; even infanticide that was done on babies outside of the womb was apparently heavily controlled or restricted in most Germanic societies, though their societies were such that these matters couldn't be controlled or restricted like they can be today.

The point is that they still had laws and rules which restrained infanticide, though "exposing" babies and children still happened in ancient times. It still happens in India and China and Africa and in other places- like right up the street in any American city. There's always some idiot girl who wants to leave her baby in a dumpster. Unless you're the sort of person who thinks that parents should be allowed to throw away their infants, you probably understand why our ancestors tried to curb this practice, and why so many myths from other Indo-European Pagans show the Gods or other beings rescuing exposed children, and harm or misfortune coming onto the parent who did the exposing.

The modern "liberal" neo-Pagans who wish they could "go back to the old days" might find themselves horrified to drop into an ancient Pagan European society- they'd find slavery being an everyday part of life, and they'd find that the local "witch" up the block isn't being treated like a hero by the local population, and they'd find that the "orgies" they imagine Pagans had all the time were in short supply.

I'm not saying we should just "transfer" ourselves back to their times and do things "just like they did"- far from it. I'm pointing out that the justifications that many modern liberal Pagans seek for their beliefs will have to come from the present day, the here and now and not from the past. You can't come to Heathenry expecting it (or its Ancestors) to stand up and accept with open arms your every modern belief, and accord you the right to "believe however you want". That's not what Heathenry is about. If Heathenry is to survive and be worth its salt, it will have to make demands on people, make people question and reconsider what they believe. And it will always demand that people put their own beliefs second to the good of the Kindred or the greater good.

My true and final point is that Heathenry isn't a free-for-all, and it makes demands. Just living by the Nine Noble Virtues- really living them- is not always easy. We often balk against "rules" without even stopping to consider why rules are there. It's true that "rules" are sometimes tools of oppression. But they aren't always.

Rules make us struggle against something, put limits on us, but for our own good, and for the causes of a greater freedom. Sound odd?

A good example to explain this is a piano or a musical instrument. If you just bang on a Piano or blow into a trumpet, you make noise. If you discipline yourself by learning the rules of playing the instrument- which is hard on you- one day, you find that instead of only being able to make noise, you can make beautiful music. It's not "freedom" to just bang on a piano all wild-like; it's just chaos and anarchy. And it doesn't make the best sound. A master player has learned the rules, and by learning the rules, they have, ironically found their way to a greater freedom- the power to make music.

Another good example is language. Babies babble away all day; they are unrestrained in the noises they can or will make. But until they restrict and limit the sounds they make, they can't make words and intelligible phrases. Once we discipline ourselves enough to learn the rules of language, we can express ourselves, and like the piano player, we find a new freedom- the power of sharing our subjective thoughts and experiences with others through words.

People who balk at the idea of rules and restrictions in religious culture and life are people who lack the maturity to understand what I am saying here- they'd rather be spiritual babies babbling than to join the company of spiritually mature adults who can form words, and with those words, form communities and make their lives better and more complete.

I understand that many people have had bad experiences with the demands of other religions, but Heathenry doesn't offer the "free for all" that so many people swing towards in their pendelum-like reaction to their experiences with the dogmatic powers. Everything we do and believe- whether or not we are Heathen- has consequences, and we *will* be held accountable for them. People are free to ignore their responsibility to considering what they believe and why, but they are still going to be held to the debt they owe to life and their fellow man, one way or the other.

It may be more comfortable for the vaguely-defined "spiritual but not religious" people to be what they are, but they will never find the beauty and power that is found in accepting the standards and insights and liberating restrictions of a community and a creed that wasn't invented by them. There is something noble to be said about people who can make the sacrifice of self and put others before themselves, and put the Gods of the North before their other desires, and put the Nine Noble Virtues before their other behaviors. These people show a real wisdom, and in my own experience, they are happy, vibrant people.

Heathenry's virtue-codes and ancient source-lores do put limitations on us, but those limitations make us better people, people who are worthy to be around our loved ones in this world, and who are going to be worthy enough one day to rejoin our ancestors in the Unseen world. In those days, after our Fated time here in the middle-world is done, our Ancestors themselves will praise us for being good people and making them proud, if we held to our oaths and behaved as proper Heathens (and human beings) should. We should consider our Ancestors in everything we do- all of our lives, right this moment, are their gifts to us.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Wyrd of the Hunt

Even though many city-dwelling folk don't realize it, there is, in fact, a quiet war raging between groups that oppose small and big game hunting, and those who wish to see it remain free, protected and legal. Most urban people see this very much as an issue that belongs to the rural segment of our population. There is a select group of urban people who do leave their cities to go on vacation hunting trips, but they tend to come from wealthier backgrounds.

Ironically, what the wealthy lawyer or doctor may consider his yearly or seasonal vacation- a good trip out to the wilderness to gun down an elk or a moose or deer- is a way of life to many rural folk, many of whom (male and female) grow up hunting, or around hunters. My own father and grandfather were avid hunters, and my father still is. In the small country town where he comes from, everyone hunts, or knows hunters.

Today, I'm going to write about the sacred dimension of hunting. I'm going to write about the moral implications of hunting, and I'm going to voice my opinion on many matters that relate to hunting in the modern day. Before I begin, I think I should give a fair warning: I don't think it is right to hunt and kill animals, when there is no need to hunt and kill them.

Yes, I have come under fire from many "Pagans" and "Heathens" in the past for this stance of mine, this stance (among many of my stances) which runs contrary to the "status quo" of the Heathen and Pagan world. That's the way "opinions" work- everyone has a right to their own. I am a Wyrd-worker. I have an increased sensitivity to the web of life, the web of power and force that binds us all together. My opinions on events, on things I see, on things I hear, are ruled, influenced, and shaped by that sensitivity. If I could so easily ignore it, then I would be a very bad Wyrd-worker or Seidman.

Unlike many of my contemporaries, who talk a good deal about "spirituality" and "Wyrd", I live a life where my opinions and actions are directly affected and influenced by what I experience because of my religious beliefs and spiritual activities. I never tire of pointing out (as you may have noticed) that many of my "fellow Heathens" love to claim to believe one way, to believe in the Gods, in Wyrd, in the animistic worldview, but all of that doesn't seem to alter, in any way, how they think and act in the world.

I call this "convenient Heathenry". It's the sort of Heathenry that lets people profess a complete and total belief in animism, a belief that wights or spirits fill the body of nature, and yet, lets them ignore environmental damage, or lets them dump their garbage on the ground when they go camping. It lets them claim how strongly they believe in "personal responsibility for one's actions" and how their children are their "ancestors reborn", but at the same time support completely unrestricted rights to abortion, or abortion as birth control. It's the same heathenry that leads people to declare that "all life is sacred", and yet, they believe in "sport hunting".

And this is precisely where I am going to enter this stream: the so-called activity of "sport hunting".

I'd like to make a strong statement, and I have a very hard time seeing how any so-called "heathen" who believed in Wyrd and the sacredness of life could ever disagree with it. This is a statement that I have been preaching for years. You'd be surprised at how often people become angry when I say it, and how many people reject it, without being able to give a reason for their rejection.

"Death is never a sport."

Oh my! There it is- the great radical statement that you'd think decent, civilized people anywhere should agree on. Death is never a sport.

Many people- especially rural people- love to hunt. I'm going to take a step, for a moment, into the world of stereotypes: the vast majority of hunters are ill-educated, ill-spoken and ill-favored rednecks. They are nasty, rude, smelly, ignorant, cruel, and disrespectful to the Land itself, and to the poor beasts that they glut their need for blood and "sport" on, and kill. Behind it all, behind this so-called "sport", there is an even darker psychology operating, of which I will speak later. Not all hunters will fit the bill I described here- some are otherwise intelligent, well-mannered people who mean well. This latter type probably hunts because they are thoughtlessly fulfilling the conditioning given to them by their upbringing, or because they simply don't think animal life is as valuable as human life, and they enjoy hunting.

There is a reason why I can step into the world of stereotypes; I have physically been in the world of "hunters". My father, hoping I would make a "great white hunter", tried to take me with him and his friends when I was a boy to their hunting camp, and out for their hunting trips.

On this point, I disappointed my father; I am not a hunter. I was nothing like his friends, and I knew, even then, that I would never grow up to be. Why don't I hunt? Because I don't need to. There is no reason for me to kill an animal when so many die already to be packaged into meat for us to eat, and get delivered to us at markets and stores. I'm in touch with nature in many profound ways- I canoe, hike, camp, and know a good deal about wortcunning and herbology. I am a naturalist when it comes to owls and large raptors and birds of prey. I simply don't need to kill animals to feel in touch with nature.

If my family, community, or friends relied on me to get them food in the form of meat from animals, I would hunt it or butcher it. But not a single person I know relies on hunters or hunting to supplement their diet with needed meat. Not a single one.

If I were to meet people who DID need meat that only hunters could provide, I would welcome them to it. I have no qualms with those people or the practices of the hunters that they rely on. I do, however, have issues with modern "sport" hunters, and modern Heathens who kill beasts thinking that they are fulfilling some sort of spiritual duty. I will discuss both below.

The Sacred Dimension of Hunting Among Primal Peoples

Native Americans of the Sioux nations relied on the hunting of Buffalo and deer and other game. Their traditions of hunting run back to the foundations of mankind, back to pre-history, and they were deeply aware of the spiritual dimension involved in the act of hunting. Sioux hunters were taught this about hunting:

"Shoot your four-legged brother in the hind area, slowing it down but not killing it. Then, take the four-legged’s head in your hands, and look into his eyes. The eyes are where all the suffering is. Look into your brother’s eyes and feel his pain. Then, take your knife and cut the four-legged under the chin, here, on his neck, so that he dies quickly. And as you do, ask your brother, the four-legged, for forgiveness for what you do. Offer also a prayer of thanks to your four-legged kin for offering his body to you just now, when you need food to eat and clothing to wear. And promise the four-legged that you will put yourself back into the earth when you die, to become the nourishment of the earth, and for the sister flowers, and for the brother deer. It is appropriate that you should offer this blessing for the four-legged and, in due time, reciprocate in turn with your body in this way, as the four-legged gives life to you for your survival."

This sort of talk touches the heart of any person who is Wyrd-aware, any person who is aware of the deep bonds that exist between humans, beasts, and the Land that we both live upon. This sort of talk is evidence that the Sioux people understood, with great clarity, the reality of their interconnectedness with life and all forms of life. The Native Americans also hunted because they needed to hunt, needing the bodies of animals for food and for clothing and other tools.

Can modern "sport" hunters claim to have such a respect for their victims? I can tell you now, the vast majority of them, if they are religious, are Christians who don't think animals even have souls. They believe, as the bible tells them, that animals were "put here for the use of human beings". This, of course, is a pernicious lie, one of many found in the bible. It also reflects the loss of the animistic worldview on the part of the ancient Hebrews who invented the notion that everything was put "here for their use" by their "god". That same loss of the animistic worldview was passed onto Europeans by the bible and the Christian tradition that embraced it. To this day, it has done immeasurable harm to our populations of beasts, and to the Land itself.

So no, modern "sport" hunters who are Christian cannot claim to have the proper and needed respect for these slain animals. Even hunters who aren't overly religious tend to be very nasty and disrespectful, for the simple reason that they simply don't think about the fact that they are sending pain and terror and death onto another living creature. I don't know which is worse, to be honest.

The vast majority of "Sport" hunters are just men (and some women) who are doing nothing in the woods or wilderness with their penis-replacement Rifles than seeking violence for pleasure. They are seeking the false sense of power they get when they destroy the life of a majestically powerful animal. It is true that they may enjoy the taste of deer meat, or perhaps they enjoy boasting over the big stuffed bear they put in their homes, in a further display of barbarity; but a Wyrd-worker such as myself doesn't give a rat's arse what people enjoy; I care only what is true, helpful, and proper with respect to Wyrd, which is the interconnected nature of all life.

Hunters like to claim that without them, "animals would overpopulate". This is a proven lie; in fact, many states where hunting is extremely lucrative artificially create large populations of deer and other animals just so hunters can hunt. What most people fail to realize is that hunting is a major industry in the United States.

Long before there were human hunters, animal populations were governed in size by natural laws, laws that are still in effect, despite human stupidity. People try to claim that humans have "destroyed all the natural predators" for things like deer, but this too, is a flimsy claim. It is true that fewer predators exist in the wild because of humans, but it doesn't take predators to cull populations. Availability of food and other factors will also do it.

Hunters then try to claim that they are being "merciful" by killing deer or other animals that would otherwise "starve". This is absurd; I would rather see those animals starve naturally than have to be dishonored in their deaths by the hands and bullets of violence-for-pleasure-seeking thugs. It was humans who were unwise, and destructively out-of-touch with the reality of Wyrd that murdered large populations of predators who were keeping other populations in check.

If hunters think that they can replace natural predators with their own "sport", they are mistaken; over-hunting is a reality in all parts of the US, despite "laws" intended to protect game. The only way out of this issue is to re-introduce predators. It is well known that the predators that were killed (and to this day still are killed) like wolves and coyotes and the like, pose no real danger to human beings.

Heathens and other modern "people of the Land" who hunt love to consider themselves to be following in the footsteps of their great "hunter" fore-fathers. But are they? Our ancient forebears hunted for survival. In fact, it wasn't the poor man and woman of the land who hunted for enjoyment, but nobles, rich people, and other aristocrats who considered it leisurely. Roman nobles hunted for that reason, and to the late 1800's, it was aristocrats who mostly rode about hunting animals like deer and foxes. They hunted for sport and pleasure, while the common people hunted for food. There is a massive difference.

The Call of the Wild Past

Today, there are many people inside and outside of the Heathen community that look to hunting as a way of "reconnecting" with some primal aspect of themselves. Some- a very small minority within the Heathen community- have embraced hunting as a means of calling forth some forgotten form of spiritual bonding with the land and the hunted beasts.

You might think that this would be a noble venture, and on the surface, it would seem to be- until you realize that it is the same tired story, told in a new form. We all know about "safari hunts" in Africa and in Australia where the idle rich pay a LOT of money to have big animals released from cages in front of them, so that they can shoot them to death. Heathen "spiritual hunting" is about three steps removed from that same thing- it's a bunch of modern people- mostly guys, but you do get the occassional "tough woman" who wants to get involved- who want to get big spears and stab animals to death.

Okay, let's leave Dr. Freud out of this. The idea that a bunch of guys would like to thrust huge spears into the sides and backs of beasts, and call it "spirituality" is already a stretch. Like the non-Heathen "sport" hunter, these people think that they are "bonding" somehow with the beasts they are killing. They imagine that it must have "been this way" in the past. They imagine, in an even more outrageous stretch of modern juvenile imagination, that they are "testing themselves" by "pitting themselves" against the "beast".

For me, this is yet another sign of why our society needs man-making rituals that young men can engage in, to prove their worth to be counted among the "men" of their society. The fact that guys would get together and actually put on "rituals" in which they imagine they are either becoming animals or speaking to the spirit of animals, make sacrifices or blots to various Gods or spirits, and then run out and cruelly stab an animals to death, and then do Gods know what with the blood and body parts, all to fulfill their strange pseudo-Heathen machismo and fulfill their need to feel like the "tough yet spiritual man of the land" is a sad example of what happens when you have displaced masculine aggression and lack of opportunities to "prove" one's manhood.

These same men (and that occassional woman) will eat fast-food, drive around in cars, play computer games, eat steaks bought from grocery stores, order crap from the internet, and keep massive CD and DVD collections- and then, in an incredible show of their great "connection" to the wild and the Gods and beasts, go onto a campground somewhere, get spears and bows and other weapons, and play "ancient iron-age hunter" for a weekend.

Let me just say it, so that you can be completely clear on what I know to be the case:

I think that hunting animals should only be done out of true necessity. You don't have the moral or spiritual right to kill animals because you feel the need to "be connected again" to a time when people DID hunt out of necessity. You don't have to kill animals to make yourself feel powerful, spiritual, manly, or cool.

I know that none of my words here will sink in to certain people, but as a Wyrd-worker, I have to say them anyway. Here is the harsh reality, that no human being can escape, no matter how much they want to deny it:

Life does not belong to us. Life arises from the mighty web of Wyrd, from a billion divine forces that interact and ceaselessly pour forth form and power. Not a single one of us here reading this post wove our own lives, and parents are also not the sole giver of life to the child- they are only two links in a mighty chain that extends back to the ultimate mystery. Not being the authors of life, either our own, or the great life of the Land and the world, we have a perilous responsibility to consider carefully how and when we disrupt life. This is the simple logic, the inescapable conclusion, of the animistic worldview.

In addition to this, there's more bad news for the "sport" hunters or the macho "killer" Heathens:

We are all connected. Because of this connection, there is a cost for how we live our lives. I'm not just talking an immediate social and environmental cost. I mean that our actions shake the web of reality itself, and that reverberation, that echo, sounds into eternity. A wiser man than myself has said it as clearly as it can be said: What we do to this web of life, we do to ourselves. Skuld, our debt that we build for how we live our life, is a reality that cannot be ignored.

Yes, there is a cost for the taking of life, a cost that will be paid one way or the other. The Vanir-lords, Frey and Freya, will not take people into their blessed realms who dishonored and stained the forests and plains of the natural world with lawless blood. And doing blots to Frey or Freya and asking their permission doesn't cut it- they won't be saying "yes" unless you actually need to hunt. They won't be giving permission for your farsical "sacred hunt" which is essentially a form of sport-hunting, pleasure killing, macho killing, dressed in Heathen garb.

Gold must answer gold, and silver must answer silver. If you take a life, you had better have had a good reason- not merely a reason of "pleasure" or a misguided attempt to prove your "manhood" to people in a modern context, where such things are no longer appropriate. The cost of a life is another life. If you take a life to spare your own or the lives of others, such a thing is spiritually and morally justified. Nothing else justifies killing- whether it be humans or animals.

Let me re-state my position once more before I finish this letter: People who have to hunt, who hunt for survival, are morally justified to do so. The "hunting industry" and the "sport" hunters are certainly not justified. Despite their desire to present themselves as great and noble outdoorsmen and environmentalists, they are in fact needlessly taking life. Why are they doing it? What's the real cause? I hate to sound like a broken record (because I say this a lot) but the cause is the loss of Wyrd-wisdom, which leads to a very dark psychology.

Dark Psychology

There is a deep and dark psychology involved in the taking of life in needless hunting, as you might imagine. There is a sense of "power over", a re-affirmation of a fraudulent sense of power and ability, based on what the human imagination believes about animals and beasts, especially beasts that are famed for their virility and danger, like lions or boars. To kill the king of beasts, or the king stag, or the king boar MUST mean that a man is greater than the beast, stronger, faster, more powerful.

There is a destructive psychology which is based firmly on the false distinctions drawn by the mind, which place walls between the "human being" and the "world he or she inhabits". This false distinction-making faculty causes a new, hallucinatory dimension of negative morality to appear; sadly, that same dimension has been the one that we have based all of our "moral thinking" on for many a century.

There is a sheer, giantish, dark and darwinian beastial side to this sort of "sport killing"; the death of other living beings answers to an atavism that sleeps in the deep brain of most creatures who occupy high areas on the predatory food-chain. It may be fine for animals to indulge in it, held in balance as they are by massive instincts, but for humans, cut loose from the bonds of instincts and dominated by confusion and the loss of primal wisdom, the pleasure generated from this wild portion of our nature becomes an instrument for anti-social and dangerous forces that we as a society all recognize as being harmful.

Of course, many will defend these behaviors as "tradition"- but slavery was also a tradition, as was lynching black men, and so was the systematic patriarchal social mistreatment of women- just calling something a "tradition" doesn't mean that it's proper or appropriate anymore. Some will say that they are taking part in a "sport" (though as I have said, death is no sport, and they will understand the consequences of their needless taking of life when they are plunged into the depths of Hel) and they even try to defend them as some form of "right". "We have the right to hunt", they say, not unlike the laughable objections of smokers who screech that the government is taking away their "right to smoke", when they outlaw smoking in public places or restaurants.

No one has these "rights". "Rights" are fictional constructs if ever there were any. "Rights" don't fall from the sky, pre-written on divine tablets; they are social constructs, ideas, ideals, created and granted and enforced by large groups of human beings. The group-mind changes over time; new ideas arise; people screaming about their "rights" are usually desperately grasping on to some anachronistic habits and ways of life that are simply no longer supportable by the way of the present.

I have read our Constitution. I failed to see a "right to hunt" drafted inside it or the Bill of Rights. Hunting is a part of our past that we largely do not need anymore, and no, I don't think preserving it in a controlled way is positive in any manner. If you want to bond with your son or family or friends out in the woods, you don't need to kill a beast to do it. You can find other ways of challenging and bonding with each other without destroying life.

A person who is aware of the interconnected nature of life already has peace and understanding where concerns life and death, but they also know that death is no sport, and is not something we need to bring to other creatures when there is no necessity to do so. And since I can't say it enough, I'll say it again: you don't need to kill something to get the attention of the Gods, or to feel "spiritual" again. If you do find that you need to spill blood to feel those things, you have a far more ominous problem than you can probably realize.

Most people who grow up around hunting and hunters, and who have family who hunt, have a hard time "getting into" all that I have said- most laugh it off. Those people also usually aren't Wyrd-workers or Seidfolk, and do not understand, on a deep and essential level, how connected they are to all other life. They may CLAIM to understand it, but their understanding is only mind-deep; it is not heart-deep. If they could feel the connection, feel the great sacredness of life, then they would modify how they think, to come into conformity with it. They would stop looking the other way and laughing off the issue of "sport" hunting. To be wise means to re-appraise how we look at the world and how we treat it. Wisdom demands no less.