Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Death of Innocents: Heathen Consolation in the Face of Tragedy

I've had quite a heavy heart ever since I heard of the killings on the campus of Virginia Tech. Such a tragedy forces everyone to reconsider everything they think about the world and this life. As a father who loves his own child more than anything in the world, I see the faces of my own daughter in the faces of those slain in this senseless massacre.

I'm a man of faith, and a Godi to my own family and religious community. I'm a Seid-worker who searches the depths of his soul and the horizons of this world for meaning. Despite what anyone says, faith is never an easy road to walk through life. You may be very comfortable with what you believe; you may spend a lot of money or time on it; you may show your devotion in a dozen ways, but faith- real faith- is not easy.

I believe, like my ancestors before me, that we are all descendants of the Allfather, and his family of Gods. I believe that we are also sprung from great natural powers, like the great Earth below us. I believe that the bonds of family, kin, and community should be foremost in our lives, because I don't think that human spirituality, morality, or ethics actually become real things until we fulfill them on behalf of those we love. Heathenry becomes a deep part of us when we look into the eyes of the people that we are experiencing it with, and living it with.

Still, at the end of the day, our modern world presents us with many distractions and reasons to doubt our own minds. Are we living well? Are we worthy of this life? Are we fulfilling our potentials? I have faith that a person lives well who lives honestly and who lives as much as they can for others. I have faith that we are worthy to be where we are, because Wyrd or Fate spun us onto these paths, for a reason. I have faith that we encounter what we need to encounter to bring our potentials to perfect fruition. Despite the difficulties that people of faith must encounter, I think that these difficulties are challenges that will make us stronger, and eventually whole.

I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a child in such a cruel way. To think that a hallowed place of learning could be violated with innocent blood; to think that people- the sons and daughters of parents just like me- could want to better themselves through education, and be sitting in a classroom, only to meet their deaths.

There's no words that can block the rushing river of grief that now wends its way through the lives of countless people, and no words that can make the rest of us feel safe with regard to our own children and our own family members. More than that, no religious belief will make us feel 100% about these events.

I can tell you what I believe, but it won't matter; they are just words. I could say that the man who did this was consumed by the natural and dangerous forces lurking in all of us; I can say that his feeling of alienation and his mental illnesses combined to break him free of the bonds of decency, affection, sanity, and love, and sent him rushing out to collide with the holy life-houses of other people, destroying them as he went. Like the giants who will one day destroy the world, giantish powers in this wretched man destroyed 32 worlds- 32 people- and finally himself.

What comfort does the Heathen faith offer us? What reason does it give for things like this happening? There are many reasons, but even the best-explained reason won't stop the grief. Still I am compelled to state what I must say: when we lose connection with one another, when we lose Frith, when people have a hard time finding the "place where they belong", these sorts of atrocities can happen.

In Frith, in good, rightful union with your family, friends, the Gods, and the land beneath you, you are safe. You have immense power for living, and a neverending source of sanity. I have a family that I love and who love me back. I have friends and a religious community that extend the same affection. Daily I have love, acceptance, and a sense of "being in place" re-affirmed, in many ways. In this great peace, I can easily grasp the value of human life, the value of friendship, and the value of religion.

The dangerous forces that live in me cannot overwhelm the Godly walls built in me, and maintained through this peace. The Gods are daily invited into my life to keep this peace holy and strong; the walls in me that protect my own mind and life are made red and fresh with the pourings from sacrifices, and the Gods live here. If you belong to a Kindred, or if you have a powerful relationship with the Gods, you have the same sort of protection, the same sort of stability. What's important to keep in mind is that anyone can have these things- Frith is possible for any person who can open themselves up to others and be unafraid to love and be loyal.

What did the murderer of these innocents have? It's clear from what has been announced that he was practically friendless, isolated, and troubled. I already know that he was not Asatru, not true to the Gods, nor consciously in their fellowship. He was an open, unprotected field, an unwarded home, an unguarded keep. Terrible powers were allowed to multiply and place their own cruel, oafish thrones and tables up in the hall of his inner self. With no support from friends or from spiritual powers, he had no place to go, no help to fall back onto, when the pains and defeats of life pressed down on him.

Many people in his situation would just take their own lives. But deep in us lurk forces that are infintely more savage than that. Fiery things of rage made plunder of his sanity and sent him to destruction, dragging down innocents with him. He couldn't see other lives as valuable; he was no father, so he could never have seen what I have seen- the vision of love in the face of a child, and the realization that this same love has been seen in the face of every child by other parents.

So the tragedy was woven, and it came to pass. This is the Wolf-Age, the last age of the world. Such sad things are to be expected, and doubly so in a world that has forsaken bonds of kindred and community, in exchange for the selfish life of the "new individual", who lives for nothing but himself and his own gain.

What comfort can my own faith offer me and to all people (for indeed, all are affected by this tragedy)? The comfort of knowing that what is good, noble, and dear will never be lost forever. 32 innocent souls are now walking the ghost-roads, the hel-way into the deep, restful realm below. Across the dividing line between life and death, I think they will rejoin with those who have gone before. I think that when this age is over, and a new age begins, they will live again. The Underworld of the dead may be a fearful subject to many, but in reality, it is the repository of all our hopes. There, safe in that deep place, rest the seeds of nobility, valor, and hope for a new world. In the web of Wyrd, nothing is ever lost.

We must not allow the news of this horror to go unheeded- we have to let it remind us to guard against our own corruption. We have to let it remind us to cherish our days and nights with our families and loved ones, because they can be slain at any time. Only our bonds of honor, trust, and love can build a bridge over death, and help us to never lose them. But that's also a matter of faith- and faith is a test in and of itself.

Can you trust the ancients? Do you trust that they knew what they were talking about? Balder the Beautiful was sent cruelly to the Underworld, in the prime of his long life, young and cherished. I've seen 32 Balders fall and go below, and I've seen many families, many parents, weeping and raging like Odin and Frigg wept and raged for their son. I've also heard the Seeress tell of a new world that will come when this one passes away, in which Balder rises again, returns from the deeps of the Underworld, to be in the daylight of the world again, and to be among his kin. I think the ancients were onto something with this; I don't think they made it up out of idleness, nor because they were just trying to comfort themselves.

Go watch the world die in winter, and then see the same myth take place when the green returns. It's okay to weep; the Gods themselves wept, bitterly. That's another necessary part of our lives and our Fate. Our ancestors had no problem telling stories of wights as Mighty as the Allfather and his Wife going through the pain of loss- emotion is not merely a human attribute. All beings in the nine worlds must feel pain and joy. What makes the Gods divine is their great wisdom in the face of pain and joy. We can have some of that wisdom, if we have faith that the story of our lives extends beyond the boundaries of life and death as we see them.

It's not hard to have Faith in the existence of the Gods themselves, or even spirits, when you experience them daily; but its harder to have faith, sometimes, with the idea that life is, ultimately, on the side of life. But that's just the faith I have. If I'm wrong, then I won't be around to regret it after I meet my own death, and I'll live a life of joy in the meantime. I invite everyone to do the same.

May the Allfather bless the slain and appear to them now in whatever form they need to see, to guide them to a restful place across the dividing line between this world and the other worlds. May they have peace, and new life one day.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Would you live backwards in time? That's not possible. How many events and layers of action have come before you, resulting in all that you see and think and feel? You don't ever lift your hand or speak a word without those previous things influencing you. You have to go forward, and you are forever a product of the ancient, immense, and awesome matrix that the ancients called the "fateful layers" of motion and action that pre-exist you.

Nothing that you feel that you "create" or "decide" on this day is unique to this day; its true beginning was ages ago; you acted as a final piece of the chain of causation that allowed it to come to be. And this process isn't merely linear; countless other forces, all existing at the same time as any "chain of causality" that you may identify, also exert their influence. You may want to consider these creations and decisions that you experience to be "yours", but in reality, they belong to the whole world, and to Fate.

A woman picked up a full spindle, and holding on to the end of the thread, she let it fall. It fell and spun quickly as it unravelled.

Her decision to pick it up and drop it, that is like the great layers of Fate that have come before all actions. The whirring of that spindle, and the unwinding thread, that is the motion of the seasons and all of the mighty activities of nature. Without She who held the spindle originally, the spindle and thread would not be spinning. Nothing is apart from the great motion of all reality, and the hand of the weaver, and her mysterious intentions, stands behind it all.

What happens eventually? The spindle is freed, and comes to rest. The thread is all released, and the spindle is pristine and bare. Should the owner of the spindle choose, she could pick it all up, re-wind the thread around the spindle, and let it fall again. Or if she likes, she could leave it as it lies. The point is freedom- her strange intentions were followed by necessary motions, the desperate spinning led gradually to freedom.

Perhaps a tiny spider on the spindle felt the motion and came to wonder at its situation- perhaps it came to identify itself in terms of spinning, of changing, of rushing motion, all from the spindle and thread unwinding.

The spider couldn't stop the spinning; it may have felt helpless. It couldn't understand what had caused the spinning in the first place, and it may have felt wonder and fear. However, no matter what it felt, freedom was inevitable.

Unable to explain or control its situation, yet doomed to the culmination of freedom- we could learn a lot from that spider on the spindle.

So don't live backwards in time. The Ancient Layers of Fate have long ago put themselves in place- She put them in place, She wove them there. From them, all things have arisen. Things arising and falling away, it's just the spin of necessity. You aren't really separate from that spin- accept this, and you accept your place in the great weave of things. Do not seek for false freedom in things born of the spin; your thoughts and feelings and actions are parts of a greater whole, and while they inevitably move towards the consummation of the weave of Fate, they are not in and of themselves free to ignore the spin nor act against it.

The freedom you want is not some freedom of choice or motion, but a realization of what is real in you, and an understanding of the meaning of all these things you experience. Everyone eventually gets around to asking the deepest of questions- what is my life? What is Fate? Do I choose things or do choices simply happen through me?

Why do you think this is? Because the system of Fate is unravelling, and at one point, the parts of it which think and which are aware- such as human beings- all must ask those things. The growth of awareness, of curiosity, of introspection and "looking within", is a sign of the approach of freedom, of the approaching end of this cycle of spinning. When awareness grows more pure and learns to look within itself, the weave is getting threadbare.

At this point, do not think that you can fail- you need no "freedom of choice" to reach the final and true freedom. If you seek to do what you cannot do, that is, to exempt yourself from the great weaving that is the ground of your being, and award yourself with powers of "free and independant choice" that you do not and cannot have, you will blind yourself to what is real.

You will trade in the mountain of fullness and wisdom for a tiny stone, and you will worship the stone and all the grandiose powers you attribute to it, instead of joining consciously with the cool, dark eternity of the mountain. Join with the mountain, and you will discover that "things are not happening to you" or even "around you"- you will find that things are you happening.

"Things", such as events, decisions, choices, storms, accidents, inventions, wonders, dreams- all are reality itself happening; they are Fate occuring, and you are not at all separate from that great and holy occurence. How could you be? Your true "self", your true "body", they are larger and more involved with what you have called "the world" than you could ever imagine. Give yourself to your Self, and see.

But perhaps that's still not enough for you. You don't want that; you want to be in charge of your own little part of reality, all outside of Fate's grasp. You and the little stone you love so much can take on the whole world, or ignore it if you want, and you don't need or want some big force influencing you!

When you look again, later, you will see that the stone has turned to sand, or a drop of water, and vanished. The mountain, however, will always be there, and was even below your feet while you held your stone. The freedom you want is only found in understanding this.

One day, in the darkness and light of the great culmination of the world, you will understand it; you will be it. but you needn't wait till the culmination to understand or to merge with the great mystery of Fate's spinning- you can understand and join it here and now. Why should you? Because peace follows this understanding and this wise union.

One day, this world will be unwoven, this world and every other. What will happen then? I will tell you: She will pick up the thread and spindle, and set it spinning again. If you waited too long and let the truth finally find you at the end of all things, She'll send you spinning again. If you were wise to her mysteries before the spinning was up, then no spinning can ever daze you again.