Monday, June 18, 2007

When the Norns Have Spoken

I spent a good bit of time in my last article voicing my vociferous disagreement with the modern "Heathens" who still try to believe in the modern notion of "free will". I submitted, as I have always submitted, that the genuine belief in Fate does not require (or leave room for) a belief in the Christian-born notion of "free will", and that any acceptance of the idea of free will not only fundamentally destroys the power of Fate and Destiny as our ancestors understood it, but removes the very matrix of tension and heroism that defines the old Heathen worldview.

Naturally, (for goeth ever Wyrd as she will) the hordes of the modern day have produced both "scholars" and "Heathens" who have done all the needed mental gymnastics and apologetics required to white-wash the concept of Fate and Destiny out of modern Heathenry, almost completely. They've left Wyrd or the Nornic power of Destiny completely toothless, no threat to them or the things they want to believe.

They've made the Norns into little old biddies who sit back and wait for them to "decide" things, and then weave in accordance to whatever "free choice" they think they have as humans. One might as well remove the Norns from the mix entirely! Instead of according them the power our ancestors did, these moderns have imagined that everything from the shape of their lives to their deaths are in their own hands.

Well, that's a fine enough delusion (as delusions go), and I'm sure the false sense of security that people derive from this belief is a comfort blanket second to no other. But it's not reflective of the way the Heathens of old thought, and its not reflective of reality. That such a sad state of spiritual degeneracy should exist today is to be expected- the Eddas tell us that this final age of the world will be marked by many sorts of degeneracy, from the breakdown of the bonds between families and kin, to the rising of chaos in other aspects of life. Spiritual degeneracy and loss of wisdom is another mark of the "Wolf Age" in which we are living.

But in this era of Fateful darkness, some people still stand for the light of truth. That's how it must be. While most people will be overpowered by the forces of physical, mental, and spiritual decay, a few people- a few blessed people- will enjoy the companionship of the Gods until the very end. Their protecting spirits will ensure that they do not fall victim to the real death, which is the death of the truth. Should you be spared in this manner, the only perfect human response is thankfulness.

In my last article, I took a shot at the "scholars" that modern "Heathens" search out to find the needed word-jungles and the apologetics that they need to justify their desire to be free of fundamental powers such as Fate or Destiny. So empowered by the words of these non-Heathen scholars, they reduce destiny to some thing that they have "chosen", or to some power that "influences them partially", leaving room for them to have the final say.

They rip open the books of this scholar or that scholar, looking desperately for whatever they can find to justify believing whatever they've chosen to believe about the ancient Heathens, rather than simply going to the lion's mouth. As anyone who has suffered through the world of "Recon" Paganism already knows, when it comes to the mainstream, what Truths you know in your heart (and to a lesser extent, what the actual sources say) doesn't matter- only what "PhD" you can quote matters.

And that is why Heathenry suffers as much as it does today- the orthodoxy-builders, ego-maniacal, power-hungry, and arrogant as they are, try to silence anyone who disagrees with them with charges of "UPG", and try to talk circles around the heads of the low-witted by quoting endless "scholarly" arguments, which amount to nothing when you penetrate to their cores. The attitude of "I didn't understand that... It must be true" is replaced in many "mainstream" modern Heathen circles with "Someone really important and smart-sounding said that... It must be true."

When you study these great holy cow scholars, you discover that with all but one or two exceptions, they aren't Heathens, and they aren't writing to uncover the truth about the past. Most of them write to apply nonsensical modern understandings about life to the past, to accomodate the past to the present, thus rendering our Heathen ancesors' beliefs "acceptable". Their writings are dominated by their modernistic thinking, and they never once try to put themselves in the minds and bodies of those who lived long ago.

With very few exceptions, they've never raised a horn or done a Blot to the Gods, so they can't even connect with the past in that crucial way. All they know is their scholarly skepticism or atheism, or their Christianity. And those things give them no basis to tell us what the "ancients" did or believed.

The wisdom of the Heathen eras was destroyed all but utterly by Christianity. The worldview that replaced the Heathen complex of worldviews did not resemble the older worldview very much. The leap from "Fate" to "Divine Providence" was one of the main features of the transformation, and the destruction of the uniquely Indo-European concept of "Heroic Struggle in the face of Inexorable Fate" was the final nail in the coffin of the old ways, for without this key feature of the worldview, there is no possibility of a true Indo-European hero emerging, no possibility of proper behavior before the Gods nor proper reactions to the challenges of life. There would be a lack of the metaphysical tension that drives each person forward with fearless nobility, despite life's many dangers and its final tragic end.

There are no Christian heroes; heroes don't put their faces in the earth and submit, grovelling before some "God". They don't walk around eaten up with the guilt or shame of their "sins" and actions; they don't humble themselves, because they are proud and strong people, who like all human beings, are innately worthy of the Gods. They don't live in the past, stumbling over their past mistakes or choices; they live NOW and they accept full responsibility for their actions, regardless of the fact that those same actions were part of their destiny.

That's the catch, the bind of Fate, the unfairness that simply doesn't stand in the way of these men and women being proud and defiant. It also doesn't stand in the way of us struggling for a better life, and cursing those who succumb to weakness and wickedness. Some weak-livered people say "that doesn't make sense!" to which I can honestly say "what life have you been living? Life doesn't make sense. Anyone who says it does, or has a few easy answers for you, is most certainly selling something."

Without heroic resignation and struggle against the tension of destiny, the power of inexorable Fate, you cannot be a Heathen in the most authentic sense of the word. You simply can't place yourself in the mindset of these eccentric, (from the modern perspective, and the perspective of many of their ancient neighbors) heroic, and daring people. You'll sit around living life based on YOUR grand decisions and "free will", worshipping your own self-idea, when the ancients didn't have that kind of modernistic self-idea.

Instead of accepting what comes your way as Wyrd, as your destiny, you'll waste countless months and years trying to think and "decide" your way out of it. Why bother? The attitude of "into the battle singing" is what we need, and what the Allfather needs, so that he can identify those who will be brave enough to stand with his chosen at the end of days.

Sometimes, a scholar says something worth listening to. A gentleman philosopher named Anthony Winterbourne has written a book called:

When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism.
(Madison and Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004. Pp. 187.)

You can get it from A friend of mine from "teh internets" told me about it today. Read this wonderful description of the book, and notice what this writer says about Fate, and recall what I said in my last article about the Indo-European stance of accepting Fate, while simultaneously struggling with it:

In When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism, philosopher Anthony Winterbourne explores the implications of an aspect of Eddic and saga literature familiar to many: the distinctive attitude toward fate that characterizes so many heroes and villains of Old Norse literature. Winterbourne proceeds from the observation that Germanic heroes and narratives of pre-Christian Scandinavia, England, and the continent show a "consciousness of an all-embracing fate [that] somehow leaves room for pride, dignity, and defiance, rather than an encouragement to supine submissiveness; a pride demanding that one not be oppressed even by the knowledge of what fate must already have decided—hubris, in fact" (p. 88).

In exploring the nature of this concept of fate and the room it paradoxically permits for heroic choice and action, Winterbourne aims at shedding light on an aspect of worldview that can seem strikingly different from that of modern Westerners: "it was the belief in the power of fate that generated just that dignity that we seem (today) to feel is available to us only through a fundamental and contrary belief in the freedom of will" (p. 109). Winterbourne brings philosophical discussions on the nature of fatalism to bear on the pre-Christian and early Christian Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon cases and seeks to uncover the philosophical systematizing that underlay the fate-embracing worldview. Crucial to this logic is the notion of fate and time as separate unrelated entities: something which, Winterbourne argues, characterized pre-Christian Germanic understandings but which was replaced in Christianization with a fused fate-time concept.

While I don't think that the attitude he's talking about equates with "Hubris", I have to agree with everything else I've read here so far. Sounds like I'm going to have to pick it up! The Heathen world needs a foil to the other "scholars" who have spent so much time degrading the true understanding of Fate. Hail the Aesir!