Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Living the Odhinnic Life

I was recently in a discussion regarding the notion of "relationship to deity" as we Heathens understand it. It's nothing like the mainstream Christian notion of "relationship to God"- though many people who would be Heathen, and who have had the Christian model of relationship demonstrated to them all their life- expect that we will approach our Gods in the same familiar and intimate terms.

We don't. I've discussed it before, in many places, but it never really gets old: the Gods are busy running the universe and keeping the Worlds safe from being destroyed by wicked, destructive powers. This is not to say that they don't sometimes give visions or guidance to individual human beings, but it's far from a common occurrence. The Gods don't micromanage our lives, nor do they give out their "personal cell numbers" to just anyone who decides that they'll worship them. The Gods- led by Allfather- have given mankind many great and powerful assets, including the Godly spirit within each man and woman, and their ceaselessly effective wisdom, as embodied in texts like "Havamal" and other writings in the lore of the past.

The Gods give us the capability to be wise, brave, clever, resourceful, and enduring. Their spirit in us tends towards these things. They give us copious advice through the ancestral lore. They inspire us with their very presence, which can sometimes be experienced in moments of sacred might. They upheld the ancestors who knew them, and they uphold us now, even if most human beings won't give them the time of day anymore.

The Gods have fulfilled their role in the Fate of human beings; we have to stand and do our part now- return the favor, as it were, and make the most of their gifts and their aid when we can get it. Humans have to live their lives on what powers and merits they can manifest in themselves.

The only "outside aid" we can expect beyond what the Gods have done is the help and protection of the spirits of our family-lines, and our ancestral powers, who do provide us with luck and guidance, in their own strange way. Life is full of uncertainties, and there is no reason to be overly concerned about this simple and universal fact. You just accept it and live the best way you can. That's real peace; conflict begins when you either delight in delusions about life's true nature, and the true nature of death- or when you sit around wishing that the way the world works was different. We're not going to improve the world; it is being woven out by Fate. We can, however, improve our perspectives and find peace.

Organic religions, like Heathen traditions, don't come pre-packaged with "instruction books" for life. You learn all that you can from wherever you can- your elders, parents, friends, and from ancestral tradition, like the myths and lore. Then you live. You are helped, and you help others. Most importantly, you try to gain wisdom from living- wisdom, that true manifestation of the supreme solar-minded insight and inspiration which rained onto mankind when Odhinn, the Allfather and Master of the Mysteries completed his timeless quest for the deepest vision of reality. Those same blessings are mediated by his strange doings (in the mythical past and in our here-and-now present) to those who are cunning and brave enough to be "Allfather's Own".

It's odd indeed to think that the Gods can be so important to us- and to all life- and yet we don't imagine that we are having two-way phone calls with them every time we pray, fain, or sacrifice. There is no reason to be perplexed here; it is the mighty example of the Gods that supply our needs for relationship with the ruling powers. Living the "Odhinnic Life"- living by the example of the great Godly Sorcerer himself- makes one "move in his channel"- move, think, and live according to his own ancient wisdom and his own actions, and thus, we channel many of the same experiences he had.

The result of this is twofold: a precious chance to find the secrets that Allfather found, and a chance to know that we are not living a life merely of our own making, but living in accordance with a greater pattern of Wyrd, a timeless pattern with proven results: results that end in wisdom, the death of the self, given over to the Greater Self- and if we are lucky, the arrival at the same condition that Allfather resides in, perpetually.

We don't become "Allfathers", ourselves; we become what we have the potential to be inside- wise and free spirits that drink from his endless cup of inspiration, served to us by his handmaidens. That we can achieve such a blessed state is the evidence we need that, at the core of us, is that deathless spirit "in-breathed" (in-spired) by Allfather. If we were only lumps of mud and organic material, as modern science would have us believe, no such realizations or awakenings would be possible.

There are no "lumps of dead matter" to be found, anywhere in the Nine Worlds. All matter is coexistent with the fire that impelled the creation of the world-system; all matter is energetic and alive in its own way. All energy and matter, which can be reduced to the strong, impelling subtle forces and the inert, tending-to-stasis forces, (Fire and Ice) are themselves arisen from a deeper layer of reality- the layer of Ginnungagap, the void of Ginn-powers, the extremely subtle and mysterious roots of all things which not even the wisest can penetrate unless he or she dies to all relative notions of "world" and "self".

Those extremely subtle and mysterious roots are not known to me directly, but I will say one thing about them: I know that they are living powers, for the reality of sentience, spirit, and mind arose from them, and no dead thing can produce something alive. Effects are always something of the nature of their causes. The cosmos is a storm of mighty living powers, many risen to high levels of sentience, like the Gods and humanity, others not so high, tending towards darkness and chaos as they do. But the entire "cosmic event" is a powerful and timeless explosion of life and life-interaction.

And the Allfather is the Master of its many mysteries. To live in respect and worship of Odhinn is very good- very wise; it is good and right that people should worship such a being who is so tied to our own arising as human beings and our own greatness as humanity. But it is even greater and wiser to live like Odhinn- to follow in his footsteps and actualize the stages of his quest for the mysteries. Living like him places you in an intimate relationship with him, even if you never see him in a dream or see him in person.

In a sense, living like him means that you "see" him in everything that you do, for the reality of these things is such that you can't separate their power from him. The goal is to "see" that undying spirit of yourself, which he breathed into your ancestors. When you "see" that, you have seen the very essence and nature of the Gods. It frees us from despair, doubt, and death. That's what real wisdom is, to me- freedom from despair, confusion, doubt, and death.

What does it mean to live the Odhinnic way of life? It means that you look to sacred accounts of Allfather's interactions and his own quest to wisdom, to inspire your own. Below are a list of "Odhinnic perspectives" that I have crafted as a means to guidance for myself and others who are interested in the greatest path to wisdom that a human being can walk.

1. The Allfather Sacrificed his lesser self to his Greater Self, in the name of wisdom.

The quest for wisdom is greater than any other quest. Odhinn was willing to "die" to everything he thought about himself, everything he believed, and every doubt, attachment, joy, and fear he knew, just to attain wisdom. Does this mean we should give up on everything we find important in our lives, and become monks? Naturally not- "dying" or releasing ourselves from the snares of the lesser self isn't about scorning the lesser self and letting it die of starvation; it is about understanding that a Greater Self exists, and understanding what the true relationship is between lesser and Greater.

The Greater Self, to use an example, is an ocean compared to the lesser self, which is like a fish in the ocean. The fish depends so much on the great (and to it, invisible) medium of the oceanic body. There is no fish without it; it is the source of life and sustenance to the fish. It is the medium in which the fish moves and thrives. It is the resting place of the fish when the fish dies and its body comes apart.

But in the meantime, the fish swims on, blithely unaware of this great oceanic power upon which it relies, depends, and in which it moves and lives. If we were reflections on the surface of a mirror, the surface of the mirror- which effortlessly upholds all reflections as they come and go- would be like our Godly nature, our undying Greater Self. No part of a reflection is exempt from depending on the mirror, or being upheld by it. Just so, no part of our so-called "lesser self" can be apart from the Greater; the Greater is merely silent, perpetual, and supportive- the very "strong force" that holds the entire cosmos together. To die to the lesser is to grasp oceanic consciousness while still having command of fish consciousness- it is to become both lasting mirror and temporary, passing reflection at the same time.

So, dying to our lesser self is really about understanding the reality of the greater and no longer according single-minded limitation and importance to the lesser things that live and die, constantly. You don't have to give up your house, your beautiful wife or handsome husband, or give up all your money- these things that most people are quite fond of and attached to- you just have to see them with the proper, greater perspective. You have to see them with a wiser perspective.

Understanding the insubstantial nature of lesser things is precisely how we "give them up"- even if we keep them after our breakthrough in understanding, and even if we go on enjoying them, we've still "given them up" in a very important way. We've given up our slavery to our limited ideas about the natures of these things- and the nature of what we call "ourselves".

Like Odhinn, you can be alive and dead at the same time, rich and poor at the same time, loaded down with possessions and free of possessions at the same time. You only "have" the Greater Self when you let greater, wiser perspectives temper and change how you experience the "lesser" self. This is a matter of being willing to sacrifice yourself, and things about yourself that you may enjoy- beliefs you may enjoy, feelings you may enjoy, or habits you may enjoy. You have to be willing to take risks, to lose and to suffer in order to gain. Odhinn gouged out his eye to have a drink from a well that gave him much wisdom- what will you tear out to gain wisdom?

2. Allfather Welcomed a Dark Figure to his Table, and Offered his Hospitality and Friendship

Loki the Wolf's Father became bound to Odhinn through blood and troth. They shared horns and cups! Why ever? Such a dangerous, tricky figure being welcomed by Allfather? Won't Loki's giant Wolf-Son Fenris destroy Odhinn one day, with Loki leading the army that Fenris will be a part of? Sure. But the indistinct future doesn't mean squat when it comes to dealing wisely with what exists right now. Odhinn knows what role Loki has to play in the unfolding of things. Odhinn knows Loki's necessity, and he shows his acceptance of "things being risky and dangerous"- an acceptance that we all need to consider.

We all fail to live up to our highest ideals at times, and we all have risky behaviors, ideas, habits, and other dangerous powers in our lives. What do we do? Whine? Try to destroy the "other side" of things, as though it weren't necessary? It is necessary, even if it has disastrous consequences. Neither the universe nor these human societies or bodies are going to be around forever. Those dangerous powers that threaten to overthrow things are our constant companions and teachers, in a very real way- they keep us on our toes and they keep us preparing for the inevitable tests we must all face, when we are forced back down to the roots and to what is true and real.

Might as well set aside a cup of ale for the things you don't like about your life- because Fate wove them into your life for a reason, and wisdom comes from discovering that reason, not struggling against what cannot be changed. Every glorious feast or delightful meal ends up as a steaming pile of shit, eventually- that's no reason not to enjoy the feast.

Sure, every good thing is destined to be broken down- and destruction forever follows along with creation (and creation follows along with destruction)- and as much as these things might seem to be a real tragedy, consider it: Allfather and the Gods still made humans, and endowed us with spirit and life, and taught us to live well. Why would they, if all this was meaningless? Take the hint- live life happily. There must be a good reason why they thought it was worth it.

3. Allfather Wanders the World, In Many Shapes and Guises, in Search of Wisdom

He never seems to get enough! In many guises the Old Man treks about; his comings and goings are very mysterious. He seeks heroes to take as his own, seeks occult knowledge, new forms of sorcery to master, and seeks for goodness knows what else. He is the eternal student of the world- even a God in possession of omniscience still feels the need to wander and learn.

What can this mean? That knowing everything and working to know everything are not truly different- two sides of one coin. It tells us that omniscience is hard work, and that even a being that has the power to know everything- all the tidings of the earth, through his sorcery- still enjoys getting out sometime and seeing things with his own great eye.

The learning process must never end. It will never end. There's always new perspectives to learn, even on old knowledge that one may believe they have mastered. It is this "infinite" nature to wisdom and learning that makes them what they are, and makes them attributes of the Godly spirit in us. If they could reach some "limit", leaving us static and with nothing new to do or learn, they would not be worthy of a Godly essence. Our interactions with the world are never done, and the process of learning is ongoing.

There is no such thing as "forbidden knowledge", and no limits to what you should be interested in learning. Odhinn crosses every country and every region of every world looking to learn useful things. So do his men and women.

4. Allfather Rules the Gods and the Worlds through Subtlety, not Might of Arms

Yes, he has powerful weapons, like his enchanted spear Gungnir, but his real weapon is his mastery of the Runes and of sorcery- the power to alter the perspectives of other beings, to outwit them and to shift his shape like the God he is. His great knowledge, insight, and wisdom is what makes him Ruler of the Gods and the Worlds, not his magic spear. The penetrating Eye of Odhinn sees all things and through all things, to their roots- though what it "sees" there is not for us to know, but to discover.

If beating Giants to death and crushing the enemies of the Gods with brute force was enough to Rule the Cosmos, then Thorr would be in charge, not his father Odhinn. Wisdom rules the world- not savagery or muscle. It may not seem that way now, in our human world, in our times where wisdom doesn't seem to be high on the agendas of many governments, but cosmically speaking, it is wisdom that sits above strength in dominance and importance.

Might fades. Strength fades with age. Empires and armies fall. But wisdom remains, and a person strong in wisdom dies well, whereas a person who can only really beat people up well is carried away by death in terror- for their fists are useless when Hel casts Her noose around the fool's neck.

The men and women of Odhinn seek to fight smarter, not fight harder.

5. Allfather has a Dark Sense of Humor

...And so would you if you lived in perpetual awareness of your true self as an indestructible reality of spirit, and could now wander around the world, in many temporary, relative forms, enjoying life, experiencing excitement and fulfilling the needful work of Fate, without ever once having to slip into despair and doubt on account of your lost wits.

On your happy journeys, you'd meet a Hel of a lot of beings who are nothing like you- whiners, greedy bastards, poufs, idiots, and drool-cup specials that seem to think that they are the most important beings in existence, and who cause themselves and others an enormous pile of trouble.

Glaring from under the brim of his hat with his drilling eye, Allfather knows the true nature of these confused beings. He knows what role they play in the scheme of things. He knows what forces wove them they way they are. He knows what the outcomes of their stupidity must be.

If you were like Allfather, you wouldn't be able to help yourself- you'd have some fun at their expense, at least some of the time. And in so doing, you'd show them a different way to be- maybe they'd get better. Maybe they'd whine even more and just end up being a lesson for posterity. Or maybe you'd help eliminate them, if that was better for them and for the world. From the outside, it might look like you were being a sneaky, slippery bastard. You might look lethal and cruel. But from the inside, the story is very different. For the truly wise, the story is always different.

They say "ruthlessness is the kindness of the wise"- and there is a drop of truth to that, when the whole story is seen. Sometimes, the wisest thing to do is pretty savage seeming. But you will always know real wisdom by its ends- when it leads to good places, to greater harmony, then it was good all along. The scale is long and hard to see, unless of course you see with the eye of wholeness. Most humans don't. Most men and women of Odhinn don't. And those that do, well, I doubt we'll ever know about them, fully- like Odhinn, they won't ever be what they appear. Their comings and goings will likely be obscure to us. But we can honor their ideal.

There's nothing left to do but have a good laugh when the truth about things is known. The show is all decided, falling away to the Ragnarok- Orlog will unfold as it must. All of the things that we've feared so much are really meaningless. We are fully free, at heart, and fully trapped by our paranoias and self-interested delusions. We won't take the gold drink that is offered us every day by the Fylgja-Women, the handmaidens to Odhinn who accompany us; we prefer to lick our spit and call it champagne.

Imagine that you took the drink! You'd be a drinker of the sweetest mead, awakened to the truth of things, and yet still surrounded by spit-drinkers. After you got over the shock of it (a shock you might not even have, considering how much you'd understand the necessity of spit-drinkers- you too, were once one, after all, and you managed to get some good out of it) you'd have to smile at the great perfection of it all. After that, it would be time for some fun.

Things that seem so tragic to others might be seen by you as cosmic comedy of the greatest quality. And the opposite is true- things others delight in may not delight you as much, knowing as you do what the true nature of things is. You'll be doomed to be like Allfather- always going your way in your own special sort of unconquerable freedom, destined to be misunderstood, feared, and ignored by people who drink spit.

And like Allfather, you'll be a great champion of the Gods and humankind, and of all worlds in which sentient life dwells. Your sorcery- your great insight- will see to it that you end up in places on your journeys where you need to be, for things to work out as they must.

6. Odhinn's Conquest of the Vertical Axis of Reality- the World Tree- gave Solar Salvation (Sig and Sal, the possibility of Victory and Health) to All Beings

And your conquest of the world-axis can do the same. Stop living an "all around me" life, that life that deals with a flat plane, north, south, east, and west- stop living on the horizontal. Look to the vertical, which allows perception and consciousness to rise to the heights and sink to the depths. In the depths of Hel are the Ginn-Powers, hidden, though come forth now as the Runes, as taught by Allfather after he won them. From the depths comes the Mead of Inspiration, won by Allfather and mediated to the whole world by him, in the form of his great Solar Eagle.

From the Depths and the Heights come different perspectives- perspectives that are co-existent with every "place" and "moment" here on the horizontal plane- and Allfather's Ravens forever fly back and forth whispering the keys to those perspectives. In the form of a serpent, he hisses about the great inspiration he found below, in the depths.

It is not the sun and life-force that Allfather mediates; it is the sun of spirit and the life-force of deathless eternity. It is the sun behind the sun, the life behind life. Those two suns are never separate; those two lives are never separate. His two Ravens are never separate, and he and his blood-brother, dark Loki, are never separate in spirit. His two wolves are with him at all times.

Allfather's lesser self (which is doomed to die at Ragnarok) is never separate from his Greater Self, which will live on from age to age, never dying. From that Greater Self he will emerge again in the regenerated world as the Reader of the Blood-Twigs, and continue on like nothing happened.

When will you rise to the heights, make the two into one, and overcome death and obscurity? Can you? The road is long and hard. Can our modern day produce such heroes? Allfather is still wandering about, waiting to see a few himself.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It is not Tolerance We Want, but Liberty

The following was not written by me, but by a friend of a friend. I have not yet come across a document that better expresses something that I have always felt, but never been able to put to words. May the Gods bless the author of this insightful writing!

* * *

"During a recent discussion with an acquaintance the subject of religion came up. Now for some of you who do not know me I am a Heathen, a Theodsman in fact. No that doesn't mean I am an atheist but rather that I believe in and worship the gods that my Germanic ancestors did. As a Theodsman I am a religious Reconstructionist who is attempting to model my relations with my Gods, ancestors and the natural world on the methods of the ancient pre-Christian Germanic. It is something that has given me much happiness in my life and has helped me forge long standing, deep relationships with people who have similar spiritual goals. This growing understanding of my ancestral heritage has been an incredibly positive influence in me and I have prospered in all facets of my life because of it.

When describing my religious outlook to my friend he was quite open to the ideas and beliefs that I put forward. After we had discussed this for a while he claimed that as a Christian he could never believe what I do but as an American and a man he felt that it was his sincerest wish to be tolerant of all sorts of ideas. He let me know how much he disagreed with those Christians who are constantly proselytizing and that he honestly viewed opinions and beliefs with tolerance. He even displayed a genuine interest in my views and commented on the soundness of my reasoning. I continued my conversation with him and we are still friends but I couldn't help but to feel very insulted.

Yes, I was insulted. Offended by a friend who had nothing but the best intentions during the conversation and he has no idea how or why he insulted me. I know many of you reading this are also confused as to how I could be insulted by a man who was genuinely open and accepting of my not so mainstream ideals. What insulted me was his tolerance. The very principle he, as a liberal, progressive Christian, thinks of as a paramount social ideal had me incensed. I understand he means no harm nor did he purposely proffer insult but the very idea that my beliefs are to be tolerated by others strikes an ill chord in me.

Being tolerant of others faith is seen a sign of respect and acceptance. Is tolerance not a virtue to be admired and strived for in today's multicultural American society? If so, why was I insulted by my well intentioned colleague? It is the very nature of tolerance that offends me. Tolerance requires permission. When someone tolerates something they are allowing it or approving of it through their own forbearance. The word and condition implies that there is inherently something wrong with or inconvenient about the tolerated activity. Only with the kind permission of folks who are willing to put up with such activity will it be allowed. Tolerance is by its very nature condescending.

The ideal that folks are actually suggesting is acceptance. However most people don't really accept deep seated beliefs that are contrary to everything they believe. A Christian who sincerely believes in the absolute truth of the Bible or a Muslim who is carefully following the teachings of Mohammad simply cannot with any spiritually honesty accept the worship of Heathen Gods. It would be directly in opposition to the most profound tenets of their faith. No one can realistically expect this of anyone nor can such acceptance be forced through statute, political correctness, or multiculturalism.

So if tolerance is unacceptable and acceptance is unrealistic what is left? Is there a societal condition that will allow me to live my life and worship my Gods and Ancestors without the permission of others? Yes, there is indeed a better principle. There is a virtue, a social paradigm that is the highest expression of such living. Liberty.

The Founding Fathers recognized the simple, basic human importance of liberty when it was placed as one of only three named unalienable Rights in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...

Unalienable Rights were seen by the framers to be nontransferable, above repudiation and not awarded by another. These are inherent states of the human condition. Liberty in the context of this declaration is the individuals immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority and the individual freedom from compulsion.

In modern Western society the ideal is the same. I have the liberty to not be forced to believe that my folk were created by a Middle Eastern deity. Christians have the unalienable right to believe their folk were indeed created by such a being. We then both have the liberty to venerate our respective Gods in whatever manner we choose provided it does not infringe upon the life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness of another. Once we recognize each others liberty we can then begin to find a mutual respect for each others right to do as we please.

With the recognition of Liberty there is no need for condescending state of tolerance between men. There is also no need for the unrealistic concession of acceptance. With Liberty we simply recognize the individuals right to believe as he pleases and his freedom to follow that belief. It is simple, it plants the seeds of respect, and it quells most religious arguments. I may believe Christians are wrong in their assessment of the divine but I fully recognize their liberty to think as they choose. I simply expect the same from them.

I do not beg for tolerance. I do not expect acceptance. I do however demand Liberty."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Everything you Know About British and Irish Ancestry

Everything you know about British and Irish ancestry is wrong. Our ancestors were Basques, not Celts. The Celts were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons, in fact neither had much impact on the genetic stock of these islands

By Stephen Oppenheimer

Stephen Oppenheimer's books "The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story" and "Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World" are published by Constable & Robinson

* * *

The fact that the British and the Irish both live on islands gives them a misleading sense of security about their unique historical identities. But do we really know who we are, where we come from and what defines the nature of our genetic and cultural heritage? Who are and were the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish and the English? And did the English really crush a glorious Celtic heritage?

Everyone has heard of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. And most of us are familiar with the idea that the English are descended from Anglo-Saxons, who invaded eastern England after the Romans left, while most of the people in the rest of the British Isles derive from indigenous Celtic ancestors with a sprinkling of Viking blood around the fringes.

Yet there is no agreement among historians or archaeologists on the meaning of the words "Celtic" or "Anglo-Saxon." What is more, new evidence from genetic analysis (see note below) indicates that the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, to the extent that they can be defined genetically, were both small immigrant minorities. Neither group had much more impact on the British Isles gene pool than the Vikings, the Normans or, indeed, immigrants of the past 50 years.

The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language.

Another wave of immigration arrived during the Neolithic period, when farming developed about 6,500 years ago. But the English still derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots. These figures are at odds with the modern perceptions of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon ethnicity based on more recent invasions. There were many later invasions, as well as less violent immigrations, and each left a genetic signal, but no individual event contributed much more than 5 per cent to our modern genetic mix.

Many myths about the Celts

Celtic languages and the people who brought them probably first arrived during the Neolithic period. The regions we now regard as Celtic heartlands actually had less immigration from the continent during this time than England. Ireland, being to the west, has changed least since the hunter-gatherer period and received fewer subsequent migrants (about 12 per cent of the population) than anywhere else. Wales and Cornwall have received about 20 per cent, Scotland and its associated islands 30 per cent, while eastern and southern England, being nearer the continent, has received one third of its population from outside over the past 6,500 years. These estimates, set out in my book The Origins of the British, come from tracing individual male gene lines from continental Europe to the British Isles and dating each one (see box at bottom of page).

If the Celts were not our main aboriginal stock, how do we explain the wide historical distribution and influence of Celtic languages? There are many examples of language change without significant population replacement; even so, some people must have brought Celtic languages to our isles. So where did they come from, and when?

The orthodox view of the origins of the Celts turns out to be an archaeological myth left over from the 19th century. Over the past 200 years, a myth has grown up of the Celts as a vast, culturally sophisticated but warlike people from central Europe, north of the Alps and the Danube, who invaded most of Europe, including the British Isles, during the iron age, around 300 BC.

Central Europe during the last millennium BC certainly was the time and place of the exotic and fierce Hallstatt culture and, later, the La Tène culture, with their prestigious, iron-age metal jewellery wrought with intricately woven swirls. Hoards of such jewellery and weapons, some fashioned in gold, have been dug up in Ireland, seeming to confirm central Europe as the source of migration. The swirling style of decoration is immortalised in such cultural icons as the Book of Kells, the illuminated Irish manuscript (Trinity College, Dublin), and the bronze Battersea shield (British Museum), evoking the western British Isles as a surviving remnant of past Celtic glory. But unfortunately for this orthodoxy, these artistic styles spread generally in Europe as cultural fashions, often made locally. There is no evidence they came to Britain and Ireland as part of an invasion.

Many archaeologists still hold this view of a grand iron-age Celtic culture in the centre of the continent, which shrank to a western rump after Roman times. It is also the basis of a strong sense of ethnic identity that millions of members of the so-called Celtic diaspora hold. But there is absolutely no evidence, linguistic, archaeological or genetic, that identifies the Hallstatt or La Tène regions or cultures as Celtic homelands. The notion derives from a mistake made by the historian Herodotus 2,500 years ago when, in a passing remark about the "Keltoi," he placed them at the source of the Danube, which he thought was near the Pyrenees. Everything else about his description located the Keltoi in the region of Iberia.

The late 19th-century French historian Marie Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville decided that Herodotus had meant to place the Celtic homeland in southern Germany. His idea has remained in the books ever since, despite a mountain of other evidence that Celts derived from southwestern Europe. For the idea of the south German "Empire of the Celts" to survive as the orthodoxy for so long has required determined misreading of texts by Caesar, Strabo, Livy and others. And the well-recorded Celtic invasions of Italy across the French Alps from the west in the 1st millennium BC have been systematically reinterpreted as coming from Germany, across the Austrian Alps.

De Jubainville's Celtic myth has been deconstructed in two recent sceptical publications: The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention by Simon James (1999), and The Celts: Origins, Myths and Inventions by John Collis (2003). Nevertheless, the story lingers on in standard texts and notably in The Celts, a Channel 4 documentary broadcast in February. "Celt" is now a term that sceptics consider so corrupted in the archaeological and popular literature that it is worthless.

This is too drastic a view. It is only the central European homeland theory that is false. The connection between modern Celtic languages and those spoken in southwest Europe during Roman times is clear and valid. Caesar wrote that the Gauls living south of the Seine called themselves Celts. That region, in particular Normandy, has the highest density of ancient Celtic place-names and Celtic inscriptions in Europe. They are common in the rest of southern France (excluding the formerly Basque region of Gascony), Spain, Portugal and the British Isles. Conversely, Celtic place-names are hard to find east of the Rhine in central Europe.

Given the distribution of Celtic languages in southwest Europe, it is most likely that they were spread by a wave of agriculturalists who dispersed 7,000 years ago from Anatolia, travelling along the north coast of the Mediterranean to Italy, France, Spain and then up the Atlantic coast to the British Isles. There is a dated archaeological trail for this. My genetic analysis shows exact counterparts for this trail both in the male Y chromosome and the maternally transmitted mitochondrial DNA right up to Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and the English south coast.

Further evidence for the Mediterranean origins of Celtic invaders is preserved in medieval Gaelic literature. According to the orthodox academic view of "iron-age Celtic invasions" from central Europe, Celtic cultural history should start in the British Isles no earlier than 300 BC. Yet Irish legend tells us that all six of the cycles of invasion came from the Mediterranean via Spain, during the late Neolithic to bronze age, and were completed 3,700 years ago.

Anglo-Saxon ethnic cleansing?

The other myth I was taught at school, one which persists to this day, is that the English are almost all descended from 5th-century invaders, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, from the Danish peninsula, who wiped out the indigenous Celtic population of England.

The story originates with the clerical historians of the early dark ages. Gildas (6th century AD) and Bede (7th century) tell of Saxons and Angles invading over the 5th and 6th centuries. Gildas, in particular, sprinkles his tale with "rivers of blood" descriptions of Saxon massacres. And then there is the well-documented history of Anglian and Saxon kingdoms covering England for 500 years before the Norman invasion.

But who were those Ancient Britons left in England to be slaughtered when the legions left? The idea that the Celts were eradicated—culturally, linguistically and genetically—by invading Angles and Saxons derives from the idea of a previously uniformly Celtic English landscape. But the presence in Roman England of some Celtic personal and place-names doesn't mean that all ancient Britons were Celts or Celtic-speaking.

The genocidal view was generated, like the Celtic myth, by historians and archaeologists over the last 200 years. With the swing in academic fashion against "migrationism" (seeing the spread of cultural influence as dependent on significant migrations) over the past couple of decades, archaeologists are now downplaying this story, although it remains a strong underlying perspective in history books.

Some geneticists still cling to the genocide story. Research by several genetics teams associated with University College London has concentrated in recent years on proving the wipeout view on the basis of similarities of male Y chromosome gene group frequency between Frisia/north Germany and England. One of the London groups attracted press attention in July by claiming that the close similarities were the result of genocide followed by a social-sexual apartheid that enhanced Anglo-Saxon reproductive success over Celtic.

The problem is that the English resemble in this way all the other countries of northwest Europe as well as the Frisians and Germans. Using the same method (principal components analysis, see note below), I have found greater similarities of this kind between the southern English and Belgians than the supposedly Anglo-Saxon homelands at the base of the Danish peninsula. These different regions could not all have been waiting their turn to commit genocide on the former Celtic population of England. The most likely reason for the genetic similarities between these neighbouring countries and England is that they all had similar prehistoric settlement histories.

When I looked at exact gene type matches between the British Isles and the continent, there were indeed specific matches between the continental Anglo-Saxon homelands and England, but these amounted to only 5 per cent of modern English male lines, rising to 15 per cent in parts of Norfolk where the Angles first settled. There were no such matches with Frisia, which tends to confirm a specific Anglo-Saxon event since Frisia is closer to England, so would be expected to have more matches.

When I examined dates of intrusive male gene lines to look for those coming in from northwest Europe during the past 3,000 years, there was a similarly low rate of immigration, by far the majority arriving in the Neolithic period. The English maternal genetic record (mtDNA) is consistent with this and contradicts the Anglo-Saxon wipeout story. English females almost completely lack the characteristic Saxon mtDNA marker type still found in the homeland of the Angles and Saxons. The conclusion is that there was an Anglo-Saxon invasion, but of a minority elite type, with no evidence of subsequent "sexual apartheid."

The orthodox view is that the entire population of the British Isles, including England, was Celtic-speaking when Caesar invaded. But if that were the case, a modest Anglo-Saxon invasion is unlikely to have swept away all traces of Celtic language from the pre-existing population of England. Yet there are only half a dozen Celtic words in English, the rest being mainly Germanic, Norman or medieval Latin. One explanation is that England was not mainly Celtic-speaking before the Anglo-Saxons. Consider, for example, the near-total absence of Celtic inscriptions in England (outside Cornwall), although they are abundant in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany.

Who was here when the Romans came?

So who were the Britons inhabiting England at the time of the Roman invasion? The history of pre-Roman coins in southern Britain reveals an influence from Belgic Gaul. The tribes of England south of the Thames and along the south coast during Caesar's time all had Belgic names or affiliations. Caesar tells us that these large intrusive settlements had replaced an earlier British population, which had retreated to the hinterland of southeast England. The latter may have been the large Celtic tribe, the Catuvellauni, situated in the home counties north of the Thames. Tacitus reported that between Britain and Gaul "the language differs but little."

The common language referred to by Tacitus was probably not Celtic, but was similar to that spoken by the Belgae, who may have been a Germanic people, as implied by Caesar. In other words, a Germanic-type language could already have been indigenous to England at the time of the Roman invasion. In support of this inference, there is some recent lexical (vocabulary) evidence analysed by Cambridge geneticist Peter Forster and continental colleagues. They found that the date of the split between old English and continental Germanic languages goes much further back than the dark ages, and that English may have been a separate, fourth branch of the Germanic language before the Roman invasion.

Apart from the Belgian connection in the south, my analysis of the genetic evidence also shows that there were major Scandinavian incursions into northern and eastern Britain, from Shetland to Anglia, during the Neolithic period and before the Romans. These are consistent with the intense cultural interchanges across the North sea during the Neolithic and bronze age. Early Anglian dialects, such as found in the old English saga Beowulf, owe much of their vocabulary to Scandinavian languages. This is consistent with the fact that Beowulf was set in Denmark and Sweden and that the cultural affiliations of the early Anglian kingdoms, such as found in the Sutton Hoo boat burial, derive from Scandinavia.

A picture thus emerges of the dark-ages invasions of England and northeastern Britain as less like replacements than minority elite additions, akin to earlier and larger Neolithic intrusions from the same places. There were battles for dominance between chieftains, all of Germanic origin, each invader sharing much culturally with their newly conquered indigenous subjects.

So, based on the overall genetic perspective of the British, it seems that Celts, Belgians, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were all immigrant minorities compared with the Basque pioneers, who first ventured into the empty, chilly lands so recently vacated by the great ice sheets.

Note: How does genetic tracking work?

The greatest advances in genetic tracing and measuring migrations over the past two decades have used samples from living populations to reconstruct the past. Such research goes back to the discovery of blood groups, but our Y-chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA are the most fruitful markers to study since they do not get mixed up at each generation. Study of mitochondrial DNA in the British goes back over a decade, and from 2000 to 2003 London-based researchers established a database of the geographically informative Y-chromosomes by systematic sampling throughout the British Isles. Most of these samples were collected from people living in small, long-established towns, whose grandparents had also lived there.

Two alternative methods of analysis are used. In the British Y-chromosome studies, the traditional approach of principal components analysis was used to compare similarities between whole sample populations. This method reduces complexity of genetic analysis by averaging the variation in frequencies of numerous genetic markers into a smaller number of parcels—the principal components—of decreasing statistical importance. The newer approach that I use, the phylogeographic method, follows individual genes rather than whole populations. The geographical distribution of individual gene lines is analysed with respect to their position on a gene tree, to reconstruct their origins, dates and routes of movement.

Orlog: The Procession of the Ages of the World

Finally, after a long week of work, I have prepared a lengthy essay discussing a particularly Heathen view of history, in line with what the ancient lore tells us about the "Ages of the World", the world-shaping and the coming world-doom.

I describe it as "A Suggested Schema for Understanding the Becoming, Perishing, and Re-Becoming of the Nine World System Based on Voluspa and Gylfaginning."

You can see it here:

The Orlog Essay

More than anything, I think this work was valuable to me for arranging my thoughts in line with the lore, and valuable to many others as a way of learning about the perspective of the life-cycle of the Nine World System (particularly our Middle world) from the point of view of Heathen mythology and cosmology.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Night Road

Inside of wind-driver,
horse-hoof rider,
A height to wood and tangle flies this ghost:
A ghost in that bird-shelter, deer-shelter,
Serpent home among the hidden:
To the hollow tree this fetch has flown
And into his darkness, into the ground.
To the dark-way, the Hel-way wide
And dim, flying by the thunder, the horse deep sound
Pounding hoof-waves, a shudder in body's cloak
Taken down to shadow's home, uncounted leagues.

And lo, an unlit forest deeper, earth-blue,
And the long wind-limbs of night-caller,
The shadowy flutter of mouse-bane's wings
To shake the earth of the bones,
To rumble in body's rivers,
This is the bath of evening-howler's strong power.

And visions in the dark rise to sealed-shut eyes
Dreams so strange and far from sleep, and yet more:
The wind of rushing to lich-home's bed
From the deepest places of the world to awake,
Yet the midnight-beak comes again:
To fill heart's hall with powerful breath
To make swift the spirit of Gods in me
To establish me again, by pact, in his company.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harvest of Life-Force: Crafting a Bindrune

"Shaved off were the Runes that of old were written,
And mixed with holy mead,
And sent on ways so wide;
So the Gods had them, so the elves got them,
And some for the Wanes so wise,
And some for mortal men.

Beech-Runes there are, birth Runes there are,
And all the Runes of ale,
And the magic Runes of might;
Who knows them rightly and reads them true,
Has them himself to help;
Ever they aid,
Till the Gods are gone."

-Sigrdrifumol 18-19
(Bellows Translation)

* * *

A few days ago, I found myself in contact with a very nice lady from the holy isle of Britain, who was seeking to create a meaningful Bindrune for herself. Her ultimate goal was to create a Runic symbol to tattoo onto her body, for the purpose of reminding herself of the hard times she had recently endured (and triumphed over) and for the future purpose of calling forth the powers she feels that she needs to live a better life.

I have been a student of the Runic Mysteries for many years, and to this day, I am a practicing Galdrman- a man who daily invokes key Runic powers through meditation, chanting (galdrar) and other devotions. I wanted to help this fine lady, and after fainings to the Lord of the Runes himself- the Allfather Odhinn, I was able to bring my experience to bear on the task, and create both a Rune-row and a Bindrune for her, which will sorcerously serve her purposes.

I got her permission to share the process of this powerful work here at Cauldron Born, and so I will now write a post regarding the many dimensions of this ancient brand of sorcery, beginning with some background material, and moving through the many levels of consideration that result in the mighty crafting of a Bindrune. It was a powerful and good experience for me to be able to do this work.

Before I begin, a tiny background primer on the Runes themselves is needed. Despite rampant misunderstanding and misuse by well-meaning but misguided new-agers, the Runic system remains one of the most popular systems of magical symbolism in the modern Pagan world. When one really sits down and studies the inner mysteries of Runology, they discover that Runes are far more than simply magical symbols, to be grabbed and used for this purpose or that.

The Runes, all together, are expressions of a total cosmology- literally the entire power of the Nine Worlds that encompass all things, and they are a sacred language which speaks of the shaping, maintaining, and destructive powers of the Gods and of Fate itself. They are expressions not only of the "seeds" from which the World-Tree itself grows, but the language used by Allfather, the Master of Sorcery, to create the Worlds. They are powerful beyond estimation, to those who comprehend their deepest forms.

That people underestimate the Runes is by far the greatest danger faced by uninitiated people who try to use them. In the Icelandic sagas, we are treated to stories revealing the dangers of using the Runes without knowing them well enough.

In Egil's Saga, we are shown a story wherein a sick woman was made worse by a man who tried to heal her with a Runic talisman- but his knowledge of the workings of the Runes was very sloppy, and it took the hero Egil destroying his talisman and making one that actually worked to spare her. I give that portion of the story here:

"While they sat at meat Egil saw that a woman lay sick on the daïs at the ends of the hall. He asked who was that woman in such sad case. Thorfinn said she was named Helga, and was his daughter; she had long been ill; her complaint was a pining sickness; she got no sleep at night, and was as one possessed.

'Has anything,' asked Egil, 'been tried for her ailment?'

'Runes have been graven,' said Thorfinn; 'a landowner's son hard by did this; and she is since much worse than before. But can you, Egil, do anything for such ailments?'

Egil said: 'Maybe no harm will be done by my taking it in hand.'

And when Egil had finished his meal, he went where the woman lay and spoke with her. Then he bade them lift her from her place and lay clean clothes under her, and they did so. Next he searched the bed in which she had lain, and there he found a piece of whalebone whereon were runes. Egil read them, then cut the runes and scraped them off into the fire. He burned the whole piece of whalebone, and had the bed-clothes that she had used hung out to air. Then Egil sang:

'Runes none should grave ever
Who knows not to read them;
Of dark spell full many
The meaning may miss.
Ten spell-words writ wrongly
On whale-bone were graven:
Whence to leek-tending maiden,
Long sorrow and pain.'

Egil then graved runes, and laid them under the bolster of the bed where the woman lay. She seemed as if she waked out of sleep, and said she now felt well, but she was weak. But her father and mother were overjoyed. And Thorfinn offered to Egil all the furtherance that he might think needful."

-Egil's Saga, Chapter 75

The Runes and Cosmology

The word "Rune" means "Mystery" or "Secret". Each of the Runes is a secret, a mystery of Nature itself which manifests to our senses in many ways. One of the ways they manifest is in the shape of the Rune that we can see: the actual symbol. Another way is in the sound that is associated with that symbol or form. But these two "levels of manifestation" are only the very tip of the iceberg; they go down so deep as to reach that place that even the Allfather says "the wisest themselves do not know".

Every single natural force or phenomenon- including Gods, human beings, animals, plants, the sky, the earth, you name it- they are all expressions of Runic mysteries. And this system doesn't end there: the Runes, as we know them today, in the order we have them in their alphabetical form, are a sacred text- a key to understanding how the sacred cosmologies and mythologies of our Ancestors form a cohesive, dynamic portrait of how this world really works. I will explain in detail soon, but for now, it is enough to realize that the process of nature, the arising and falling away of the Nine Worlds, and every detail of every life, is part of a dynamic flow of Runic power.

Our Ancestor's sacred myths about the creation and shaping of the world-order are themselves secondary to the Mysteries of the Runes that underlie these sacred and powerful processes. It is the Runes that are expressions of the "highest reality", or should I say, the "deepest, most essential reality of creation and transformation". Myths are secondary expressions of these mysteries that must be understood and experienced in ways that are apart from them, though ultimately sprung from them.

Allfather suffered death on the World-Tree, so that he could lay aside his lesser self, and enter into the timeless space of the Greater Self, and plunge his consciousness into the dark void of Hel at the roots of the World-Tree, to see what forces actually lay behind the world of the senses. He saw, in the mightiest imaginable vision, the Mysteries themselves, these strange powers, that gave rise to all things. He came back to life to share these discoveries with the Gods and mankind- but he could not bring back the full and pure essence of what he experienced.

His Godly mind had to transmit these Mysteries to Gods and Man through symbols and other expressions- and thus, the Runic Symbols as we know them came to be. This is their mythical origin, but it tells the truth: No being can experience the Runes in their true, pure form by simply hearing about them from another, or seeing the shapes that somehow "express" them.

We must do as the Allfather did and plunge ourselves into the void of utter darkness and depth that lies at the roots of all things, to really see what Odhinn saw, to experience what he experienced. Fortunately for us, the Rune-symbols give us doors to that experience. In meditation, and in singing the sacred songs and sounds that belong to each Rune, we can reach that place, but it is the work of a lifetime to achieve such wisdom.

When people look at the Elder Futhark, the Elder Rune-Row, they sometimes wonder at the ordering of the Runes. We are so used to alphabetical systems beginning with "A B C" that it makes some wonder at why the Rune-Rows begin with "F U TH A R K". The first six Rune-symbols or letters in the Rune-Row are, as I said, F, U, TH, A, R, and K. This is not an accident. If one is aware of the cosmological story, the sacred creation myth, given in the Eddaic literature, the Rune Row suddenly makes a deep, penetrating sense- and again, this is not an accident.

In the Creation myth of the Eddas, at the beginning of the cosmos-cycle, only a great Void- Ginnungagap- existed, and on its outer reaches were the polarized regions of Fire and Ice. It was this fire that was the first "impelling force" that started the process of cosmogony. This fire, active and fierce, melted some of the ice from the ice-region, and sent rivers of yeasty water into the Yawning Gap. From the interplay of these two forces, two beings arose from the ice and water: Ymir, the greatest and most powerful Giant, who was and is the sire of all Giants, and Audhumbla, the great Cow who nourished Ymir with the warm milk from her udders. Ymir began to sire giants from his own body.

Audhumbla did more than transmit life to Ymir and his offspring and sustain them: she liked the "salt-block" that arose in the deep, and from it, she helped to lick free (or manifest) the first God, who married one of the Giant offspring of Ymir, and sired the second God, who, through his own marriage, gave birth to Odhinn and his brothers. Odhinn and his brothers- members of the race of Gods who were intelligent, wise, and powerful, could not stand the company of such dark, oafish, and savage beings as the giants, so they went to war, slaying mighty Ymir- and the flood of Ymir's blood nearly wiped out his giantish offspring.

Odhinn and his brothers then tore Ymir's body to pieces, raising them up and creating the World from the parts of his body. With these primordial natural materials, the Allfather and his kin used their divine creativity to shape the cosmos-order. They shaped it in accordance with the Fateful pattern of "rightness" which governs the manifestation of all things. This pattern is innate in the structure of the universe itself. From Ymir's blood came the rivers and oceans, from his flesh the earth, from his hair the plants and trees, and so forth.

The giants who survived were forced to the "outer reaches" of the newly-created and ordered world, but they strive forever to invade the regions of order to destroy what the Gods have done. Thus, a conflict is set up between the intelligent ordering forces of the world, and the savage powers of chaos that forever threaten the world. It is the task of the Gods- and their kin, human beings- to work for the order and maintenance of the world, though one day, as Fate would have it, the order that was begun must collapse and the entire cycle must undergo regeneration.

After the Gods created the world-order, other beings arose from the interaction of the many parts within; from the earth and the natural world, still full of the primordial fire that was there at the beginning, the Vanir Gods arose- from Earth herself and Njord, the God of the Oceans. On the coast of a primordial ocean, Odhinn himself discovered two rotting tree trunks- an Ash and an Elm- and from them, he shaped the first man and woman, breathing his Ond, his immortal spirit of inspiration, into them; and thus, this Gift of the Gods onto natural genetic material was the origin of mankind. After that time, there was a "golden age", a period of harmony in the newly formed world.

What follows later is too long a tale for me to go into, but I am stopping here to show how the first Eight Runes in the Elder Rune-Row are telling the same tale.

The first Eight Letters are "F, U, TH, A, R, K, G, W". They are the Runes Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kenaz, Gebo, and Wunjo.

Fehu means "cattle", "livestock", or "fee, money". It is associated with the "mobile wealth" or "mobile power" that drove the ancient society of our Ancestors- Money and wealth, as represented by cows and livestock. To the Ancestors, you weren't really gold-rich until you were livestock-rich, for in those days, wealth wasn't just a matter of piles of money. It is wealth that gives people the power to go on expeditions, build, create, and acts as the impelling force behind a society. It is no accident that fire happens to often be gold in color- for gold and fire, or fire and wealth, have a vital connection.

Fehu, in the Rune-row is first for the same reason the fires of Muspelheim were the first impelling forces that drove the process of the creation of the cosmos. Fehu is the mystery that we experience when we experience having wealth, energy, fire, and motivation. Even sitting before the crackling flames of a fire is an experience of this Rune, but also of the raw power of the primordial flame which drove the universe-process forward. The Rune-shape of Fehu looks like the horns of cows, and again, this is no mistake: it was a cow that also appeared first, along with Ymir, in the Yawning void.

Uruz means "Auroch" or "ox", but also "drizzle". It refers directly to the "next phase" of the creation myth, in which the great World Ox-Cow Audhumbla arose. In the myth, the interaction of melting ice and fire caused a rain or drizzle, as well as rivers of yeasty, slimy water, to appear in the void. The Auroch is a now-extinct giant bovine creature which once lived in Europe and other parts of the world; it was, in a way, Audhumbla's closest living cousin.

The deeper mystery is this: this Rune refers to the mystery of mighty, vast strength of life that gives rise to the further motion that creates: Audhumbla is a great, primal force of shaping that rushed through the void, spilling forth the essence of fire in her warm "milk" to sustain the first life-forms, and which acted on the "block of salt" that floated there, eroding it, and revealing new forms within the world-pattern, including the first sentient forms of life: the Gods. It takes mighty strength to do this; this Rune is the Rune that channels that strength, for health and the purpose of well-shaped ends. Like the Auroch, it is stronger than any other land creature; it is savage and powerful.

As you can see, the Runes are, in fact, matching with the creation myth. The next Rune, Thurisaz, is the Rune of the Giantish races- it means "strong one, giant" or just "giant" in Old Norse; but it also refers to a "thorn", the natural injuring force that protects plants. The power of the Giants, and their race emerging at this point in mythical history, is represented by this Rune, but the natural destructive power of this Rune is also wielded by the Gods, particularly the God Thorr, and used to protect mankind and the world-order. The next Rune in the row after Thurisaz, which shows the birth of the Giantish races, is Ansuz- the Rune whose name means "God"- and this is the stage of creation in which the first God arises from the natural processes that are playing out here. From this Rune-mystery comes the Aesir-Gods, of whom Odhinn and his Brothers were the first.

The Rune that follows this is Raidho- the Rune of "Riding" and the Chariot-Way, which refers to the Solar-Chariot and its ordered path through the sky. This is the Rune of "Right Order"- it refers to the Order of things that the Gods created from the chaotic natural material of Ymir's Body. It is the Rune of the Right Ordering of the World, the emergence of the World-Order. The next Rune, Kenaz, the rune of controlled fire (fire within the ordered world can now be controlled to willed ends, safe from its original, giantish primordial and dangerous form, which was powerful enough to throw the cosmic process forward). But it is more than this; it is the life-fire within the body of nature, and within all living beings.

It is a Rune of fertility and sexuality, and thus, one of the special Runes of the Vanir-Goddess Freya- and in the myths, it was she who came first to the Halls of the Gods, from the Vanir family, and began the somewhat uncomfortable interactions they had to undergo together before the two families resolved themselves to one another. It is, in a way, the Rune of the Vanir-Gods, and represents their emergence, as well as another stage in the cosmic development.

The Rune that follows this is Gebo- the Rune whose name means "Gift". This "gift" refers not just to the institutions of reciprocal giving that unite human and Godly society, but of that precious Gift that was given by Odhinn to mankind- the Gift of an immortal spirit. This Rune shows us another part of the unfolding of the Cosmos, as in the myth: the creation of Humankind. And the Rune that follows, Wunjo, is the Rune of "joy" and "pleasure"- the Rune which shows the harmonious interaction of many parts, all working together in rightness. It represents, in the cosmological story, the "Golden Age" before the turnings of Fate led to the darker interactions that began the movement towards strife and the eventual destruction of the world, the Gods, and the world-order.

Now, from this short walk through the first eight symbols of the Rune-Row and the sacred myths, we can see why the Runes were ordered as they were. They are telling a cosmological story: the story of all that has happened, of all that is happening, and all that will happen. If I were to continue on with the next eight Runes, and the next Eight, you would see what I mean: the entire row tells the story of the creation of the world, of the emergence of human societies and the struggles of the Gods, and of the final ending of things, and the regeneration of things. The Rune-Row is sacred for many reasons, but the main reason is because it reveals the entire Shape of Things.

The "arrangement" of the Runes in certain orders is the deepest magic, because by taking certain Runes and making a row of them, a being- God or Human- is manipulating the hidden pylons of nature and manifestation, towards a willed end. Allfather arranged the Runes to create the world.

Crafting a Bindrune

We know that Runes were used by the Ancestors for sorcerous reasons. We know that tools and weapons and other things had Runes carved onto them for the purpose of endowing them with magical or Runic power, to increase their effectiveness, but more than that, to place these tools within a deeper cosmic framework of hidden yet constantly developing and acting power, thus empowering them.

Instructions for using Runes to empower things are found in the Eddas and in other writings. The Magical powers of the Runes are praised in other places, and examples of them being used, in various forms, to bring about healing and even cursing are also found. But before one can "use" Runic powers to bring about what appear to be "changes" in this world, before one can use them to perceptually influence twists of Wyrd-threads and Fate, one must understand them on a deep level. I have touched on some of the deeper levels above; the truth is, one should not really attempt to "use" Runes until they have meditated on the symbols and made some progress towards penetrating into the wordless mystery behind each Rune.

As I said before, this is the work of a lifetime; but even moderate progress can be made by a person who is able to go beyond their need to explain everything and simply "move into" the mysterious space of the Runes a short distance. The Runes cause deeper changes in a person who opens to their mysteries than can be explained. But an empowerment certainly happens, and it affects everything in that person's life.

When one has made such internal transformations, one can begin to approach the Runes with an eye towards creating Rune-Rows and Bindrunes. A Rune-Row is an arrangement of Runes, in a straight line, sealed closed with a bar running along the top and bottom of the Row, bringing those Runes together into a cohesive statement of Runic power. A Bindrune, on the other hand, is all of the Runes of a row merged together into a single symbol. Both Rune-Rows and Bindrunes have the same sorts of affects and power, though the Bindrune can show hidden relationships that may not be so obvious in a Rune-Row.

The purpose of any practical Rune-work will be to affect some short or long-term change in a person or in the world. What the Rune-crafter is doing is working with the Mysteries of the World and of Fate, to create an entity of Runic force that naturally attracts certain situations or outcomes to itself. That it does so has less to do with the Rune-crafter and more to do with the innate mystical nature and power of these Mysteries. Of course, one cannot rule out the importance of the human craftsman whose Godly gift of imagination- a truly divine element- acted in conjunction with the timeless and primordial mysteries. Every Rune-creation is a re-enactment of the primordial creation of the world by Odhinn. Thus, all Rune-sorcery is a sacred affair.

One of my greatest complaints about new-agers who toss Runes around carelessly is that they are being disrespectful. The Runes are not toys, nor just a cheap "divination method". You can't read one book on them and then imagine that you are a master of their secrets. They are profoundly merged with the religious structure of Asatru, and thus, only people who have devoted themselves to the Gods and to the Mysteries of our Ancestors can truly "work" with Runes on a successful level. Others are simply lacking in the necessary internal realizations, the necessary respect, and will end up hurting themselves or others, most likely.

When one desires to create a Bindrune or a Rune Row, one must take into account the end that is willed, and must understand the Runes well enough to know which of these powers, or combination of them, will serve to most likely be sympathetic to those aims. Then, one must take into consideration the Runic numerological system- and understand what certain tallies and numbers mean, in the working of things. Finally, the Runes must be carved and colored in a manner that empowers them, which channels the full power of the Runes into the creation.

Historically, as well as in the modern day, most Rune-work is used to produce talismans and carvings on various stone and wood surfaces, like houses, doorways, posts, etc. Pieces of wood that are worn around the neck or carried in leather bags on the body of the person who needed the talisman are the most common practical manifestation of this art. They can also be carved, scratched, or painted onto horns, cups, metal items, and the like.

My client in this work had already been using and experiencing the power of the URUZ Rune. She had recently recovered from an illness of the mind and body, and was looking to create a Rune-Row or Bindrune that symbolized not only her initiatory triumph (she took it as initiatory, as an important milestone in her life) but also which would channel the power of health, both mentally and physically, and good life-outcomes within the structure of the unfolding of her life, into the future. She didn't say this, but what she is looking for is a harmonious increase and development in Hamingja- the luck-force that manifests through all of our genetic and ancestral/spiritual bloodlines, and which gives rise to our mental and physical health, as well as our luck in life-situations.

She wanted health, strength, vitality, but all of it to manifest slowly, over time- not all at once. This is a life-long creation she was asking for, and so, I have done just this for her.

I selected five Runes which would create the Rune-Row, the statement of power, that I was attempting to manifest. I selected these Runes:

These Runes are, in order: HAGALAZ, FEHU, URUZ, LAGUZ, and JERA.

No detail of this operation is meaningless. I selected these five because of the statement I was trying to express, correlated with their own meanings, but I selected five because five, in Runic Numerology, is the number of ordered time and space- a powerful invocatory formula. What this young lady was asking for was a power to emerge within the world-order, in an orderly fashion, in a harmonious way over time.

But this goes further- the number five doesn't simply have a meaning; it also refers to the fifth Rune in the Elder Rune-arrangement: Raidho. Raidho is, as I explained earlier, the Rune of the rightful ordering of things, of the emergence of the world-order within the boundaries of rightness. It is the constantly transforming and emerging "order" of this lady's mind and body that I wish to affect, and so, the number five is connected to that, mystically, on more than one level. And most importantly, it is connected by a Runic power which governs order in harmony.

Now, to the Runes I selected. I started with Hagalaz for a very important reason: Hagalaz is, by far, one of the most powerful Runes in the entire system, when it comes to manifesting things that one needs or desires. Hagalaz is the Rune-Mother, the ninth Rune, and thus, the Rune that rules over the emergence of form out of force. Hagalaz shows the entire structure of the universe- there are Nine worlds after all; it was nine nights that Odhinn hung from the World-Tree to gain the knowledge of the Runes, but more than this, if one takes Hagalaz in her younger form- the form I have above in the Row I created- (it looks like a snowflake) one sees the "Hex-sign", the ultimate symbol of the mysteries of Gothic sorcery.

This Rune is the "Mother" of all the others because one can take that symbol, connect her ends with straight lines, and see the primordial "block" or world "seed-crystal" that Audhumbla licked to bring forth all things. From that symbol, you can create any of the other 23 Runes!

The mysteries of Hagalaz are too many to write here, but I chose it because it begins the Rune-row with the atmosphere of magical manifestation, of the power to bring anything into being, but only in accordance with the cosmological pattern. Thus, Hagalaz is also a very protective Rune.

And what do I call first out of this magically charged sphere of potential? Fehu. I call the power of the world-impelling fire/energy forth, to give this Rune-row "forward motion", to empower it towards completion. But there's more here; Fehu is also the Rune that manifests what we call Hamingja, or Luck-force, ancestral power that impels family or ancestral lines forward into activity and interaction. Hamingja is protective and lucky for each human being, and increase of Hamingja means increase in personal power and fortune. This Rune doesn't just add fuel to the Rune-Row; it brings forth, from the Rune-Mother Hagalaz, good protection and luck for the client within the harmoniously developing framework of Hagalaz.

So next, I call forth Uruz. The atmosphere is set, and from it, comes the fiery forward motion of development, and into what does it develop? Uruz- strong, powerful vital energy and health for the client. We've reached the center of the Rune-Row, and now, at this peak point, a change takes place. Within the manifesting atmosphere that has sent forth world-fire and luck-force into creating vitality and health, a secondary manifestation is asked: Laguz.

Laguz, the 21st Rune in the Rune-Row, is actually quite related to Uruz; Rune-Master Edred Thorsson points out in his book "Runelore" that by the laws of Skaldcraft, Uruz became connected to the concept of Aurr, or "water". And this Rune Laguz- which is fourth in our Rune-Row, is the Rune of the "Lake" or Water, the body of water, lake, or sea. It refers to the frozen waters of the icy-region which melted into the primal rivers and drizzle, and which contained (after being empowered by the primal fire) the seeds of all life.

Thus, Laguz is a Rune of life-force and vital power as well, but not quite like Uruz is. Whereas Uruz is strong and outwardly manifest, Laguz is quieter, deeper, more dealing with the deep places of the mind (think the latent vitality of the subconscious mind). In Laguz's form "Laukaz", it means "leek"- a growing plant, growing and developing, growing organic force.

Laguz refers to the vitalizing, developing force within the mind-body complex, the blood, the "life from water" whereas both Fehu and Uruz are related to the "life from fire". To mix them together alone may cause a conflict, but to place them both within a Rune-row ruled by Hagalaz is to make them both merge and develop harmoniously, constrained by the Rune-mother, and impelled by Fehu's fire.

As an aside, this lady desired that her Bindrune show a "badge of passage", a reminder of what she had endured, and mark a new beginning- and Laguz is the Rune to do just that, as the ancient ritual of "Vatni Ausa"- the sprinkling of a newborn baby with water, to initiate it into the Clan- is tied to this Rune's mystery. It is a Rune which shows rites of passage, births, deaths (the dead must cross the waters to the next world) and even "deaths" of transition in this world, like initiations.

The last Rune I chose was Jera- the "year" Rune, which also refers to the "season" and the "harvest"- it is the Rune whose "arms" making a spinning wheel shape, showing the motion of the cycles of time, of seasons. It is a Rune whose power, last in the Row, receives the Runic spell I have created and places the discharge of its power within the natural cycles of time.

Together, this Rune Row summons forth to manifestation the power of world-fire and Hamingja to increase the vital health-power in the mind and body of this woman, and make it develop in harmony with the world/mind/body pattern, and to mediate its powers into her over the natural cycle of time and seasons that will make up the rest of her mortal life.

One might think that this was the end of our considerations of this Rune-row, but we still have one more important consideration: a deeper layer of numerology. We know that there are five Runes in this row, and we know what "five" means on two Runic numerological levels. But now, we must add up the numerical values of each Rune in the Row to see if we haven't accidentally created a Row that will backfire on us or not work as we hoped.

Hagalaz is the ninth Rune; it's value is nine. Fehu is the first Rune; it's value is one. Uruz is the second Rune; it's value is 2. Laguz is the twenty-first Rune; it's value is 21. Jera is the twelfth Rune; it's value is twelve (and, as the Rune of the cycles of time, it represents the twelve months of the year!)

Together, these Runes total up to 45. And that, dear friends, is 9 times 5. It couldn't be more perfect: Nine, the most sacred and powerful number in Runic numerology, which gives power and force to any purpose, and five- the number I decided on initially, which represents the manifest ordering of space and time. Nine times five, and the power of nine gives Her strength to the entire row. Superb!

So now, this Rune-row can be used, once it has been empowered and brought to life. The process of doing that, however, is a far more complex subject; and this woman's purpose is not for a talisman or a carving that needs to be charged and colored according to complex ritual procedures, and bound to her by name- it is for a tattoo. While this Row, if tattooed, won't have nearly the same power as it would if made into a talisman, it will still have power- the simple shape of these Runes and their arrangement has power- it does affect things on a subtle level, and the more so if it is tattooed onto her body in a permanent way.

Now, I started all of this to create a Bindrune. Now that I have the Rune-Row, and it works on every level, I can create the Bindrune. And so I have. Here is the Elder Form of the Bindrune:

And here is the "curvilinear modern" form:

Let us focus on the Elder Form. As you can see, the Rune-Mother, Hagalaz, is the central Rune. This is powerful; the entire Bindrune is a field of her power, and on her limbs, we see the powers we wish to manifest. Beginning at the top, we have Fehu; to both sides the vital empowering Runes of Uruz and Laguz, and at the bottom the "receiver"- Jera, who will mediate these powers over time to the owner of the Bindrune. Notice that Jera on this Bindrune looks like a square; this is because, for the purposes of Bindrunes, I always use Jera's Anglo-Saxon form, which is a central line with the two "arms" of Jera merged on it, looking like a diamond. It is still Jera; it is NOT the "Ing" Rune, and the intention and knowledge of the Rune-inscriber would have to be kept on this fact.

I have named this Bindrune "Harvest of Life Force". To make the name powerful, I like to look at the phonetic sounds of the Runes involved- in this case H, F, U, L, and J (the J making a "y" sound) and pick a name that uses those sounds. H- F- L; Harvest of Life Force. This is also what the Bindrune does; it distributes a harvest of life-force, health, and harmony to the client.

I'd say I was going to end now, but before I finished this work, I discovered something very amazing and powerful about this Rune-Row and its Bindrune: It can be doubled, and the numerology still reveals a working pattern! This is uncommon in Bindrunes and in Rune work in general, so I knew I had to include this alternative here.

If one takes the Rune-row I created, and "doubles" it, that is, leaves the Hagalaz Rune at the center, and places the same Runes on the other side of her, making this:

One has gone from five Runes total in the row to Nine- the most sacred number, which, while maintaining the original meaning and purpose of the Row, now makes it twice as powerful. "Doubling" the Runes in the Row gives them a doubling of power- they partner with one another now to increase their force. And, if you add up the numerical values of all nine Runes, you get this:

12 + 21 + 2 + 1 + 9 + 1 + 2 + 21 + 12 = 81

And 81 is what? 9 times 9. The most powerful possible numerological combination-outcome for any Rune Row or Bindrune. "Harvest of Life Force" therefore has two forms- both in its Row-form, and in its Bindrune form. Here is the "doubled Bindrune":

And here is its curvilinear modern form:

I love looking at the doubled Rune-row, seeing that Hagalaz in the center, radiating out the spell in either direction, with such great power. It is important to note that some Runes in the Rune-System as a whole are dangerous, unless mitigated by combination with other Runes, which channel their force safely. This is why a deep working knowledge of these powers is needed, lest we end up with the sort of situation we saw in Egil's Saga! Harvest of Life Force, however, is both powerful and safe, though its power in its "doubled form" is greater than in its natural, singular form, and not as stable in manifestation, as the numerology behind it moves away from five, and totally towards nine. But Nine is likewise a "forming within stable framework" number, so the danger is mitigated. And nine is a very powerful number for manifestation. It is the Rune-Mother.

I wish the user of this Bindrune great luck and success in all she does. I encourage everyone who reads this, who is interested in learning the deeper mysteries of Runology, to join the Rune Gild, whose website can be found here:


And Hail the Lord of the Runes, who guided me in this process! Hail Harvest of Life Force! Reyn Til Runa!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Wyrd of Human Purpose

Nearly every religious person I know spends a good deal of time talking (and worrying) about the "purpose" of human life. For the first years of my life, I did spend a bit of time thinking about such things myself. Truthfully, I heard more about it than I thought about it- teachers and other respectable adults in my life were almost non-stop in their sharing of the many myths of human purpose.

It seems so logical, to quite a lot of people, that we should all have a "purpose". When I say "purpose", I'm really not talking about any individual sense of destiny. I'm talking about that general sense of "what humans are and what important challenges or choices we face". The best (and by far the most worn-out) example of a widespread myth of human purpose is found in the halls of Christianity: the myth of fall and redemption.

Humans, in this myth, are creations of a loving and all-powerful being. This being endowed humans with "free will" and, thanks to the exercise of this fine gift, all of mankind "fell from grace", into a state of sin and death- where we currently find ourselves. This situation is grim- we were created, as the story goes, to give unending praise to our generous creator. Now, we've made quite a botch of things, and suffer greatly, in need of redemption. Our kindly creator responded to our need and sent a perfect sacrifice in the form of his son, Jesus, and now, anyone who accepts the sacrifice can be assured redemption and eternal life... after this life is over, of course. Until then, you still have to suffer, just because.

Now, I don't want to sound to flippant because I find that nearly all myths from ancient traditions have some value. But my point in writing out a short and somewhat irreverent outline of the Christian myth is to illustrate my original topic and point: for Christian people, life has a real and burningly important point: to submit to the redemptive powers of Christ and get spared from eternal death, or (worse yet) hell. Life's purpose is a high-tension race to redemption, an urgent quest to find the "right" redeemer, find the correct and narrow path, find the righteous way, and die in it.

And in the Christian myth, you only get one chance. No more, no less, no seconds or thirds, and (depending on which Christian you talk to) very little mercy for failure to comply with the rules as Christian churches teach them.

When I personally sit down to consider human life and purpose- and consider it I do, every day- I have little choice but to view it from the perspective of the worldview of Wyrd. This is not surprising; I am a Wyrd-worker, a Wyrd-knower, a Seidman and a Heathen mystic/philosopher of types. Given that I have all those labels weighting me down, I am entitled to a few biases and presuppositions about things. Furthermore, I am human, and just being human gives me a right to a few natural biases, chief of which is the right to consider life from a more compassionate, balanced, and (dare I say it?) realistic angle for human purpose, than the typical myth of fall and redemption.

You'll have to forgive me; maybe it's just the benighted little Heathen heart in me dragging me down to hell, but I can't bring myself to believe that all of this great and vast universe, and all of this great and vast variety of mind, emotion, and experience that we are all heirs to, can be reduced to such a simplistic and slanted myth as taught and believed by our Christian cousins. As appealing as such a fast and simple little story may be (to some) I can't believe that life is that simple, or that the universe really amounts to a simple little human-choice drama.

Let me take a little side-path here, and have a mini-rant about "belief" and "faith".

I don't just believe in the vast kindreds and hosts of wights and beings that fill this universe; I know them. I don't set my mind and heart-knowledge aside in the category of "belief", thus rendering it "one step less true" than other beliefs like "science" or what have you. I don't place my knowledge on the "belief" pedestal, thus introducing it to the endless attacks and debates and the constant moronic harping of the skeptical fools regarding the differences between "knowledge" and "faith" and what have you. I don't have faith in the Gods. I know the Gods. I know them because I, like you, live on the back of a Goddess and see her every day. She holds my house up, my hometown, my state, my country, and even has the oceans in big, deep indentions in her body.

So, seeing this Goddess every day, I don't have to have "faith" in her. I just have to treat her well and walk with respect on her back. Now, this gives a Heathen blackguard like myself a "one up" on my philosophical opponents in the many other "faiths" in this world- few can take me outside and introduce me to their God.

Now, back on track, and to my point: the universe is vast- all of its Nine Worlds are packed full of power, beings, wights, Gods, giants, and Wyrd the Mighty knows what else: and we humans are only a tiny part of this massive outplaying of many sentient and non-sentient forces. This is the worldview of the sorcerer: this is how sorcerous eyes see. This is the ultimate mystical vision of mental, physical, and spiritual plurality.

This is it: we are parts of the Web of Wyrd, a web without boundaries, as "large" as the universe, and infinite- without beginning or ending, forever full of every force interacting, changing, evolving, friction-tearing, communicating, trembling and weaving, spinning perpetually. In this vast web of forces, life arises, in many places, in many forms, some "physical" as we know the word, others not so, but no less alive or intelligent.

All these forces rely on one another, in some ways; all can communicate; most do communicate, though "communication" comes in many forms; All of this power- all of this vast power- you feel it every day that you live and walk and breathe. Set your mind just a bit to the side of Wyrd's weave, a little up, a little down, a little high, a little deep, and entire new vistas of reality open themselves to you.

It is to our benefit to know this reality of endless interaction, and interact well with the other beings that share this universe with us, beginning with the beings who share our planet. It is in our power to tremble the threads of Wyrd to wonderful or devastating effect. We humans may be a tiny group of players in a vast cosmos-scape of Wyrd, but we are no less important than any other part of the web. Without us, the web would not be complete, and therefore, the web would not be able to exist in wholeness. It would, in fact, cease to be, for it needs all of its parts. Wyrd is the ultimate vision of inclusiveness.

This is enough to outrage the fools in our modern world who love to belittle mankind and talk about how unimportant we are in the "grand scheme of things"- as though their blind little eyes, sometimes squinting through telescopes, oftentimes stuck in the pages of a Dawkins book- could really know what the true "grand scheme of things" entails! One does not discover the true depth of the "grand scheme of things" by looking at distant stars or measuring distances between galaxies. One discovers the grand scheme of things by looking within the mind and measuring how deep the Underworld really goes- which is, as they say, "all the way down".

Until you've taken into account the depth of emotion, mind, interaction, and the unutterable mysteries of sacred mythology, you've not even begun to dimension the grand scheme of things. Until you've seen into another world, and glimpsed the timelessness of spirit, there is no chance of understanding "the grand scheme of things".

The "grand scheme of things"! What a figure of speech! This, of course, brings me right back to where we started: the grand scheme of things, and the "human place" or purpose within it.

What does it mean to be a form of life, a human being, whose body-mind-spirit complex coalesced out of the many turnings of Wyrd, and was a child of so many forces? What does it mean to be one of this race, this species, this group we call "mankind"?

Are we stuck in a rat-race to get the right religion's stamp of approval on our souls, before Wyrd turns our bodies back into dust? Are we "here" to learn this or that secret about the universe, or to be kind to one another? Are we here because we ignorantly wandered here, under the power of delusion, to suffer through yet another lifetime, before moving on to another?

All fine questions. And while I feel the need now to suggest an answer (I wouldn't have made you wait this long for nothing!) I need to warn you that such answers seldom fall easily into letters and words. The sheer complexity of Wyrd prevents over-simplifications in anything, truth be told. And I don't want to over-simplify an answer to a question of this much importance, lest I fall into the error of the Christians or the Muslims.

Because goodness knows many great men have thought on this answer for thousands of years, and have given many great answers. Who am I compared to them? I'll be honest with you- and say what you probably already suspect- I'm not much compared to them. I'm not Plato or Augustine or Mohammed or Buddha.

I'm a man from the southern forests of a beautiful but suffering continent, an exile from his ancestors' homelands, who claims he can see visions and talk to spirits. I'm a Pagan in a Christian world, only surviving because times have changed, and the local church in these days can't send policemen to arrest and burn me.

I'm a guy who fully admits to being phobic of air travel and public bathrooms. I have a nice (and alarmingly large) collection of University degrees behind my name, but I'm not particularly wealthy, and I've not managed to start an academy in Athens; I've been to lots of caves, but I've never had tight conversations with Archangels; I've sat under lots of trees in trances and meditated, but never found "enlightenment". I've written a lot of letters that pissed a lot of people off, but I've never been handed a sainthood for all my troubles. No, I don't stack up to the "great men" of philosophy and religious history.

There are lots of nasty names for people like me, and lots of pills that can be prescribed for people like me. You probably don't have any reason to trust me, and I wanted to be up-front about this. If you like what I am about to say, you'll have to accept it on your own terms, Caveat Emptor and all. I'm not a great sage from history, but I am very honest and unafraid to live my own path through life, regardless of what all the hostile little faces around me say.

I do communicate with spirits and have a capacity for spiritual vision that extends beyond the normal; the fire in me certainly is the delirious demon of the DSM-IV, but it is also the fire that has burned in a lot of muddy-bearded mystics on the side of a lot of forest roads in a lot of distant countries. And I'm strangely comfortable with it... except of course, when I'm not. On those days, I write long, rambling letters and post them on the internet somewhere.

So why listen to my answer (which I swear that I'm getting to?) Because you've read this far, you might as well. And because Wyrd the mighty has woven you here, just like She wove me typing these words right at this instant. We're together, you and I; we're inseparable. And you probably won't like what I'm about to say.

I would NEVER think to tell you "human life has no purpose; purpose is all constructed". I HATE it when people pull that cop-out. But they do have a point about the word "purpose" and its cousin-word "meaning". Everyone seems to have a different opinion or idea about what these words entail, in relation to human beings and our lives, anyway. Who's right?

The people who are "right" are likely the people who can (to a lesser or greater extent) separate themselves from pre-conceived notions born in culture and religion BEFORE they try to puzzle out the definitions or "meanings". But what's left when you step outside of cultural encapsulation?

The bare facts of Wyrd- of the system of linear AND non-linear causality- are left. The bare bones or threads of the universal tapestry. And here we are, all right where we've been woven. I can't say why I'm here, but I can say where I am and what I do here. I am in the southern forests; I'm in my house; I'm in my town; I'm in my profession. I'm in this world. What do I do? I think, I write, I read, I go into trances, I talk to people, I help to bring about therapeutic change within the systems of other people's lives; I love my family. I know where I am and what I'm doing.

I can't even begin to describe the chain of forces that came together to make such a being as myself, or which stands behind all the things I do. I can't describe those forces in their totality for you or for anyone else. I couldn't describe them for even the smallest grain of sand. But I know where (at least a few) grains of sand are, and what they do.

And I know what I hope- and what many others hope. And I know what people have done, and why I still do what ancient people- my ancestors- did. It's enough. It moves me through life with peace in my heart.

My answer is now forming, but it isn't enough; it's not complete yet.

Here we are, spinning in the web of Wyrd, you, me, everyone, everything. A point comes- I don't know when, or how, but a point comes when you find yourself wherever you happen to be, doing what you happen to be doing. A moment of clarity arises, for all of us. When you string those moments of awareness together long enough, use that fine memory of yours to create a personal story, a personal narrative of moments, (give yourself some chronology) then you have a "life", so-called. And there's your life, spinning out, and here is mine.

You knew this already. We can all get this far. But why did we get this fine clarity, this space of mind, these memories, this ability to string together moments, these hopes, these inclinations, these dreams?

They are Wyrd. Fate spun them out. Fate spun you out, and me. It may seem so self-willed, but in reality, it is quite mechanical. This is the universe, not that poor tiny thing you call "you", friend. What "you and I" really have is the precious chance to realize all this, and marvel at the amazing power of it all. At this moment, stop and look- smell the Wyrd Roses; how marvelous is all this greatness! The vast deep- the great sweep of timeless experience and causality- real eternity, all right now, in this moment of clarity.

Man, this is material enough for a smile, a headache, or yet another psychotic break. I'm not sure which. Or maybe it's just food for thought. Whatever it is, it brings me one step closer to my answer.

We are not here to find "redemption". There was no primordial error in Wyrd, nor among our first ancestors. We didn't "fall" from anywhere. We were always here, though this moment, this human moment, may be the first time we've ever consciously experienced things as human beings. We all think we were born, and are living, and dying, and yes, I think there's some truth to that. But I don't think that "birth-life-death" is the entire story. I don't want to venture too far into saying what I think the "entire" story might be, because as I have always said, Wyrd won't ever let us know the "entire" story; it's just too big.

And that should be a tip to us all: if it's too big for your minds, then you don't need to know the whole story to live well. So stop worrying about such abstract things, and deal with what you do know- where you are, and what you are doing. If you add a sense of wonder to those two things, you get a life of quality.

But is it our "purpose" to "get a life of quality"? I can say this: Wyrd didn't "plan" out our lives; Wyrd is not "predestination". Life isn't a planned-and-executed event; it is a perpetual motion of reality. That's us, spinning along, right now, like always.

A point comes when you have a chance to think about these things, in a very abstract way. I don't know how or why the point comes, but it comes- a space of mental clarity sort of "opens up" for you.

Maybe, if you haven't pulled your hair out by now from reading my thoughts, you're in that space as we communicate now. Maybe you like what I've said. Maybe you hate it. Maybe you don't understand it. Maybe you think you understand it too well. Maybe you think I'm trying to be too deep. Maybe you think this is shallow. Whatever. You think what you like- but think. Use the moment when it comes to you. We're human beings, beings that have an opportunity, a chance that comes many times in our long and perpetual existence, to think about things, to study this world, to come to many sorts of knowledge. We are, after all, "Homo Sapiens"- right?

We're forever parts of this web of life, this web of Wyrd, and for "most of our time" (not that time matters over-much when you escape from the boring limitations of basic perception) we haven't been very aware of the fact of our participation in the great sacred web. And yet, here we are, and always were, and always will be. Maybe we, for timeless ages, were hyper-conscious of our state; perhaps we were Hel-dark and unaware. But something changed, and here we are, as human beings. I have an idea about what changed; the pure spirit that is the seat of these thoughts- it was in Allfather, before he breathed it into human bodies, born of this earth. Now that spirit is part of the experience of a Human Being.

There's no purpose here, just opportunity. We can grow in awareness, gain in wisdom, or not. The universe won't end if we don't; we won't be punished by the Gods if we don't; all will be well- as it always was and always will be.

So the pressure's off. This life- our timeless existence in the weave of Wyrd- is, in my opinion, about exploration. There's no punishment for not exploring, although you can hardly help it; it's part of being woven through so many different situations and experiences. Of course, if you don't explore, you'll be unhappy, because the deepest longings within your mind and heart will always wish they had gone further, seen more, discovered more.

I can say that I do think the Gods- who are fellow beings exploring this Web of Wyrd with us, though much wiser and powerful and more long-lived than we- have given us good advice on how to be happy and fulfilled during our explorations. Our explorations come at different times- the moments just come, and I don't really know how. But the mead of experience comes. Whenever the moments come, these precious times, the Gods are there to help and guide. So are our fellow wayfarers. Some beings are there to hurt. Some don't appear to care.

There's no time limit on your expeditions of exploration or learning. This does NOT mean that I believe "life is all about learning, and you learn lessons in each life"- no, I think that's a bit silly (though it's no more silly than what most people believe, and actually, a lot less hateful or harmful than some myths that were already under discussion) but I still think it's silly. I don't think we're all consciously "choosing" to be born here and live and explore. Wyrd is weaving this for us. We weren't here, it seems... and then, we were. We emerged from the web, consciously. And we began to make sense of it all. And so on we go.

This vision, this story of "exploration within complex causality and mystery" makes more sense to me than the "UP OR DOWN, SINNER" story. It seems to suit our environment- that of great timeless sacredness and complexity- better. It shows how so many explorations can lead to so many different experiences, conclusions, and places, without one being "the only right one". It just makes sense. Like Wyrd, this story is inclusive and not a little strange.

So, is there an end to this exploration? No. That might sound fearful or tiring, but as vast as this web of reality is, trust me- the vast spirit in you wouldn't have it any other way. In my vision, the beings who are honored to dwell in the worlds of the Gods are those valiant souls who cast themselves into the voids of uncertainty and the great task of life- with all its many dangers- without fear.

Those beings who come to rest in the deepest darkness of the Underworld are people who could be in the worlds of the Gods, if they weren't afraid or avoiding the exploration out of some personal weakness. Those who Fate has seen fit to place on the side of the mountain are us, in this middle-world, spiraling along our roads, which can go many places. The moments (which we call "roads") just come- they arise. I don't know from where they come, but I know where they can go.

So on we go.

Bear in mind, dear reader, that these are just words, models, ideas. Tools for the exploration. Be safe.