Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Feast of Ultimate Generosity: Re-Thinking the Blot in Modern Heathenry

This short discussion on the blot, or the central form of religious sacrifice in modern Heathen belief and practice, represents a turning point or a "gravity shift" in how I personally have come to view and experience the blot. This turning point is a major one; as I will describe, it is a game changer in many ways, but chiefly in the way it has brought me from a "younger" perspective on blot to a manifestly older one. How we think of blot- what our motivations are, what metaphysics we believe are being acted out, how we conceptualize the Gods and their response to the blot- say a lot about us as modern Heathens, and it says a lot about how we conceptualize the Gods, as well.

I will begin by making the radical-seeming, and probably controversial statement that I believe the "blot", as it is done by nearly all Heathens (with the possible exception of some Theodish folk) has some deep and troubling metaphysical problems. In a predictably symmetrical way, those problems reflect into issues regarding how many modern Heathens look at the world, the Gods, and one another. 

There is no point in wondering if it was originally an issue with how the blot came to be thought of and performed, which then transferred itself into the minds of people who participated in blots, or if the original issue was with the deeper assumptions of modern Heathen people, who reflected those things into the form of the blot. Instead, this issue describes a recursive circle where "blame" cannot be placed, and no single "source" of the trouble can be found in any quick fashion. And yet, from my perspective, there is a trouble.

Heathenry is proudly traditional, in many ways- like all organic and Ancestral religions, "tradition" is one part continuation of thinking and behavior patterns of the Ancestors themselves, even adjusted to the modern day, and one part freedom from rigidity and rote. The Ancestors changed over time; we have changed, and we continue to change. That's the nature of organic religion. It is believed that, so long as we maintain certain central aesthetics and activities, and maintain certain basic "ways of seeing the world", and our trademark insistence on personal liberty and hospitality, that we continue, on some level, what the Ancestors were channeling and experiencing.

And there is a lot of truth to that, I think. But the issue I have with Blots as I understood them, and performed them for years, is that the metaphysical assumptions about the nature of the Gods, which are displayed in the standard "Blot" ritual, may not reflect the depth of the Ancestral experience of the Gods, going back to the deepest of Ancestral places.

One very particular "way of thinking" about the Gods was prominent in every blot I took part in, either as blot-officiator, or participant; and that was the idea, so commonly held in many branches of the Heathen tree, that the Gods would feel the need to send us a "counter gift" to repay the Heathen faithful for their gift of the blot. Naturally, we hoped at various occasions for various "return gifts" from the Gods- even going so far as to state what we hoped for.

On the surface, this seems not so troubling. After all, as Odin says in Havamal, "A gift ever asks for a gift". The keyword that I always used to explain this was "reciprocity". We would give, and so the Gods would give. They are honorable beings, after all; by definition, they are the source of the honor code that the Ancestors involved themselves with. The Gods are the divine exemplars of many of the human codes of behavior, like hospitality, and so forth. The Gods, we reasoned, would never fail to return a gift for a gift. Like two human families exchanging gifts to seal a friendship/alliance with one another, we felt we could and should do the same with the Godly families.

* * *
But after long months and years of reflection, I finally discovered a passage from Paul Shepard's book "Coming Home to the Pleistocene" that encapsulated what had begun to trouble me about our Blot institution. He writes:

"The idea of sacrifice was given definition and vigor by pastoralists. In making sacrifice, a sacred grassy area, the seat of a god, was strewn with meat offerings, gifts being accompanied by songs, in which a priest announced what the gift-giver wanted, In India and Iran usually "cattle and sons." Such negotiation could only have occured with a god who was conceived as more or less like men- full of themselves and their power, trade-minded, with the attitude of bargainers in a recalcitrant world, utterly different in spirit from the gifting world of the people of the bear, elk, and salmon. A liturgy of sacrifice, generally seen as the posture of a humble supplicant, revealed a despirtualized natural world reduced to materials to be bargained. As it was practiced by the Indo-Iranian descendents of the Indo-Europeans, sacrifice was perceived as "a presentation that establishes a relation of reciprocity, calling forth a counter-gift in return." Meat that had been shared according to obligation and custom among Hunter/Gatherers became a kind of gift in the pastoral cultures in which there was constant maneuvering to obtain the favor of powerful lords."
(P. 115)

And in this clear and powerful passage, Shepard reveals what I feel is a flaw in a lot of modern Heathen thinking, even my own once: we characterize the Gods as trade-minded beings like ourselves, and try to lure them into returning things to us in exchange for what we give them. It is certain, beyond a doubt, that both myself, and all the Heathens I ever knew were not *simply* trying to bargain- we also approached the seats of the Gods with real reverence and respect for them in our hearts. But a paradox is presented here, a paradox that I think splits the power of Blot in half.

That paradox is the reverencing of a great Being or Beings for all their might, generosity, and hospitality- which none of us ever doubted- and then imagining that we had to bargain with them for things we wanted, over what amounts to some pieces of meat, bowls of honey, or a horn of ale. Why should we ever have doubted that such amazing powers- Ancient Beings who helped to shape the world itself through their adventures, breathed life into mankind, and worked so heroically to preserve the worlds from chaotic forces- should withhold their blessings from us, or need gifts before they themselves gave gifts in return? Is this really Godly behavior or thinking? Or is it human?

Without realizing it, I, and many others, were continuing a particularly pastoral way of looking at the nature of the world and the Gods, which was based not on any truth about the Gods, but on the economic systems of ancient Pastoralism, and the realities of their lives then, in which bargaining was so prominent. The gifts of the Gods- ale, mead, meat, food, fresh water from springs, song, fertility, red, strong blood, fragrant herbs, our very human beings- these are not "materials" to be tossed around and bargained with as though they were a primitive form of currency; they are things to be thankful for, and shared in thanks, for no other reason than we feel grateful. And we should feel grateful. 

Pastoralists in ancient times turned the sacredness of animals themselves- the divine others who share our world- into money and objects of possession. As Shepard points out in his book, this led to some very grim outcomes, including messianic religions, and ultimately to Christianity itself. To unthinkingly continue trying to bargain with the sacred and wyrd-woven parts of the world, in the halls of the Gods, continues an ominous and perhaps insulting practice to the deepest Sacred Powers- but that may just be the Seidhmadr in me coming out now.

* * *
In a sense, I think Shepard, without meaning to, wrote a full manual of "Vanic" spirituality with his superb work "Coming Home to the Pleistocene"- for in it, he points out what the Heathen worshipers of the Vanir already know: that the earlier peoples, before pastoralism and agriculture (and therefore before the Indo-Europeans as history met them) believed that the Sacred Powers were utterly generous, and that they gave the gifts of life, food, game, fertility, wisdom, and pleasure in great abundance, without the need for bloody sacrifice or bargaining.

When we deal with the Gods and sacrifice-institutions of the Indo-Europeans, we are dealing with "Aesiric" (as some put it) spirituality, the largely sky-based spirituality of the pastoral and horse-riding peoples. In that spirituality, sacrifice is prominent and always (as he showed) about bartering for favor and benefit, even while also including an element of respect for the very powerful divine guest or guests of honor at the blot-feasts.

I see a need for a shift in essential thinking about blot. Blots were not simple gatherings were some people gathered around and killed an animal; they were actually full feasts- yes, animals often died in them, and were cooked, shared, and everyone took part. They were held in honor of Gods or Goddesses- but the honor wasn't focused on one action or set of actions; by simply traveling to attend a blot, people showed their respect for the Gods. By sitting at the feasting place, drinking, eating, talking, hearing the sacred songs or poems, all of that was in honor of the Mighty Gods.

* * *
I believe very strongly that "asking the Gods" for this or that, and trying to bribe them with very nice gifts implies that they are too human-like. To an extent, the Gods are presented in some sources as having some human-like qualities, but in others, and when one examines the history, archaeology and anthropology that extends long before the historical periods we know so well, we see that knowledge of the Gods stems from some very ancient and even non-human experiences of the Natural world, and from stranger places still. It is one thing to 'experience' Thor in depictions of the red-bearded strong man with his hammer and goats, but something else to experience Him when one hears the thunder roar and feels the rain fall. I can say with assurance that one of these "ways of experiencing" came before the other.

And when we consider that, we have to realize that some Edda-born tales of the Gods don't suffice to encapsulate the Gods as a whole, nor reveal the deep mystery of their Beings. In a way, I think we were minimizing the Gods with our metaphysical thinking about them before now- and even if we saw a larger picture for the Gods, saw and felt them deeper than the poetic and human-like depictions of them (which still reveal something of their nature), we still unconsciously continued to treat them like just another human (albeit a vastly more powerful and respected human) with our blot metaphysics.

I work every day to experience the Unseen reality, to broaden and sharpen my senses to the hidden currents of Wyrd, and to hear the voices of Ancestors. This is a slow process, a very subtle process. What my heart begins to tell me, and has been straining to tell me for years, is that our real task with blots is to do nothing more than show our deep gratitude to the Gods and the Sacred Powers for their ceaseless gift-giving to mankind.

They give all, and do all: Earth herself pours forth food endlessly, and waters; Thor protects mankind endlessly from countless unknown threats; Odin taught man culture, Runes, and inspires poetry and art and strategy, and even rides alongside the dead who fly the winds with him yearly. Frey and Freya and their great and generous family of Vanic divinities give life force and food and peace and good weather in abundance, and pour frith on human homesteads and communities, and on the communities of other beasts- all without being asked. This is part of who they are. Even the air that surrounds us everywhere, and sustains our life through breathing- does not Odin indwell the air and wind? Is this breath not a gift from him, too?

The Gods aren't going to suddenly withhold their generous natures because some humans didn't do a sacrifice correctly, nor do I imagine they care if humans do sacrifices at all. For centuries, the vast majority of mankind have ignored them at the religious level, and even cast them aside like trash, upon converting to Christianity- and yet, I see them, feel them, experience them every day being generous and powerful and filling the world with good things, as though nothing really ever changed. They are Gods, after all; I doubt they get too tied up over temporary, shifting human politics. And we all know that, despite some new-agers reporting otherwise, they are not dependent on human worship. They are not dependent on our blots.

But we do blots, and should do them, to say thank you, to give back because the Gods have given so much- a gift does, after all, call for a gift; but that's where I think it should end. When we do Blot for the Gods, the Blot is surely a gift, an honoring, but to think of it also as bargaining is a touch lame to imagine. Odin doesn't give "Sig" or Victory to communities because they pleased him at Sigrblot; he gives victory to good and noble people because he is the Sig-Father, and this is in his nature. It just so happens that "Good and noble people" should never fail to show their gratitude with blots. But it does not do to imagine that we "got something" out of the Gods because we bribed them somehow, or forced them to be reciprocal with us because we gave a gift to them.

Did we find victory? Thank Odin! Did we make ourselves the sorts of people that a being like Odin would be proud to give victory to, with our long-held demonstrations of generosity, our ceaseless demonstrations that we are thankful and generous and thereby noble ourselves? Certainly. Did we do it just so the Gods would favor us? I hope not; generosity is its own reward, its own righteous beauty, fully in line with deep pylons of the Sacred in this fateful world. So we'll keep doing blots of thanksgiving (for indeed, I see no need for any other kind) and trust the Gods to be the Gods that the Ancestors loved and held in awe and trusted.

The best way to assure that you will "get what you want or need" from the Gods is to manifest to them, in your everyday deeds and actions, and in your blots, a great heart of gratitude and reverence, and then to rest assured in knowing that they will continue to be the generous beings we know they are, and continue to bless us- for indeed, who among us can say that we have received nothing from the Gods?

If you can sing or play music or write poetry, or if you can build or carve in wood, or bake bread, or if you command language with great skill, or if you can design things, create amazing strategies in tests or games, weave clothing, walk for miles on strong legs, or if you have the gift of creativity... or if you have healthy, happy children, great friends, or enough food to eat for the foreseeable future, or a solid roof over your head, you are already mightily blessed. The greatest of "askings" has already been granted you. And it was given freely, probably without you asking at all.

* * *
Some ask me "But what if I have a sick child, and I want to blot Thor to drive away the spirit of the sickness that is bedeviling him? Can I not ask, over the blot feast and gifts, that Thor help with this?" I say "certainly- ask away, toast away, beg away, cry away, in public or in private. But I myself would never imagine that Thor was going to help your sick child simply because you brought rich gifts. I imagine he will help- have full confidence and trust that he will help, if he can- because he's Thor, a friend to man, and protector and supporter of noble people- and anyone who thinks to feast a God like Thor for help is already a noble person, in my book."

I admit that some will be bothered by this, because it violates one of the central "hidden rules" of a lot of modern Heathenry- the Aesiric bias. This entire essay is, admittedly, "Vanic" in tone and in feeling, and even in origin, for it represents a shift in my metaphysical thinking from a "bargain and strategy" approach to blot, to an "overwhelming gratitude for generosity" approach, which sounds more at home in the pleasant fields of Vanaheim (and in pre-pastoral, pre-Indo European Europe) than in the more socially-stratified and competitive annals of Indo-European culture.

But my fear is that we have been promulgating, even without meaning to, a de-spiritualized view of Nature itself, which is everywhere generous, always giving gifts to man, including the gift of his own Natural being. The Gods are part of the tapestry of Nature, Wyrd's weave, and it pulses and pounds with life and abundance. To feel so separate from that, to the point that we start bargaining with Gods that we come to think of as "Big Chieftains" or "Big Powerful Rich Guys" who will, like a human chief, give a gift back to us if we give one to them, represents a harmful evolution in human spiritual thinking, one that could only be possible when certain human cultures became distant from the "People of Bear, Elk, and Salmon", as Shepard put it- that is, away from the original human cultures that lived every day in the sheer generosity of Nature and the Gods, and didn't have social systems that were reduced to cut-throat bargaining or ritualized, complex gift-giving institutions that assured alliances and favors.

* * *
From now on, when I blot, it will always be a gift giving to the Gods, not a scheme of obligation or strategy on my part all dressed up in Ancestral respect and piety, but a gift from a heart that desires to be as generous to them as they have been to me and mine. I will rest assured that the Gods and Sacred Powers will continue to be as kindly to me later as they have been before, and as they were to my Ancestors who knew them from every age. Why add anything else to this clean, organic, and demonstrably ancient metaphysic, to muddle the waters? Trust for the Gods becomes the keynote of a healthy relationship with them.

It is good for a community to feel that they have re-affirmed kinship bonds with the Gods through blots and feasts, but even that represents a minor sense of paranoia- nothing can break our kinship bonds with the Gods and Sacred Powers, ever. The nature of that Fateful and vital bond is not something based on economics or "paying upkeep" or anything of the kind.

But as noble and good people, being generous (and feasting for the Gods) should be done anyway, else we cannot really claim to be good and noble. It's not because we're trying to "get something" that we feast, but because we are something already that we feast.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Institution of Oathing and Oath-Taking in Modern Heathenry

Today, I thought I'd write some ponderings on the modern Pagan notion of Oathing and Oath-taking. This might be of particular interest to my Heathen friends, or anyone who religiously follows an Ancestral Path native to Germania or Celtia- though the institution of Oathing was Pan-European, and certainly found among the Slavs, Greeks, and Romans as well. As with anything truly universal, this topic may have something to say to those of you who practice sorcerous paths of any sort, considering when we deal with oaths, we deal with the deeper implications of using language to bind oneself (or others) to certain actions or destinies.

I'll start by speaking to my Heathen friends who accept the institution of Oathing as a central aspect of their lives, religiously and otherwise. I hate to say "religiously and otherwise" because truly, Heathenry, or real traditional Paganism generally, does not expect you or teach you to have a life on the one hand, and a religion on the other. Life and religion seamlessly blend together. As a modern traditional pagan- not a neopagan, mind you- as a practitioner of a native ethnic European faith, there is no sense that religion is held apart from everyday activities. All things have what we now call a "religious" dimension. It's easier to say that everything has a sacred dimension, and it must be called forth in everything you do. As Marcus Aurelius said, "No human action is well taken without reference to the divine."

If you accept this- and indeed, you can hardly call yourself a Pagan of any Ancestral tradition if you do not- then immediately, your words and deeds become more weighty. It's one thing for the degenerates of our world who think that the divine or sacred is transcendent to the world to abuse their words and deeds. It's another thing for those of us who think that the sacred is intimately involved, here and now, always, to abuse words and deeds. You are indeed "abusing" words and deeds if you consider them to be "throw away" things, or even "mundane" things, and you place no real attention or weight on them.

Your every word or deed is a fresh, new expression of your personal power, and by extension, your Ancestral power, passed down to you from a very long line that reaches back to Gods. A mortal these days may play games with words and deeds, not understanding this. Those of you who do must give more attention to all you say and do.

This leads us to the before-mentioned universal concept of Oathing. In a strange sense, we shouldn't need oaths; the Ancestors shouldn't have needed them, and indeed, I doubt they thought of them as we do now. What you say, should always mean something, and what you do should be 100% in alignment with your will, wisely measured, and everything you say and do should be something you fully own, that you fully claim as your own- yours and your Ancestors, for they share in everything you say and do, as well.

If this is the case, why Oath anything? It would appear on the surface that Oathing is a way to add special weight or gravity to what should be already weighty and serious words. To tell someone you'll do something appears to be one thing; to make an Oath that you will seems more intense, more pointed, more assured.

When we understand that Oaths in the past were seen as aspects of Wyrd or Fate, it begins to make more sense. Naturally, nothing can be said to be "outside" of Wyrd or Fate, so again, it starts to look strange- but to take an Oath is to accept a burden of types, to involve more powers than just yourself and your Ancestors. To "Oath" to a power (like a God or a community or another person) is to call that power to witness your personal integrity and the integrity of your power broadly speaking- even your Ancestors.

To Oath to a God or Goddess, for instance, is to make a verbal event-connection- itself a tangible power- with an immensely powerful being, asking that divine person to witness your deed, and to add its power to your own. This is a very "instant" form of a very old and very hidden sorcery- most people who witness this can tell that this "power adding" effect occurs- when people hear the oath being so made, it immediately carries a sense of higher intensity which affects them. The witnesses almost always immediately feel more assured that the oath will be carried out, that it has become more in-depth, more intense, more trustworthy. This is a profoundly mystical effect, from a very deep level, though most of us today have little means of sensing these deep wheels turning.

Many who experience this may try to explain it in purely "social" terms. They may think "Hey, he believes in that power, so there's a much higher likelihood now that he'll make good on that oath" or "He wouldn't dare lose face in front of everyone now, having made an oath." But it still goes deeper. Real power "moves" in accordance with these words and living powers being called upon.

If the oath is broken, this diminishes the power of the oath-taker and that upon which it was taken or sworn. This will very likely evoke the displeasure or harmful tidings of the powers upon which the broken oath was taken, as they, too, "lose" force in the situation. Those who hear of the broken oath or see it broken, immediately feel the reduction of trust, of faith, of face, and of respect. The oath-breaker from that point on is a "Wolf of his word"- someone that uses words, but instead of increasing the vital force of the words, instead of preserving the integrity of power, diminishes them, eats the power like a greedy wolf.

So, this extends a touch further, on the subtle level, than just incurring the wrath of a God to whom one swore an oath. This comes down to the loss or gain of personal and Ancestral power. And the loss of this power in this situation opens a person to more than just divine retribution, or subtle retribution- it destroys their standing in a human group, a group that the person is likely quite involved with. That human group is another webwork of power that shares force with those involved, and is increased and diminished on the backs of words and deeds of those associated.

The oath-breaker is not trusted, and without trust, the members of a group are not willing to share power freely with another. They assume a defensive posture around them, withholding something very subtle and vital. In a sense, to lose trust with a community, even if one is allowed to remain in the community, is to suffer a subtle form of banishment.

Sometimes I consider the entire oathing system to be "everyman's sorcery"- though many may not like the term "sorcery." But as I have pointed out, it is very much power-manipulation, a game and even sometimes a gamble of power loss or power gain. It involves complex matters like community and personal trust, and integrity.

To lose too much power to broken Oaths, in the past, would and could (and did) spell the deaths or downfall of those involved. The broken oath is an injury to power, both personal, Ancestral, and community. No community which is in touch with these realities at a conscious level will tolerate it too much- a person who declines so far in trust can no longer remain; they may even eventually inspire violence or coercive rejection. But on the personal level, the loss of too much power means (eventually) the loss of vital force for living, and that can spell doom, too. We see this happen today, though we ordinarily don't see it deeply enough- people who "fall onto hard times" through their own disastrous misdeeds, and ruined relationships, often sink into depression and listlessness, and may either die at their own hands, or simply fall into ill health that shortens their lives greatly.

Needless to say, at the level of power-interaction, we are all dealing with real force, real power, whether we experience it that way or not; our oaths are a form of magic that all can (and once did) engage in. Sure, your words should have had the weight of your integrity even when you weren't oathing, but to oath was to gather power to your proclamation, to gather extra force to yourself for the fulfillment of the oath, or the fulfillment of your will. And that is why they were there. Socially speaking, Oaths were the only things the Ancestors had to guarantee or at least maximize the predictability of human behavior. It was social glue, a social binding, a customizable bond that could be used where it was needed.

For those of you who are distant from the Pagan faiths, but deeply involved in Sorcerous pursuits, don't imagine that your words spoken to powers in the Unseen world behave all that differently from this. Even if no other human is there to witness some oath of your own to a spiritual force or helper, many Unseen eyes witness it, and power moves. Like anyone who makes Oaths for any reason, you need to bear in mind how serious this is. Words have a sacred dimension, they naturally have weight, just like actions. Whether we realize that or not makes no difference; the weight, the power is there. Be cautious what you say and what you do. There is no sorcery, just like there is no wisdom, without a higher degree of awareness, even of so-called "simple" things.

And now, one more related topic, I think, needs to be mused upon. Modern Heathens and Pagans make a great deal out of Oaths. This reflects Ancient custom, but I've noticed something troubling about the Oath institution in the modern day. I've seen a lot of oaths made, and I've seen a lot of oaths broken. People wonder at this- are we just weaker in the modern day, at the level of integrity and power, than the Ancestors? The short answer to that question is "yes, absolutely"- for too long, idealism has taken our attention off this world and put our attention on abstractions and delusions up in the sky. We have a strong sense that this world and "worldly things" are not of "ultimate importance"- we have a strong distinction between "mundane" and "sacred", which I do not think reflects the Ancestral thinking on life.

But it runs deeper than that. We've just lost the high value that Pagan culture had on oaths generally. We are out of touch with the subtle but very real spiritual dangers of breaking oaths- we consider "consequences" to be very tangible things, like people hating you or hurting you, or the loss of property. We don't have a sense for interior consequences, for the Unseen consequences of breaking our word. We should be afraid, truly, of breaking our words we gave in the name of Unseen powers, as well as the words we gave in the name of others who might be right here in this sacred world- like a community, or our children, or our family. We should be afraid because even if we don't see it immediately, we are profoundly affected by it, in the short and long terms.

We lack the grasp of the subtle that the Ancestors had, in other words. This would be my belief on the matter. But this goes one more layer deep- how can we really trust anyone today, even ourselves, to make "Oaths" on Gods, when we seldom meet the Gods anymore, in any conscious way?

This is the real reason I wanted to write this today. It is not enough to say one believes in Gods. Gods are not abstract notions to be believed in, just as the Unseen world is not an abstract notion to believe in. These powers are realities to be experienced. Until you have experienced them, or until anyone has, there is no real possibility of a true "Oath" being taken, in the binding sense that I mean. Until your soul has touched the soul of what you are Oathing on, I see no real possibility of the gravity, the intensity, moving and changing you and it.

Wear hammers or triskeles all day long; talk about the Gods a lot, quote me their myths and sacred stories, but it means little to me if you have not left the lot of us humans and walked into the wilderness and, in the quiet of your mind and soul, let the divine forces that you claim to worship come to you in a new way. Call it an initiatory introduction if you like; the Ancestors got this easily; we have to work a bit harder at this. We are surrounded by many walls that they didn't have, which prevent us from meeting the Gods at the soul level.

I saw a blog today written by a well-meaning (and highly talented) Heathen man, and while I loved his work, he wrote constantly about the struggle he underwent to hold on to his "faith"- how he fell away from Heathenry for long periods of time, felt pulled to other expressions of Paganism, like Druidry or even Wicca- and he suffered a great deal from this. He would not suffer if he had walked near the Gods, or met them directly. The Gods don't "come to us" because we talk like ancient Pagans, nor because we feel a draw to them and to the Old Ways. We have to go to physically go to them, and that completes the circle.

Our Ancestors walked away from them, some for very bad reasons, others because they had no choice. That power- that greatest oath-breaking of all, which happened at a cultural level, affects us to this day. Until we realize that, and understand the difficulty you will face "up front" when you finally try to walk back into the Forest of Paganism, you might just find yourself losing interest and not feeling any real connection, after a point.

This Pagan "religious" life is not easy to get into; the price of admission, real admission, is some sweat, some blood, some uncertainty, some inconvenience, and facing the deep, dark silence inside your soul. You have to step away from the madness that has no Gods (which anyone can experience just by getting stuck in traffic) and step back to the lonely places of the world and the soul where the Gods went to take shelter when the world was broken so long ago by the seeds of madness.

Do I look down on those I know who made Oaths and broke them, or forgot about them? No, not really. I am not lacking at my own failures on that level- when I was much younger, I threw the word "Oath" around with the same shallow lack of understanding of it that nearly everyone does. But that was then; this is now. Now, I am "Oathable"- oath-able- because I understand what I did not then. But the power is still unforgiving; it doesn't matter what I understood or didn't understand. I can't undo what was done. But I am certainly capable of a greater degree of awareness and honor now, and that's worth a lot, too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Sorcery of Culture: Some Words on Race, Culture, and Shared Values from a Heathen Perspective



Someone on another forum I was participating in made the suggestion that I was "racist." That person was clearly not enjoying one of the recent discussions I had started, and certainly won't be around here to receive this comment of mine, but I thought it brought up a topic which was worth some talking about.

I could begin by saying how I wasn't racist, but that never really works, because all racist people say that. Instead of saying what I'm not, I thought I'd talk for a little while about what I am. I am both a sorcerer in the Heathen tradition, and a "culturalist", to use a term. Being a sorcerer, I see life a bit differently from most- I see threads of what can only be described as "magical" stuff everywhere, which sometimes gets called "trees" or "cars" or "clouds" or even "people." And these threads are hardly standing still; they appear to be about as stable as a fast moving river.

How does a person hold onto the droplets of water in a fast moving river? You don't. You just find a way to enjoy the river for what it is. But we wouldn't be human if we didn't try to grab a few drops here and there, no matter how doomed the attempt might be. I might also say that we wouldn't be human if we didn't have the right to a few preferences here and there- and we all have our personal preferences and limitations.

I have studied "race" and "culture" extensively. They are both droplets of water in the river of life. "Races" do not stay stable anymore than cultures do. "Race"- if such a thing exists at all- is closer to the serpent of life, the wordless and ancient genetics, the blood, the flesh of this world. There's no thinking involved in race; the body of a human, like the texture or color of stones, just happens to be what it is, naturally. "Culture", however, is a child of the human mind. We appear to have more influence over the shape of culture, even if we don't have full control over it, in any way. It changes too, in this web of strange powers that always influence everything else.

When I decide to be human and make judgments about things in my experience, I find it more satisfying to judge other people based on something closer to the light of the mind and intention- that is, culture- and not race, which is unchosen by everyone, and, well, when compared to culture, a little boring. Culture shapes how people think, why they do many of the things they do, even how they dress, eat, and sleep. Culture is where the action is. Culture is a chess game; race is a blank board that you might possibly play chess on.

So, I'm a culturalist- but this must necessarily build on my sorcerous vocation. For me, culture isn't just a collection of learned, shared behaviors, anchored by language, that "came into existence" based on ancient trial-and-error survival behaviors. It's something far deeper and more intentional than that.

A Sorcery of Great Might and Age

For me, culture is itself sorcery. Yes; when language gets involved (language itself is sound and word sorcery), and shared behaviors get involved, when groups of men and women get together and mingle their vital power together to affect the world collectively, you are seeing real sorcery, a massive, massive ritual of types, which comes to influence and involve their descendants, for countless ages to come. Culture is a massive group "spell" being cast, by groups of people, consciously and unconsciously, to affect this world to their benefit, and to express their souls here in the intersubjective sphere.

To belong to a "culture" means a lot. The word "culture" has the word "cult" as its root- and members of the same cult, like members of the same culture, generally hold the same things to be valuable or sacred. That's what creates their true bond together; they are members of a value-sharing team.

Culture and race are not the same. Culture can come to dominate racial groups. It always has; look at what Western culture has done in Asia. Look at what Roman culture did to the entire world- after a point, the average speaker of Latin wasn't native to Latium or Italia. It was just practically everyone around the "known" world. People possessed of African genetics were imported by force into the Americas, and today, their descendants don't speak African languages or practice African culture; they are as boring "American" as anyone else, speaking English, a Germanic language, putting presents under the Christmas tree like most people, trick-or-treating at Halloween like most people.

Culture is stronger than race; culture is the identifying mark of the Ancestors, not their race. Genetic pools can be strong, compared to other groups; they can be weak, compared to other groups; but if a genetic line still exists today, it was clearly one of the strong ones from long ago, so I don't look around the world trying to judge the vital strength of genetics I run into. Instead, I judge the sorcerous strength of the culture I'm encountering. The proto-Indo Europeans, when they wandered out into the rest of the world, by migration or diffusion, vanished genetically, mingling their blood into the blood of native peoples everywhere they went. But their languages and their cultures were very powerful, and those things still exist in countless modern forms.

If you speak English- if you're reading this now, guess what? Germanic culture, broadly speaking- the mighty sorcery of some ancient Germanic people- has joined with you, made you a part of it, regardless of your racial background. This doesn't mean that your non-Germanic Ancestors are banished or gone; it just means that you have a connection to the sorcery of the ancient Germanic people, the culture-sorcery that defines who and what they are. It means that you also have a share in their ancient religion, their ancient values, their ancient deeds. You have this language precisely because of some of their mighty deeds.

Not An Equal Opportunity Culturalist

And now, for the scandal: I don't value all cultures equally. Not me, personally. The religious culture of Christianity and Islam both meet with my strong disapproval, even though their sorcery has affected me in my life, and many of my Ancestors. I have looked, as best I can with my human eyes, and seen aspects of many other cultures I don't like, and I'm totally unafraid to say "I don't like those."

I prefer to not be around people shaped by, and who behave strongly under the influence of rural American "redneck" cultures- which are the remains of the rural protestant cultures that came to grow up in the south of the United States. I prefer to not be around people shaped by, and who behave strongly under the influence of Urban "ghetto" cultures of American cities. I prefer to not be around "good old fashioned family values" Christian culture generally in the United States, or anywhere else.

These are some of my preferences, and I have no shame over them. Again, I'm human, and entitled to a few preferences. I dislike how people act when they are under the influence of these cultures. No one's race has ever harmed me; flesh and blood didn't decide to persecute other people or be obnoxious; flesh and blood only ever sat there and felt sensations and motivated people to reproduce, and that's that.

But people under the influence of culture have done many insane things. Certain cultural sorceries- and the persistent presence of those cultural patterns passed down from generation to generation- are foul, dangerous, and undesirable to me and to people like me. To call me a "racist", then, is not accurate; I am, at worst, an ethnocentrist, but I don't suffer from my ethnocentrism- I enjoy every moment of it.

I have chosen to belong to an Ancestral culture that I was spiritually guided to be a part of, consciously. That culture comes with certain ways of seeing the world, certain key behaviors and ideas, and I embrace them. I'm actually quite proud of it. I'm not speaking as a sorcerer now, for real sorcery transcends most things; I'm speaking as a religious person, and a member of a subculture, in this case the modern Heathen movement. A person can have sorcery, but no religion; I happen to have both, and while they influence each other, they don't have to in every person.

As a Heathen, I'm part of a subculture which is nested within a larger Western, predominantly Germanic cultural sphere, and this description is given to it because of the dominant language, mostly, but for a few other reasons as well. My true "heart culture", however, is not the mainstream one, but this smaller one that I occupy. And that culture is an excellent reflection of my values as a person, and it really fulfills my natural desire to connect to the Gods and Goddesses and sacred values that my Ancestors had before Christianity became so influential.

But it is still a subculture, and it has walls. There are boundaries around every "culture", whether it is "sub" or not, and even though those boundaries are permeable (and the larger the culture, the more permeable the boundaries) they are still there. My religious subculture structures how I see many things, including other people. The reason why I dislike features of other cultures is partly due to my own cultural aesthetics. As a sorcerer, I pride myself on my ability to even look beyond the subcultural boundaries that I have accepted, when I need to- but I dwell within them, the rest of the time.

"If you wanna be down with the PFJ, you really have to hate the Romans..."

I've never met a single human being, taken a look at them, and said "you aren't like me. You can't be in my religious community." I don't owe anyone a free pass into my religious community. I'm not required to accept any and all who want to be in my community, and indeed, there's little to no reason why most people SHOULD want to be in it. I don't want to be in anyone elses.

I have standards- we have standards- for who we'll unify our souls and our lives with at that level. If a person, any person, really accepts the religious cultural values and cultural beliefs and behaviors that we've accepted, and puts them to action in their lives, AND if that person lives near enough to me to interact with me and mine in person, and is a person of honor, that person will be accepted by me and those closest to me as a full member of our religious/subcultural community.

If, however, a person does NOT do those things, and if I have no other social or familial bond to them, then I have no special duty to them, no special considerations put aside for them, outside of the most general sense of respect for their personal liberties and their basic human rights. At times when I meet those people (which is most people) in the online or offline public world and interact with them, I will "judge" them on their displayed merits, firstly, and on the cultural conditioning that I detect operating on them.

I am not required, by anyone, by any God, by any Goddess, by any government, at any time, to "like" everyone, accept everyone, nor am I required to approve of all other cultures on the planet; that is not reality.

If, to you, that makes me racist or evil, then have fun calling me names. What's really happening, however, is that I'm merely failing to live up to your universalist, culturally destructive paradigm that posits a real falsehood: the falsehood that humans are all the same, and that our differences should all be shed. I do not think shedding our differences would result in any positive outcome. It would merely homogenize the world into a flavorless mass of monoculture, and make all human beings prideless, shallow beings who would be easily controlled by very dark forces.

I live a life of Ancestral piety, and that life calls for me to honor the Ancestors who, through acts of sorcery and wisdom so immense they could change the lives of billions of people and even change the lay of the land on this planet, laid down the "Ur-layers" that gave birth to this cultural stream that I belong to now. Their great magic affects, this very day, how I think, talk, eat, and act. It's incredible when you really think about it. And this honor for the Ancestors and the culture holds true no matter how much the culture may have changed or grown in the intervening ages- and you can bet it has. A fresh spirit still lives within it, and within me and everyone who is a part of it. This is not something that can be understood unless you've joined with others in experiencing it.

I know noble people who come from many cultural backgrounds. Some even come from cultural backgrounds that I despise for various reasons. Some people just defy the curve, defy my expectations- which may not be 100% accurate expectations, after all. I'm still just human. I'm doing the best I can. Some people I meet don't seem to "fit in" anywhere, and I think even that has a strange sorcery to it.

I will not just "give up" on cultural patterning, because I know it to be a sorcerous power, and I'm a sorcerer, who draws strength and inspiration from things like this. I like cultures that display the power to impact the world and people's lives in long-term positive ways; I dislike cultures that display the power to impact the world and people's lives in very negative ways. I like people who display nobility in their actions, and deep thought in their words; I dislike people who display ignoble behaviors and are morons.

You might say that I'm being "overly simplistic" with my use of the term "culture", for every human can engage certain aspects of their birth culture, or not; every person may express it differently, or not- and that much is true; but broad cultural features and their history in this world are conventionally available to us for study, and we must make due with conventions at some time or another, else they'd cease to be conventions and become useless.

But I would like to point out that above, I gave my formula for "judging" this way: "I will judge them (people I meet) on their displayed merits, firstly, and on the cultural conditioning that I detect operating on them." Meaning, I go by how individual people act and speak first, and look to general cultural realities secondly, if I look at all. Because honestly, I don't _have_ to make judgments about everyone I meet. Others might feel the need to judge every person they bump into; I don't. I only tend to do it when I feel like a person may be an influence on me or mine in some important way, or if I have to deal with them for any significant length of time.

The White Wash

One of the problems I face- and everyone like me faces- is that I'm "white" or predominantly Caucasian in ancestry, and I'm part of a broadly Western and Germanic culture, and I'm claiming to "be" something other than Christian. White people today just aren't allowed to claim strange or unusual things for themselves, without lots of other people reacting badly.

White people, it seems, can't revert to their pre-Christian roots without allegations that "racism" must have motivated it, or without people getting alarmed about something or another. White people are expected to be the snooty beneficiaries of their world-conquering, culture-destroying butthole forebears, and to be completely without authentic spiritual roots, while everyone else on the planet gets to have "traditional culture" of some sort to belong to.

When a white person or white people try to claim some portion of the real native spirituality that existed at the origin of Indo-European culture, whether it be Germanic or Celtic or Slavic or Greek or whatever, everyone assumes that they're doing it for reasons of scary nationalism, or to satisfy those natural "white race" fascist tendencies within them, or out of rebellion for Christianity- you have to be a skinhead, a violent, weird anti-Christian, or whatever. It's just taboo in the West for Westerners to have a true, deeper spiritual origin that they talk about, take pride in, or engage in. It's as though the whole world- within and without our societies- either wants to keep "whites" Christian, as though our Ancestral past never happened, or wants them to be spiritually bankrupt as atheists and materialists.

It's the reputation: if some traditional culture somewhere gets destroyed, it's those white American or European bankers and capitalists who crushed the native people under their machines. White people are trouble; everyone knows it. When some white person points out that the situation might not be that simple, that "white" people are no easier to stereotype away, either historically or in the modern day, immediately there is an opposing storm of very real "reverse" racism- as though racism was only a white invention- and a white wash.

I've seen people accuse white guys who were interested in Buddhism (itself a religion open to all human beings, without restriction) of being "cultural imperialists" out to "plunder" Buddhism, due to how disaffected they were by the shallow European-American culture that they belonged to. Whites can't explore the spiritual truths of the rest of the world without people shaking their heads and rolling their eyes about how pathetic it is.

A white guy who sits under a tree and beats a drum for the spirit of the tree is "stealing" and "culturally appropriating" from some native non-white culture somewhere, acting fully "non-white"- even though his Ancestors once lived in deep communion with the spirits of trees. But we can't talk about that. The people and cultures of Old Europe were never "deep", never in touch. Or at least, that's what you'd be led to believe if you just listened to the way people talk.

Maybe it's a function of "white man's guilt", or maybe something darker. One thing is certain: whatever caused it to come about, the situation here is unacceptable. All beings, human or otherwise, eventually return to their roots; the end is in the beginning. White people- people whose Ancestral cultural ties are strongest to Old Europe and the original Indo European cultures of Europe and Eurasia generally- are not exempt from this. The many social forces out there that attempt to stop the circle from becoming complete are doing it as a function of resentment or fear- this much I know.

But "white" people must eventually take their place in the truth of their Ancestral cultural origins, or they'll never be able to do what the rest of the world has wanted them to do since they charged out of Europe under Christian banners and began screwing over native cultures around the world: meet the rest of the world with dignity, wisdom, and equanimity.

Discriminatory Me

It is not a crime for people to not be Heathen like me. I don't sit around chanting about belonging to a Master Race or anything like that. I don't believe in Master Races, but I do believe that some cultures are more powerful than others- for many cultures have been crushed and are now vanished to history after coming into conflict with others. I think the one I belong to is pretty smart, tough, and innovative- a world-changing culture, really- but then, there are others out there which are tough, smart, and innovative, too. I wish them well in the march through history that we are all taking.

If I meet you and don't like you, you can trust that one of two things (or both) have happened: I've decided you were acting or speaking in ways that I dislike and find harmful, or I've sensed that your "cultural magic" (or the way you express that magic) conflicts with me and mine. You can be pretty sure that your race has nothing to do with it. It just so happens that most of the people who religiously bond with me are Caucasian or "white" like me, but this wasn't intentionally chosen on my part or theirs; it's just the way things fatefully worked out for me and for us. The ancient notion of Kinship, as understood by my Ancestors, was a religious and cultural association primarily, not chiefly a genetic one. This point cannot be over-emphasized.

A possibility exists that any person alive now could be my "kin". But no requirement exists for me to accept everyone as though they were. My acceptance at that level comes from my perception of a person's values, cultural allegiances, words, and deeds. And indeed, what is the alternative? That I accept everyone into my family's life, without discrimination, with no knowledge of their quality or qualities? That's a fast way to destruction and stupidity. And though I can be destructive from time to time, like all humans can be, stupidity is not something I'm guilty of often at all.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Heathen Cinema Movie Review: Valhalla Rising

For me, and for us, the idea of "Heathen cinema" and "Heathen film" is very important. Like it or not, both Heathens and non-Heathens draw a lot of conclusions about Heathenry, ancient and modern, from movies. We Heathens can be inspired by the right movie that presents the nobility in our Ancestors and in our religion (like "Beowulf and Grendel", starring Gerard Butler) or really uninspired by the wrong kind of movie.

The recent movie "Thor" increased people's attention to modern Heathenry, however slightly, and however strange that might seem, as the movie itself presented a full fantasy version of Valhalla and the Gods. Its presentation is only proper, as the movie was based on a sci-fi graphic novel, and not genuine Ancestral Lore. And yet, below the surface, symbols, characters, and events had a deep resonance with something very old in Indo-European culture, and thus in the deep layers of our own culture. Thor, like other movies, really has the potential to awaken something in people. Cinematic depictions of our Gods and myths, however indirect, show that these things are still alive in the collective mind-shadow of our common culture.

So, I watched "Valhalla Rising" a few days ago. Thought I'd give a minor review on the movie, and tell you why I think it might be best avoided. (The picture above is "One Eye", the character in the movie played by Mads Mikkelsen)

I like Mads Mikkelsen a lot. But this role was almost an embarrassment for him for one important reason: his character- "One Eye"- has not a single speaking moment in the entire movie. In fact, the entire movie was a bit "light" on dialogue- and by light, I mean by the time you've watched the trailer which you can see here, you've heard _every_single_ line of dialogue in the movie.

Mads Mikkelsen- who is a very good actor, by the way- spends the entire movie visualizing odd things in his head, staring, and killing people in absurdly brutal ways- once, he bashes and cracks someone's skull open (exposing a little more brain every time he hits them) and another time, he disembowels someone in the most brutal manner ever seen on film. The rest of the time, he does absolutely nothing. And he says nothing. This is a gratuitous waste of talent.

The movie is independent, indie, artsy. Those sorts of movies can be some of the best you'll see- and often enough, they can be some of the worst. This movie moved and developed so slowly that it was like sliding to your death down a one light year long slip-n-slide greased with peanut butter. The movie's trailer claims that it is a "cracked meditation on war, religion, and nation building", but if that was part of the intent of this movie, I missed it totally. The only thing that punctuates the unfolding of the "story"- such that it was- were some outbursts of violence, which while pretty well done, do not save the movie as a whole.

The Heathen characters in the beginning of the movie suck. There is no second dimension to them; they sit around in (what I presume was) northern Scotland pit fighting human beings while staring, and barely having any reactions, before trading money, putting Mads Mikkelsen back into a cage, and then repeating the next day. The only good aspect about the Heathens is how the Heathen leader speaks a grim warning about the Christian presence in their land- his characterization of Christianity is likely very similar to what many historical Heathens thought of it, when they only heard of it from a distance.

The Christian characters (not surprisingly) suck; they are idiots who just kill people, stare at people to make sure they are Christian, too, and then get into a boat hoping to make it to the "Holy Land" to "fight for Jesus"- and end up floating to Greenland, where they spend a good bit of time looking for Jerusalem and their fellow Christians, and some Muslims to kill. They don't find them, of course; they find an unspoiled, beautiful land full of painted Native Americans who are about as happy to see them as the audience is happy to see the movie at this point.

Our hero, One-Eye, would appear to be an "Odinic" figure- he does, after all, have one eye, and he has psychic visions of the future, which he seems to follow, to get to the place he's supposed to be going (presumably). He's a brutal, dark killer, and he's weird- Odinic enough. The actual climax of the movie is when our intrepid but perilously off-course crusaders suddenly get the urge to climb a big hill in Greenland somewhere, and to the pound of an excited, heavy-metal soundtrack, they race up the hill... and find nothing at the top. That's it. Everyone dies. End of story.

Some of you are doubtlessly thinking that something deep's going on here. Was the point of the movie to illustrate how lost everyone really is, how strange life is, and how futile religious wars are? Or how futile things are, in general? I'd like to think so. But I have a suspicion that this is just me reading depth into the shallow end of the pool. Of course, maybe the fact that I had those thoughts at all proves that the movie did its job, and in fact, is a brilliant movie. Perhaps it suffered from budget issues; the trouble there is that I've seen some very great movies done on small budgets. What I think it suffered from was the inability of the writers to translate their vision to the audience's brains on the resources they had.

I strongly suggest that you don't watch it to make your mind up for yourself. Save the two hours for something else you've planned to do for a while. I'm dying of thirst for good Heathen-themed movies, and I usually make it a point to find a way to like them, no matter what. Somehow, I can't do that with this one. On the plus side, if you find yourself watching this movie, at least the scenery and settings are all amazingly beautiful. Just watching the landscape and some of the good costumes might be an okay exercise- for about 20 minutes. Two hours? That's quite a challenge.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Hammer Must Be Ready

Once, and not as long ago as people want to think, the Norwegian people went about with axes and swords, and their villages had wooden statues of the Gods smeared red with blood at their centers, in low wooden buildings with heavy bronze and gold oath rings on tables before them. These were remarkable, tough people- with a society that was kinship oriented, held together by the ancient authority of oaths and bonds of ancestry, and fiercely independent. When they weren't scratching a living out of their harsh but beautiful land, they were exploring the world, raiding, trading, laying eyes on every corner of the known world. They even found their way to the New World long before Columbus did. This is a portrait of a hard-as-nails people, but also a people living in the traditional ways passed down to them by countless generations before.

But the world changed- a new religion, and the collapse of a world-defining empire started the change. The power of self-sufficiency and the power to see to a community and a family's protection was taken away from these people- the ancient duty of defence and vengeance for wrongs was taken from people and given to a new conception of "God" and given to the King, far away, and the King's men. Axes and swords were blunted. The spirit of going viking was tossed onto the middenheap of history. Now, the grandchildren of these people live in what appears to be a fully peaceful, quiet, and laid-back secular and socialist state where firearms (the swords of the modern day) aren't really owned by common people, and the "king's men"- the police- don't even carry firearms on patrol in most places.

But the King's Men took an hour and a half to reach 80 children that were being butchered by a lone maniac 48 hours ago. These quiet people are sitting by, shocked, and their King now declares that their homeostasis of peace and untroubled living will remain unchanged by this violent outburst. But I am left wondering if such an incident could have occured in Norway if it had never been rushed by force of conversion and cultural destruction 1000 years ago into the "new order" of the world. My friends in nations that are largely unarmed and peaceful may disagree, but I can't help wondering if people should ever be unarmed. An old Norwegian proverb says "A Knifeless man is a Lifeless man"- and a lot of hoary wisdom wrote that proverb.

But more than all that, the Old Culture of that land and its Old Religion produced human beings- male and female- who were as sharp and as dangerous as sword-edges. Today, we may look upon the old ways as barbaric and even frightening, but again, I can't help but wonder if sometimes, the old ways are best. "Peace" as an ideal is fine and well, but a massive population of people who are so fully unprepared for violence, and so fully shocked by it, doesn't strike me as a really healthy population. We may, pursuant to our modernist dogmas, think that it's better for a population to be so shocked by violence, and to assume the peaceful best- but is that better?

The new ways have made us all toothless in many important ways. It's true that politics in my country often makes me want to leave it, but I must say, I think the heavily-armed American population, a population which expects violence more often than not, and which has had to experience it quite a bit, compared to Norway, is an asset here. You might say that we just have more opportunities for mass shootings because of the availability of weapons- but with those opportunities come as many opportunities for non-maniacs with guns to stop maniacs with guns. And our police forces, in nearly every place, don't have trouble finding helicopters and boats when they need them.

This ties into what was lost when the red, living statues of the Gods were torn down and cast themselves onto the middenheap of history. The thunder God's hammer was always in his hands, ready to smash evil when it invaded the peaceful hearts of communities, and his followers carried his sign on their chest- the hammer- the sign of vigilance. That the wicked powers could invade the order of the community or the world at any moment was known, and it was an eternal warning for the heart of man. And greatest was the glory for the man or woman who fought, killed, and even died when the invasion came. Maybe everyone can learn from those ideals.

In times of tragedy like this, no words can make anything better. No words can stop grief, sound fitting, sound satisfying. I hope for blessings of strength on every family who had a beloved child taken from them by this insanity and wickedness. I hope that every child slain swiftly returns to their Ancestors, to rest among those who love them best. And I hope that the man who did this never looks upon the faces of his Ancestors, again.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Season of Family and Hearth

Dear friends: As you can see, I have decided to alter the course of my blog "Cauldron Born" and transform it into a journal and record of the various deeds and doings of my beloved family and my Heathen religious/cultural community- which are now exactly the same thing. It only makes sense that those who seek to really vivify and engage the Elder religious patterns of Hamingja within themselves should find their way to a family focus: the family- not the individual- was the central and basic unit of historical Heathen cultures, and it was the primary grouping which regularly experienced the majestic doings of the Gods and wights and the pervasive, transforming power of the Ancestors. It was within the family context that the religious experiences of the Heathen came to make sense and have the power they had. The family is the very root and seed of any greater community worth the name, and until family consciously achieves its own spiritual dimension, one really only has a collection of relatives.

This online transition is taking a bit of time as I hammer out aesthetic transformations and the like, but it will be complete very soon. The good news (hopefully) for my readership is this- nothing really changes but the layout of this blog.

What's really changed is me: I've learned to integrate family life- my wife, my children, and myself, and all of our deeds and sharings- with the Heathen spiritual life and worldview, forging a "Hearth", a Heathen family, the true heart of any later extended notion like "Kindred".

With this powerful heart and soul focus, which is an unassailable sanctuary for a soul like mine, my writings on all aspects of modern Heathenry and the emergence of modern spiritual practices and beliefs nourished in the hamingja of historical Teutonic/Germanic and British Isles Paganism can continue as before, but now better and stronger. The new strength comes from the fact that I have around me the community that Wyrd wove for us in blood and flesh- the most direct and powerful expression of hamingja possible, persons joined together by Fate and by blood, and the love that is natural to them.
This new season of writings can also integrate my ongoing learning about Heathenry and Paganism and the evolution of my understandings, both on the scholarly level, and the level of daily life.

We have taken the name "Hofstaðr"- which means "Sanctuary", because that is what we are for one another as a Heathen family- and what we pledge to be to all modern Heathens and heathen-friendly outsider Pagans who need refuge from a world that seldom understands the kinds of souls we are. If you can find us, we are here for you.

The challenges that face families in today's world, and the challenges that face those who embrace an ethnic/religious subcultural identity such as "Heathen", are many. I will demonstrate, to the best of my ability, how our identity as Heathens, and our interactions with the Ancestors, the hamingja-Gods, with friends, the natural world, and with one another steers and guides us through those challenges. Included will be our failures as well as our triumphs (hopefully more triumphs than failures, though) and all of my deepest ponderings about what it means to be both human, and a Heathen today.

The entire corpus of writings made by me over the years under the heading of "Cauldron Born" are still here, tucked away in this virtual library, and will always be there. I may refer back to them. I may discuss the ways I have come to diverge from the views I held years ago. Like any living being, I evolve in my understanding, and I'm rather proud to have such a record of my progress- the beauty of the journal, indeed!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Bringing Forth the Gods of My Kin

Bringing Forth the Gods of My Kin:

A Heathen perspective on the Hamingja, the Gods, Manifesting the Family Soul, and the “Problem of Other People in the World”

Copyright 2011 by Alfarrin

The First Fire and the Hamingja

When I became Heathen in 1995, it was on the coat-tails of what still amounts to the most powerful blot and burnt offering to Odin I have ever attended. That pyre burned as the sun came up, and it was piled with food and precious, valuable personal offerings. We gathered, spoke our words, drank our mead, poured our mead for the Sacred Guest, and we never knew then what a powerful thing we had done until years later.

At the time, I had no concept of what "Hamingja" was. Years later, I know it as one of the most crucial concepts and pylons which holds up the entire edifice of the organic and Ancestral tradition. Without a well-developed understanding of it, the soul of Heathenry remains obscure and distant. Without an understanding of it, your family and kin and friends are just people related to you by chance of birth or meeting, and related to you by genetics. With an understanding of it, a great divine reality opens itself up to view, a reality that both unifies, and makes particular; a reality that holds men and Gods, and every living thing, in its lasting grip. Hamingja is a reality that surges forth from the dense darkness of the ancient past, manifests in the deeds and persons of the present, and stands behind all things that come to pass.

It sounds a lot like Fate, and it should; the Fate-women, those divine beings called "Disir" are part of Hamingja. They see to the fateful comings and goings in every person's life, especially those two supreme and fatefully-loaded times: birth, at which time the birth-runes are marked on the soul and life-force, and death, when the Fylgja-Dis departs and returns to take a man or woman to the beyond, to dwell in deeper unseen regions of this strange world, or onward to whatever place or condition their Fate may have in store for them. Hamingja and the maidens of Hamingja are tied up with the mysteries of causality, which are other aspects of Fate- or Wyrd, for those who know better.

Hamingja is luck-force, but it is not something so simple as some inherited determining factor that will influence a lucky lottery ticket or the possibility of a traffic accident for a person. It is the sum-total of all wealful and woeful deeds done in the family line before, and the power of countless incidents and happenings that have affected one's ancestors. It is the force of life itself, truly; always protean, always shape-shifting, and always surging forth, like a river.

It moves through each person, and through each family, and through any grouping of persons that bond themselves together in any permanent or semi-permanent manner, sharing life and experience. Hamingja is there, and it does, among other things, determine "luck" as most people know it. But it does much more; it is much more.

People who become Heathen to focus on the Gods are missing most of the point of the Old Heathen way- it wasn't focused on Gods primarily; it was focused on family, clan, deeds, and living daily life. It was focused on the implements of daily life- weapons, tools, treasures, boats, the beasts of daily life- cattle, horses, pigs, and the like. It was focused on relationships between men, between men and women, between groups. It was focused on the business of being human.

What modern people don't understand is that all of these things were tied up with Hamingja, the subtle and ever-present force that could express itself in all those forms, particularly when relationships were established in a manner of holiness.

The Gods come forth from Hamingja, in the same way Ancestors do- a portion of a dead man or woman's life and power went forth into future generations through Hamingja, and so they could (and did) emerge both as newborn children, and as Ancestral spirits. The Gods, however, always stand behind the human Ancestors in the position of Godly Ancestors, responsible for the arising of mankind- and through this ancestral conduit, the Gods are here, now, with us.

When my friend Grettir and I burned that sacrificial bonfire and drank our mead, we were joining Hamingja together, though at the time we only felt it- we didn't know it, consciously or intellectually. From our fire, from our joining, from our deeds, from that time, from that place, a God came forth. And the purpose of that fire wasn't just worship, it wasn't just to "give worth" to our Sacred Guest; it was for something that Grettir needed to aid his family. And within a day, his family was blessed with the fortune we had hoped for.

Hamingja- nothing could be more holy, because holiness, power, force, these things are waves that emerge from the river of Hamingja. No one walks through life alone, ever. This could not be so; in each person is a share of Hamingja from the family lines that converge in them, and inside them is a portion of the sum total of their Ancestors. Who they were, what they did, what they loved, what they fought for, what power they had, what insight they had, and in a way, even the Ancestors themselves: these things are inside of you and all people, physically and metaphysically, in every iota of your flesh, blood, breath, and the immaterial aspects of yourself. No part of you can be apart from these Ancestral powers.

And within you is also found the mysterious "residing" of the Godly beings. There, inside you, like Ancestral powers from a "further and deeper" time, they rest. In most people, they rest in an unexpressed, largely unconscious way. In the being of the nithing or in the wicked, whose Hamingja has become so blighted with weakness that the flame of their connection to humanity and the past burns low, the Gods and Ancestors cannot make a mead-hall or a home.

But in most people, they are present, appearing to rest deeply in us. They are the sources of dreams you have and don't recall or understand. Their presence leads to that feeling of basic dignity, of conscious goodness and the desire for peace in you. They are the motivators to greatness, to risk, and all the powers that are quite strange and mystical in us, and which give impetus to imagination and industry. In those people who feel the urge- buried deep in Hamingja- to become Heathen again, to raise the banner of the Old Ways (not just the Old Gods) again, those powers wake up. They come forth.
Every line of Hamingja has its Gods, just as it has its Ancestors.

One can never grasp the full impact of this awakening reality, this "coming forth", but one begins to experience it in all aspects of life- sleep, at times, becomes a portal of dreams about the Gods, and the Ancestors. Waking life becomes full of a strange yet familiar and subtle presence that a person might not have noticed before. Events take on new meaning. A new vitality starts to rise up. Inspirations arise.

One becomes stronger, more energetic, more honorable, more motivated to greater things. One becomes less able to emotionally tolerate the unconscious, honorless antics of the hordes of mankind who express no strength of Hamingja, and yet, one goes forth again, alone if they must, to live better than what they have seen before. One begins to live closer in accord with the noble standards of the Ancestors who have become long forgotten in our forgetful, shallow, and materialistic world.

Hamingja can be in "things"- it doesn't need human breath and life; we humans have relationships that run very deep with many non-human powers, and even "things". The sacred tree of a grove, the sacred stone over the graves of the Ancestral dead, the sacred treasures made by our kin, infused with the Hamingja of their creativity, and passed down to us; the hall of drinking and feasting made holy by the gathering of a kindred or a family- in all these places and "things", Hamingja is found, filling, swirling, enlivening. Even in inspired songs and poems, Hamingja flashes forth. And in the combination of all these things, wed to human beings and the beasts around us, the Gods of our Ancestors can emerge.

What Hamingja needs to really "come forth" as it did in the days of old is conscious awareness on our part, an awareness of what it is, and at times, who it is: when it manifests as a gathering of kin or friends, as a child, a wife, a husband, or even a beast made holy in the rites of the faith. When we know this, the quality of the mind changes, and with it, perceptions; we create a wide open field within ourselves for the manifestations of the fullness of Hamingja, for its fullness can come forth from any part, if the mind is well-prepared.

The Gods, The Allfather, Blot, and True Family

And that is what the Gods really are- beings who know and express the Fullness of the World-Hamingja. Each of us, and our families, we are partial streams of it; they are the whole, or should I say, they have access to the whole. Odin, as we know, sacrifices "his self to his Self"- his lesser self to the greater Self, and that greater Self is nothing more or less than the whole of Hamingja.

Through his sacrifice, he has access now to the deep, bottomless resources and powers of everything. In a direct way, he is now present to everything, at every place, to every person. This doesn't make him some abstract figure only; he is both particulate, and whole, at the same time- he is the Odin of the sacred stories and myths, and he is simultaneously the “Allfather”, the divine consciousness of the whole of Hamingja that encompasses everything, and which fills us with the breath that we draw, a breath he breathed into man and woman back near to the beginnings of things.

And in that wholeness, the other Gods are to be found, emerging as they will... and most importantly, emerging as we make them able, through our deeds and our understanding. Unlike the Christian faith, which presents humans as sinful, fallen, and helpless without divine grace, able to do nothing without the church and the god of the church except be condemned to hell, the Heathen way tells us that humans are literally capable of the Gods, because we are all together in Hamingja. We are one through the combination of deeds, places, treasures, things, beasts, kindreds, families, emotions, songs, and our sacred histories- these things make us capable, at any time, of the Godly life and Godly activity.

And when I say "Godly life" and "Godly activity", I am not speaking with cheap symbolic talk- I mean it literally, just as literally as I mean the Ancestral powers live in the being of each one of us.

Vilhelm Gronbech writes:

"Between man and God there exists no difference of kind, but there is a vital distinction of degree, the Gods being the whole Hamingja, whereas men are only part. The boundary between Gods and men is permanent, but varying in place; it is shifted downwards when men go about on their daily rounds of business, and it may be pushed upwards when they assume their garments of holiness, or sally out in a body to fight or fish. Only in the blot is the boundary line obliterated, but then during the feast there are no men, because the Hamingja is all and in all. The divineness of men when in a state of holiness is revealed by the metaphors of poetry: when the warrior is called the God of the sword or the God of battle, the expression is nothing but a matter-of-fact description. This same reality appears in the naming of woman as the Goddess of trinkets, and still more significantly as the ale-Goddess, referring to her holy office in the drink offering."

-Gronbech, Culture of the Teutons, Vol. 2

A person who understands what I have been saying, and what Gronbech has said perfectly, understands the essence of the Heathen way, both historical and modern. And Hamingja is the key to this most sacred understanding. It may be the key to unlocking the modern world's impasse, our loss of the real sacredness of the man, the woman, and of our deeds, the sacredness of our lands and our kin. It may be the thing that surges forth to spare us for a while longer, as we move into a future that becomes stripped more and more of sacredness and depth.

When I stand with my family, dressed in my long white tunic and ceremonial tabard, wearing the sign of the Sunwheel (that equal-armed cross which symbolizes the life-spirit that all are a part of, and the golden sun that is the supreme symbol of life in the heavens) and when I am there in that manner, surrounded by my people, invoking the Gods, pouring mead and ale in blot, I am bringing forth the Gods. Those with me are doing it. Together, we are the Hamingja and we call forth the Gods and Ancestors in a way that we could never manage individually, even though we can and do experience the powers in an individual way, from time to time.

In the mead and ale of blot, in the pouring, the drinking, the blessing and sprinkling, the division between "these humans out here" on the one hand, and the depths of Hamingja, the presence of the Ancestors, and the persons of the Gods on the other hand, is totally eradicated. Hamingja can, on these mighty occasions- and at others- express itself fully among us.

I am the father of a family; my wife is the mother of a family. In our children lies the entire Hamingja-legacy of both our lines, and in us, the lines that came before us. In us gathers the whole family-soul to which our children belong, and in us gathers a tributary from the river of the families that gave us birth.

In the persons of Mother and Father, of House-Dis and Hall-Warder, is found the entire spiritual family identity. In their children, the joined Hamingja surges forth anew- new (and very old) ancestral powers come to the forefront and empower human lives again. We are all united in this convergence of streams, in this joining of Hamingja. In my family, it takes on a specific identity- who we are, who we were, and who we will be. All of these things come together as one, in the present. Through my wife and I, the Ancestors watch over our children and join us in raising them and imparting wisdom and protection to them.

Even the "things" of the blot- the horn, the hammer, the hlautbowl, the hlautein, the white garment, the statues of Gods and Ancestors that might be used, the table, the flickering fires, in all these things Hamingja gathers, and from them it comes forth in union, as they are used together.

This is what we mean by "a holy occasion." It is holy because Hamingja comes forth into a new tangible, powerful expression, unique each time to that particular moment and place and gathering. These occasions- and these emergences of Hamingja- come forth because we decide to come together to make the occasion what it is. And the call for us to make that decision comes from the depths of Hamingja in the first place.

It is a perfect circle, spread across time and space, self-contained, and singing with power. It gathers the persons it needs to itself, and in that true "Ring of Troth", the Gods make their appearance. The Gods are tasted, smelled, seen, felt; they are present, fully. Only those who have experienced this can really comprehend these words, but those who have know that they cannot fathom ever falling away from these expressions again. The emotions they bring forth stir something indescribable, but precious.

Further concerning the Gods, Gronbech writes:

"In their nature, combining the neutral state of power with personality, they (the Gods) evince no particular divine gift, for this is the nature of life in all its manifestations. They reside in the holy place and in the holy treasures, but they may at any moment come forth and reveal themselves to their friends either in dreams or in the light of day. As power or luck the Gods are in Old Norse called Radh, and Regin- Radh means "rede", or wisdom and will, the power of determining and powerful determinations; Regin simply expresses luck and power. In their personal aspect, the Gods are named Ases, or in southern dialects Anses. In shape the Gods are in some clans male, in other families and localities female; their manifestation as women is naturally founded in the fact that woman generally represented a higher form of holiness than the average man. The question whether the Gods did assume the shape of animals is scarcely to the point. True, the divine power of the Hamingja walked the fields in the herd and prominently in the holy heads of cattle that were consecrated and qualified to be leaders of their flock or mediums of blessing; and in the sacrificial hall the Godly strength filled the victim of the feast. "

One of the greatest blessings of the modern Heathen way is this: I have drunk and eaten at such a holy feast, and come to know the Gods. What great fortune- what great Hamingja- that I should have been born in these times, bereft of Ancestral Wisdom, and yet, still had the luck and joy to find my way to such a frithful table!

Hamingja, Identity, and the Problem of Others

One of the most important truths that emerges into the minds of those who really understand these matters is this: we are not like “others.” There is an identity that comes from the deep layers of the world and the unseen that we do not share with everyone else in some perfect homogenized vision of "equality".

Other people, other families, other cultures- they do have their own lines and streams of Hamingja, and certainly those are a part of the whole. But we are not them, and they are not us, not on the level of particulars- that level that we must live on every day, according to Fate. In the experience and understanding I am discussing here, we come to know, in a very deep manner, “who we are”, as kin, as families, as cultures- but also even as individuals.

I am like no other; this way of Hamingja which expresses itself as me has never been seen before. But I am also not a “fully separate” being who can be made sense of- or have any true place or strength- without the broader context in which I am situated. I am also something and someone that emerges from the past, from the family, the Ancestors, my land, my life-situations, my children, friends, and allies- without this world, the Gods, all the powers that collect themselves together, my situation of life would never have been possible, and I make no sense apart from it all. This is the soul of the clan-understanding, the kindred understanding among the Ancients, and among people of honor now.

Some of the other people in this world still know their Hamingja in ways that we descendants of the Indo-Europeans have long forgotten, due to a millennia-long program on the part of the Church to erode our emotional and intuitive connection to our Ancestral beings and our Hamingja.

There are peoples on the earth who still have connections that we largely lack- and when I say "we", I am not speaking of most true Heathens, as much as westerners generally. But in having those connections, they also have a strength we lack, at the cultural level. While we do not care much these days to defend our particular cultural contributions to the world, nor defend the honor of the great things we have done (both in pre-Christian and post-Christian times) in the name of some guilt or even "political correctness", other cultures surge forth with great pride in themselves, and an energy that we often seem to lack in the west.

While we no longer protect our inner or outer borders from being washed away by a tide of humanity that cares nothing for our specific cultural needs, other cultures take painstaking steps to preserve their languages, histories, and even their own populations from excessive foreign influences.

None of these things calls for some ridiculous militant solution or revolution. What will solve this problem at its core is a re-awakening of a sense for who we are- a sense that only comes from the emergence of Hamingja on the conscious level. We have a place in this world, as unique and important as anyone else, and our contributions have been legion, even crucial, to world civilization today. We have a right to be proud and to insist that our voice be equal to any other.

This brings me to the last point that I would like to cover, which is the "problem of others", if you will. While some would look at the world with rose-tinted lenses (or just with lenses painted opaque), those of us who can truly see and feel, can see and feel that this world is not as kindly as we would hope. It certainly never has been, and it is doubtful to what extent it will ever be, especially considering that competition and conflict is a Fateful part of the fabric from which this world is woven.

While the Gods battle giantish forces for the preservation of the world, and we men and women battle (with the help of the Gods) the unbalanced powers in our own souls for the preservation of our bodies and minds and our families, there will always be battles in other places, too. Conflict as an aspect of reality was a thing that our Ancestors all over the Indo-European world accepted as given, as unalterable, and for good reason.

And it is true that, in a previous World-age, our Heathen Ancestors, when faced with others, had to make choices about how to deal with these "others" they encountered. The ancients had to deal with other cultures and peoples in the few ways they really had available to them: if "others" were a threat, such as when others stood in a position of resource competition with them, they either had to incorporate those others through establishing relationships and bonds of kinship with them, or they had to defeat them at the physical level, in battle, and absorb them or drive them away. When two peoples or cultures meet- two surges of Hamingja meet, two waves of the ocean of Hamingja; and then, absorption, incorporation, or conflict follows. At certain other times, they merely pass by one another, perhaps to meet again later.

And this was the way it was, in the distant past- all of our families, distant clans, tribes- all of them, and their larger cultural context (what we today call "Germanic", with all its variations), and up to the level of the entire people, the whole "folk" (what we now call the "Indo Europeans")- they all rushed forth, in whole and in part, into this world, and they conquered as they went; they incorporated beasts, Gods, lands, other humans, other nations, towns, villages, stories, and treasures into their group Hamingja, thundering along as they went, over many ages. If they couldn't incorporate those things, they might be swept away by them instead!

But still, in some form, they continued. Every group, race, tribe, or nation of man was like this, caught in the same drama of the age- moving through a world of hostility and strangeness, of friendship and conflict, and moving desperately down through the ages.

But to what? To now. To this day, this very day. The sweeping drama of the past has come to reside in you, and in me. And there are still identities, powers and movements of fateful force buried deep in the Hamingja of each of us. And there is a Hamingja collected in our unifying culture (such that it is) and in our families, our subcultures, and in our friends groups, our kindreds, our sacred congregations, in our military units, in our armed forces as a whole, in our fraternities and brotherhoods, in our financial institutions, and it just never ends. It seems so large to us while we are within it, but it is even larger than we imagine.

There are other cultures out there, still. Countless smaller tribes and cultures have been swallowed up by larger ones that exist today, and before that, they themselves had defeated and incorporated others. Hamingja is still present and accounted for- our defeated foes are still here with us, living through us. Those we made friends with, married into, and bonded with, they are here, too. Everyone's here. Nothing is lost, but much is forgotten.

And now, what? Shall we continue trying to gain dominance over other cultures, over other people? Hamingja in every particulate or group wants to be dominant, truth be told- when it expresses itself in the patterns of culture, in tribal identities, in the patterns of sacredness, even in a single human body and mind, it wants strength, preservation, and honor. And it seeks it. It will scorn others and only be content when the others submit to it and call it superior, or when the others at least admit it as an equal, and when it admits the others as equals, and kinship is established there between them- kinship that comes with sacred obligations, and a sharing of Hamingja, such that both become stronger and better.

Does this mean that we can expect a culture war that will only end when one culture remains? Does this mean that peace between religions (to make another poignant example of group-Hamingjas that have caused so much conflict in our world) is impossible? Christianity and Islam won't be equal to any; they will have submission, they will change all others, and absorb them, destroying any traces of the former religions they encounter. Throughout their history, these religious ideologies have done just this. Islam still desires to do it with great energy. The zeal-laced spirit of Christianity has largely been lamed in the west, and now faces its accelerating extinction, its own Hamingja expended and weakened by too many underhanded and vicious deeds (a fate that awaits Islam one day, as well, Gods be thanked.)

The Surging Power in the Present Hamingja-Age

So how can we deal with other cultures, but also other religions? I will state only my own belief on this matter. I believe that the world-age, the Hamingja-age, if you will, has changed. We are not living in Ancestral times, though we are our Ancestors. The Hamingja that was then has moved down lines of life into us, and it is here, now. But other deeper changes in Fate have taken place, and the World Age is different.

We humans have surged out to every border, in every land, and crossed every ocean. There are billions and billions of us now. Conquest is no longer a true working solution in such a world. Submission through violence costs too much now, and births too many dangers. Only what I have been calling "incorporation" can be the way forward- and I don't mean "joining forces" in this sense, as much as I mean recognizing that others simply have their place, and, insofar as they are not threatening to destroy all that we know is sacred, letting them be who they are.

Because the time has come wherein the Hamingja of the whole has reached a point it never could have been at before: we have all collectively embraced, on the mental level, a conception of the world that has never existed before, a world that is much smaller than our Ancestors thought, and now intimately connected and made tiny by the digital sorcery of this age. Hamingja itself surged forth from the primal beginning with no "goal" other than to be what it was- a whole- and to manifest a cascading exuberance of life and power. And it has carried human minds and bodies to the limits of the world.

The circle of kindred and relationship was expanded by our Ancestors as they fought and pledged and explored through the world, a circle made larger and larger by the ancients, until it came to include plants, beasts, Gods, lands, and then other peoples. This is what Hamingja inclines towards- recognized relationship, and always towards a broadening of horizons until all is encompassed, and all particulates know themselves as the whole- and yet, still exist as particulates made noble through the recognition.

Of course, relationships must be based on just principles; it is not possible to have a relationship with another person or being who means you the worst form of ill- but in most cases these days, these days in which moderation and compassion are possibilities more so than they were before, "relationship" can take on new dimensions.

As much as it pleases the fiery and ancient souls in us to imagine fighting and destroying those we feel threaten us and our own ways, sadly, the World-Age now makes new demands on us, and the "others" out there can have any dangers they sometimes pose to us eliminated in ways that don't include traditional violence.

With the inspiration and wit of the Hamingja and the Heathen group-soul, arguments, cleverness and intellect can stop enemies in their tracks these days (mentally, legally, socially, and even physically), and can even go further and change their minds and the minds of their children to be more sympathetic to our cause. All can come to see the sense in our notions of liberty and the importance of the uniqueness of identity. In this way, there are many ways to still win glory, and turn foes into allies- or at least banish foes to a safe distance that never need be crossed.

It is true that sometimes physical confrontations are unavoidable, in places, occasions in which we must defend ourselves and our ways from those who cannot or will not understand who and what we are. At times like that, the Hamingja emerges in strength and it must be channeled in the oldest of ways to eliminate a threat, though always keeping in mind the need for justice in our acts. Every human being has a natural right to defend the Ancestral force inside them, which surges forth from the depths and manifests a sacred imperative to live and be well, free of the contempt or scheming of others. When conflicts come, between persons or even communities or nations- the stronger Hamingja will prevail, one way or another. This was a sacred truth known to the Ancestors.

Whatever the case may be, I am Heathen, and I know what the Hamingja in me looks like, who it is, what it is, and what it wants for me and mine. As father of a family, I speak for our Ancestors and the Disir that follow within us, and the Fylgja-Dis that follows within me. My voice is the voice of grandmothers and grandfathers long departed, so I choose to use it as honorably as I can. All Heathens in my world feel the need, the burning urge, to stand fast for the Ways of their Ancestors, and they will represent their Ancestors with every day and night of their present life. That must and will be, until the true end of all Ages, and the world-rebirth.