Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ethics of Survival


Here is the thing: we need to live.

Havamal:

70. It is better to live | than to lie a corpse,
The live man catches the cow;
I saw flames rise | for the rich man's pyre,
And before his door he lay dead.

Death sucks.  It sucks our chances from us to do anything, to be anything.  Death is not the simply the death of flesh, it is the death of possibilities.  Death is the end of our world.  It is not the end of the world, indeed it cannot touch what we have already done, nor can it negate the changes we have made in the lives of others, but it is quite capable of wiping out all we ever could come to be, or could hope to accomplish.  Death is final. 

Life can often suck, but unlike death, it is not final.  I have had the worst day of my life a few times, seen everything that mattered, that which I could not live without lost or shattered.  Well damn.  Here’s the thing, life went on.  Life had good spots even on the worst days, and bad spots even on the good ones. Life can shatter us, leaving us broken and unable to continue, so we think.

71. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better | than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.

So the ancestors occupied the same world, and spoke the same truth we told each other using the pithy expression “Suck it up, buttercup”, to capture the same sentiment that if you are not actually dead, you are not actually done.  What is left is coping.  Coping resembles life in two respects, it can often suck, but can also get better.  The latter point really separates living, and coping, from death.

I admit that I am as wont as the next Heathen to use the metaphor of a pattern welded sword to describe how the different parts of a human work together to forge a single stronger whole that exceeds any of its constituent parts.  It’s a nice metaphor, but you can get trapped in the good ones and forget that people are not steel, they are stronger.

When steel is stressed beyond its limits it shatters.  So do people.  A broken sword is scrap.  Broken people don’t have to be.  Here is the thing; we don’t actually always die when we break.  Ours are the gifts of harsh but loving gods, of a heritage of unbroken evolutionary struggle in which our adaptability and perverse unwillingness to accept a loss saw us rise to power over all the continents, and cast covetous eyes at the stars.

When we break, our minds and bodies develop what we call coping mechanisms.  Some are good, some are terrible, but none are free of cost.  Coping mechanisms are the price of survival.  Get this straight, sanity is NOT ENOUGH.  There are many times when the sane thing to do is give up, and yet we can’t afford to because our duties demand we fight on, we seek to heal, we seek to love, to live, to discharge the obligations that we hold sacred and important enough to bear whatever price is offered.

I am Odin’s man.  I am more comfortable on the shady side of sane than most people are comfortable with.  To stay functional in an insane situation requires that you find a way to break, yet continue on.  To stay fuctional and worthy in an insane situation requires you go a little crazy yourself; to ride out the tempests that wyrd has woven for you, and remain functional.  Against wyrd even the gods must bend, and even the gods may fall.  We simply have to deal with our own wyrd, choose as best we can, cope as best we can, and hope that we can win our way through to a brighter place, to win for ourselves a place in which sanity is again the wise and more successful choice.

When and if we get there, we have survived.  That was good.  Understand this, accept this, if you take no other words of mine ever as true, heed these :surviving is worthy.  Coping mechanisms are good when they are required, and we embrace the cost as long as they are necessary.  When they are not necessary, we strive hard to deal with the coping mechanisms that got us through, and minimize their damage.  This is called victory.  The dead don’t do this.  They burn, or rot, or while away the hours in the mound, but they do naught else in this world.  We who lived, do.  We use that time to deal with the coping mechanisms that got us through.

PTSD and addiction, well these are the most common ones, but those who have survived serious chronic illness, or long costly recoveries from life changing injuries or conditions also learned to find ways to make it through the times that were too terrible to bear, and came out the other side with scars, some of which you could see, and the most dangerous ones you can’t.  This is what survival looks like.  Odin is the guide I chose, one whose coping mechanisms ignore the boundaries of sanity altogether, and ride the whirlwinds of the ecstatic madness, to purge yourself of the pressures you can’t contain, so that when you put your skin back on, you actually fit inside it.  Usually that is a metaphor.  Sometimes not.

Egil Skallgrimson was a purely Odinic figure.  A skald, a berserk, a warrior poet who spat in the eyes of the strongest kings in Europe, who carved his way into history with his blade, and praised his way out of execution with his poetry.  By today’s standards Egil would be a poster child for PTSD.  By any standard, his is a life embraced passionately, lived fearlessly, accepting the costs for doing so, and using the coping mechanisms his culture left to him, and thus, to us.


Egil was in service to King Athelstan of England when his brother Thorolf fell against the Scots.  His brother was the closest kin to him, dearer than life, but he fell in battle while Egil obeyed his King’s orders and held another part of the field.  Filled with rage, he sought direct vengeance by killing the Earl who felled his brother, and making satisfactory slaughter among the rest of the foe in the long pursuit.  His grief was boundless, but his coping mechanisms were in place.

He drank with those who shared the field with him, and he poured his heart out in great praise poems to his fallen brother.  He won acclaim for his fallen brother from his comrades, and great gifts to his brother’s memory from his King.  In this way, his passionate grieving was made a positive thing by his societies embracing the sumbel, the sacred space given where men can express their feelings without any loss of manhood, status, or perceived power, where other men can offer support without any suggestion that the one receiving support is showing weakness, or lack of manhood.  Grieving was accepted, histrionics were expected, grand gestures were part and parcel of the process, and were given a place and societal sanction and limits.  Coping mechanisms here are poetry (positive), sharing of feelings (positive) and shared social drinking (limits required to keep this one positive).  If you exceed the limits society accepts for this, you will lose status, but there is acceptance for the coping mechanism as a cost of the hard life they lived.

Not all losses are as easy to deal with, not all of them have the positive context of a death in battle, properly honoured and avenged.  Egil’s beloved son drowns, and his grief totally overcomes him, causing him to write some amazingly touching poetry (positive), and to decide that he cannot live without his son, and will starve himself to death (negative). CHAPTER LXXXI 

Here is a coping mechanism gone wrong.  The histrionics that externalized the grief he could not deal with internally now threaten his life.  Luckily the limits society sets on such displays come into play.  Egil’s daughter tricks him into taking poison, both food and drink, by telling him she cannot bear to live with her grief.  In fact, she has tricked him into eating food, and drinking milk.  Now confronted with having broken his oath not to eat or drink, she confronts him further with his remaining duties to the living.  He continues to deal with the death through the acceptable coping mechanisms, even as his daughter weans him from the self destructive ones.

Coping mechanisms are like wound shock; left untreated they can kill you, however they are what you needed to get through what was definitely going to kill you right then and there.  You live, you deal with the cost.

71. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better | than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.

The cost of coping can be high, the cost of death is total.  You learn to grow strong in the broken places.  Our gods do not hide their scars.  Thor has a whetstone stuck in his head, Tyr did not regain his sword arm, and the High One valued his learning too much to begrudge the loss of his eye.  Scars are badges of honour, they are only worn by survivors.  Those who bear the scars, from whatever wyrd wove for you , understand the cost of survival.  It falls to those of us who have grown grey enough to learned to break free of the coping mechanisms we could no longer afford.   

Egil watched his world end, again and again, yet he lived on.  Many have known, or will come to know, how it is to lose everything.  What next?  Well, our ancestors lived in this world every day.

76. Among Fitjung's sons | saw I well-stocked folds,--
Now bear they the beggar's staff;
Wealth is as swift | as a winking eye,
Of friends the falsest it is.

Health, wealth, family, relationships, status and position can all be taken from you tomorrow.  If your life remains, you cope.  Not always the pleasant solution, not always the sanest solution, but day by day, you stumble from the depths of having lost it all and one day look up to find you have built something that you….like.  Coping mechanisms get you through the worst times, but some of them will trap you in bad times unless you learn to put them away when you don’t need them.  Look to your community to help  you put away the dangerous coping mechanisms when their work is done, but do not hate them for keeping you alive.  Never regret survival.  Never forget what our ancestors taught us, no good can come from a corpse.  Living matters.  Those who survive can work on dealing with any side effects of what kept us alive.

- John T Mainer

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Cult of Óðinn: God of Death?

Wassail all!

Last year, Kveldúlfr Gundarsson gave the Troth permission to reprint  his 1995 doctoral dissertation, _The Cult of Óðinn: God of Death?_, published under his "mundane" name, Stephan Grundy. This work has long  been almost impossible to find, short of going to Cambridge University and requesting their file copy. At 272 pages (and 292 footnotes!) it's not what you might call easy bedtime reading -- there are primary sources quoted in several languages, for example. All the same, it's clearly a labor of love and devotion by one of the best minds in all Heathenry, and one of the most thorough studies of Odin's nature that I've ever seen. This is a serious work of scholarship, and even after nearly twenty years, it remains an exceptionally useful source. 

I have the honor and pleasure to announce that, as of right now, _The Cult of Óðinn: God of Death?_ has officially been republished by the Troth. We have also republished a companion volume to this book, _Miscellaneous Studies Towards the Cult of Óðinn_, which consists of material that Kveldúlfr / Stephan was unable to include in his dissertation. Together, the two books make up one of the most thorough studies of Óðinn ever published. 

For a limited time, we are offering both books, in hardcover or paperback editions, at 30% off from the cover price. They may be ordered from Lulu.com:      

The Cult of Óðinn, paperback:  http://www.lulu.com/content/14718742      

The Cult of Óðinn, hardcover:  http://www.lulu.com/content/14725516      

Miscellaneous Studies, paperback:  http://www.lulu.com/content/14814228      

Miscellaneous Studies, hardcover:  http://www.lulu.com/content/14828637 

Both books will also be made available on Amazon.com in a few days -- in fact, _The Cult of Óðinn_ is already available in paperback on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1941136001/  . 

E-book versions are also coming soon.


- Ben Waggoner, Shope

Friday, June 20, 2014

Magic of Moot: Healing and Breaches


Trothmoot 2014 was a time of magic, some figurative, some probably literal, but the one that is most special to me is family.  My daughter Caitlyn is my Prime Signed daughter, raised and oathed Heathen; she is also Christian, bringing the same sorts of things to teenage inner and outer conflicts as most, and with a mix of worldview that resembles the classic  Prime Signed  (Heathens who have been baptised as well) heathens of the syncretic period.

While self-identifying as Christian, when she thinks about it, she also practices Heathen and covets coming to events for what it brings to her, even if she does not have the words to really express what that is, but perhaps it is part of a father’s job to find them for both of us.

Like many teenagers she has her struggles, but Wyrd has woven a few extra tangles in her weave, as she has been given some medical conditions that affect her hormones with serious impacts to her body and worsening the usual teenage emotional storm to levels that are sometimes damaging.  The coping mechanisms she found were more damaging yet.  She and her parents do everything the system offers in terms of the “right things” with various, sometimes limited, success.

Now we come to Trothmoot.  Moots are magical things, once Dennis Ford put the Tyr’s glove on the spear to sanctify and open the moot, the fellowship that began blurred the lines between sacred and commonplace, between hospitality and ritual, between mirth and magic, and in the strange alchemy of moot, wove healing into the fabric of the community that was forged.

Community: it means different things to different peoples, but to those who hunger for a place to be, for a place to be accepted, for a place to be whole, community is more precious than gold, more nourishing than meat, more intoxicating than mead.  Community is also a  powerful agent of change, a powerful force of healing.  Old magic is strongest, and the magic of community is not given the first third of the Havamal because the All-Wise did not know the worth of the magic of hospitality.

Dozens of people contributed to the magic, for that is the way of community, the ultimate expression of vegetarian food in Midgard (Tanya Peterson’s vegetarian lasagne) certainly made a vegetarian girl feel valued in a community that seems to consist on meat and mead alone at festival.  Well maybe that was just me.  Caitlyn spent her time working hard in the kitchen, cleaning up in the halls, helping out at ritual, and attending workshops.  I did not send her to do these things, these things she was drawn to do by the magic of the community, by the getting, judging the giving.  A gift for a gift.

Toward the end of Trothmoot she made a breakthrough.  Around the fire, passing libations and sharing companionship with the community that was so much more restorative than sleep, that most of us rationed or cut out the practice entirely, Caitlyn  found  a way to make peace with the wounds of her past, and the conflicts of her present.  Locked for years in a stasis of self destruction, she broke free to more forward towards health, not because she was lead, not because she was forced, but because she was freed to do so by the community that embraced her.

One of the ancient wights, one of the named powers of our lore has been the patron that has been with her in her darkest times, the only voice of heathen lore that whispers solutions to her when she needs them, one of the gods reached out to her and showed her how to use the power of the communities gifts to address her healing.  A gift for a gift is our way, I have raised her so.  To do what is right, to embrace truths, even ones that are hard and ugly, is what we have taught her.  To stand for what you believe in, but do so respectfully, is what we have tried hard to teach her.  In having received a gift from a Heathen community, from a Heathen god, she listened to the instruction for the round that she should raise the horn to a god of her choice, so she did, and broke the law.

It is our law (as Troth), and the will of the community, and thus a holy thing, in a holy place.  What she did was thus an offense against the Frith of the community, and our noble hosts.  Steven Abell did as he must to keep the Frith as a chieftain must who is worthy to hold the oaths of his folk, and I did a father’s duty and claimed her deed for what it was, the failure of a father’s instruction, and not in any way a failure of my daughter’s honour.  For this I offered scyld that will serve both the needs of our community, and the honour of my house.  It was accepted, and sworn so before the folk at Grand Sumbel.  Steven asked if we were good, if it was finished between us, and with a man’s understanding, I agreed between men, that it was done.  Buy we are only men, and men are not the only guests at moot, nor the highest, nor the wisest, for it was not done.

In the Heathen community that she is oathed, her hail would have been correct, and indeed answered by as many as a hail to Idunna or Tyr would at our Troth halls.  As a teenager, she tries to hold to principles, and has no patience with politics, and local differences, and had been taken strongly by the Troth’s wisdom and spirit, especially during the Diversity and Community building panels at Trothmoot.  We have all learned that politics may be stupid, but they are real, as are laws, and they are necessary, if we are able to bring communities together to build something larger than two people in a single room.  None who stood in the circle of the Rede to address this matter saw or spoke of anything more than a well meaning child having made a mistake, but as good and worthy men and women who hold their oaths as something real and potent, knew they still must do as they had oathed the would do to keep the frith.  In both action and consequence, there is no party that cannot say with pride they did as they best understood right and frithful action lay.

What is the action of a proud warrior daughter to what she perceives as injustice and slight?  Does she sulk in her tent like Achilles while his people burn?  No, she was back in the kitchen working hard along side those few who kept the Trothmoot fed, to clean the dishes of a hungry and well fed hall.  I spoke with her about how acceptance of consequence can also be a way of building worth, and she made a father as proud as proud could be, as full of anger and pride, she continued to give to her community the gifts of her labour, the little attentions to those who went without, even to the point of making sure those who had to miss the Idunna blot as they laboured in the kitchen received her blessing from her apples.  Such deeds do not go unnoticed in our community, not by wights seen or unseen.

There are those under our Troth banner whose halls hold other custom where Selipnir’s mother is concerned, and those in our halls whom I trust and seek for the counsel of my daughter because of the esteem their deeds and proven worth have found in my eyes.  Thus it was that Gari Farmer, noble Redeswoman and Steward, sat with Caitlyn in private devotion to the wight whose name may not be praised in sumble, but whose place in the devotional practice of many worthy members is well established.  In the course of this practice, Gari shared with the courage you expect of a soldier and woman of her name and reputation.  In the magic of moot, she drew from my daughter more without asking a single question than years of medication, therapy, analysis, counseling had done, and my daughter opened her mouth, her wounds, her heart, and shattered Isa, broke the self-destructive cycle that had held her with a casual ease.  In the magic of moot was healing wrought, and brightly was it woven.

There are gods famed for healing, and I hail and honour them, but we are all men and women of strong and independent natures, and do not follow the paths laid out by our fellows, so much as the paths laid out by our natures, by necessity, and by the strong moral compass of our gods and ancestors teachings.  For Gari and for Caitlyn, their pole star is not Tyr, their healer is not Eir, but Laufey's son; and before his  did they share offering, share pain, share healing.

What is the role of Clergy in our community?  Well apparently it isn’t just given out with a box of cracker jacks, for our own far-famed head of clergy showed the wisdom equal to her name, as Diana Paxson and Lorrie Wood both sought out Caitlyn at the outside Vé, gathering a circle of strong women to a space not made sacral on purpose (because Hel-father’s  was one of those that Wyrd chose to interfere with the journey of).  No, this road side, excamural  was made sacred by the purpose of they who gathered to pool the skill of the communities women in healing a young woman of the community.  Healing takes many forms, and in the perverse nature of a wight described even by his friends as at least perverse, it was the joint bitching about community politics that bound the wounds now bled free of old and bitter poison, and began healing.

There are going to be those who will look upon this and seek to grumble on one side or another of the old quarrel, but that would be foolish.  A scyld was offered for a breach of the peace, and all sides conducted themselves honourably.  Against the matter of her name and her breach, I have received such praise for her hard work and passion from those at this Trothmoot that I have no fear of her name and worth in the community being anything but another source of pride.  Against the matter of scyld, I hold the honour of my house to be be a dear thing, and worth twenty times the price, but that is almost forgotten, so small is it.  I have a daughters healing forged from the magic of the moot, a daughters healing that in some respects is tied to the catalyst of the breach and consequence.  Odin gave an eye for what he must know, Tyr a hand for the worth of his word, will ask what a father will pay for his daughter’s healing?  I would change nothing, and count myself and my family blessed brightly by the magic of this moot.

John T Mainer

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Troth Elections

The Troth elections have been assessed by Steve Abell (Steer of The Troth) and Bill Dwinnells (Elections Officer) and verified by Destiny Ballard (independent observer per Troth bylaws).

Re-elected to the Rede:

Robert Lusch Schreiwer (continuing as Assistant Steer)
Tanya Peterson

Rejoining the Rede:

Hrafn Skald

All three took their Oath of Office at Trothmoot along with Other officers and Stewards. This post will be updated to include the names and positions of all who took an oath at Trothmoot.

Thank you to all who participated in the elections, and especially to Fred Bower for stepping up and running for the Rede. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Benefit for Victims of the Kansas City Shootings

This is a worthy cause! 

This relates to the April 13 murders at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City (see related Troth Blog posts at the bottom of this entry), and we are glad to see the Heathen community coming together in an expression of generosity and compassion. This effort is also a statement of the rejection of the agenda of hate. 

We once again hail the victims of this tragedy:

Terri LaManno
William Lewis Corporon
Reat Griffin Underwood

------------ Copied Post from Facebook------------

Josh Gamble 12:00pm May 21
hi! First, thank you for the generous donations we've received already from the Troth and Troth members! Would you be willing to post this link and message from me on your page? It's for a good cause and I appreciate it!


Update:

Hi everyone! I wanna start by thanking you all for all the support we’ve received for this effort so far. I know things have been quiet for a while, but we have 10 days left for the final push, and we’re close to our goal! I wanted to update everyone on what’s going on with the fund, as well.

I’ve spoken to the director of philanthropy at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, and they’ve already set up a permanent fund in memory of Cross’s victims. I’ve been assured the use of the funds is in line with the wishes of the families, and that’s where our donation is going to go. I’ve made sure they know who we are and why we’re donating, and the families are happy to accept.


So here we are, with 10 days left. I’m asking everyone to help up with a last social media blitz- even if you’ve already donated, please spread the word everywhere you can, and ask your friends and acquaintances to share it too! Let’s show the world what a force for good we can be! The ancient heathens valued community and generosity- let’s make them proud!

------------ Related Troth Blog Posts ------------

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Walpurgisnacht!

Walpurgisnacht is one of the major holidays on the Urglaawe, German Heathen, and Firn Sitte calendars. For some information on this on this holiday via the Urglaawe perspective, please see the post on Urglaawe.net titled Hallichi Walpurgisnacht... adder Hallichi Wonnenacht!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Opinion: Anti-Semitic Shooting In Kansas

There are a few communities who are united by the atrocity of the racist accused murderer Frazier Glenn Cross; arrested for the shooting deaths of Terri LaManno, William Lewis Corporon, Reat Griffin Underwood, in a targeted antisemitic rampage.

Originally a Grand Dragon of the KKK,1 Cross was violently opposed to immigration, and had a history of threats and attacks against African-Americans, Jews, and civil rights leaders.  Claiming to be fundamentalist Christian, with strong ties to the Christian Identity movement, his ties to Christianity had little to do with Christian doctrine, and more to do with vilifying members of other religious communities, especially the Jews.  Unhappy with the idea of Jesus as a Jew being a focus of worship, he came to discover references to Odin in the writings of Nazi and Neo-Nazi authors.

In describing himself as an Odinist he is not identifying as a practicing Heathen, or follower of the ancestral faith of the pre-Christian Northern Europeans, but drawing upon the false mythology crafted by the 1930’s German Nazi party who drew upon the symbols of their heathen past to wrap their ultra nationalist brand of fascism in the glories of a past free of the crushing defeat the German people endured post WWI.  Indeed, both in his writings, and in his shouted statements as he was being driven away, Cross cries out “Heil Hitler,” calling upon the only prophet whose words he actually understood and embraced.2

Cross is no Christian, nor is he Heathen.  His brand of Christian Identity or Odinism are not religious beliefs, but racial/political platforms trying with no real success to stretch the teachings of the Bible and the Havamal to cover their own personal hatreds.

Having failed in attempts to organize armed militias or run for office to acquire the power to bring his racial agenda onto the national stage, he sank into relative obscurity.3

In a final irony, in his attempt to strike out against the Jewish Race, he targeted three innocent people for the crime of being visiting their elderly parent, or taking their grandson to try out for a singing competition.  None of the dead was Jewish.

One man who believed only in hate has taken three lives far worthier than his own.  In doing so he has united three disparate communities. The Heathen Community, and the Christian Community are joining together with the Jewish Community to condemn not just these specific attacks, but the climate of racial hatred, and promotion of hatred and strife between different ethnic and religious groups within our nation.

I ask that you offer a prayer to whatever god(s) or goddess(s) you honour for the families of the fallen in this tragedy.  Their loss cannot be made right, but they can know that believers of all faiths are united in their support for the families not only through the time of their loss, but the struggle to relive this tragedy again as this Nithling4 faces trial for his cowardly attacks.

- John T Mainer




4 Nithling: oathbreaker, person without worth or honour, one whose word is without value.


Please see also the official Troth response to this incident.