If you caught the entry posted last night then you saw it wasn’t complete and that it was eventually deleted. Sorry about that. I had had a glass of wine and was watching Mad Men, and the mind fuck of that episode was distracting me, and I couldn’t get my phone to post properly, so eventually I just said fuck it and gave my head a break. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything grand and revolutionary. [smile]
1. How do you describe the human condition?
Products of evolution and natural order the same as any creature or god, but with the ablitity to conceptualize wyrd and an abstract future. The human condition is to yearn to build something better, and to be recognized for your contribution to a story larger than our individual lives.
Or maybe that’s my conditioning.
2. Do you see yourself in need of salvation and how is that achieved?
Salvation is more of a world-rejecting/world-indifferent concept; an idea of achieving some greater state and existence because this one (and one’s self) is flawed. I’m more world-accepting; the world is what is and that’s just fine. My body will walk here, my soul will walk here, and I’ll be just who I am in life and in non-life and the world will keep doing its thing.
3. What is your vision of goodness?
Giving. Receiving. Support, instruction, and comfort. Creating family either by blood or friendship.
4. How do you understand the transcendent?
The what now?
When I was involved in the discussion I last posted about, I felt more at peace with the idea of gods then I have in a long time…if ever. It surprised me, because I was arguing for the concepts of them rather than the spirit of them. Or, at least, that’s what I thought.
I also realized that I really believed what I was talking about because I was talking about the truth in my worldview, not the attempts of a worldview. I’m not a hard polytheist that has a personal relationship with intelligent personifications of gods, but I’m still someone who truly believes in everything the gods stand for. I don’t see them as people, but as my truest understanding of gods. Gods that are at times beyond my comprehension in their absolute law but yet at the same time the very cornerstone of my experience of humanity.
During the discussion mentioned above, I was also reading a paper on euhemerism, The One-Eyed Man Against Rome by Prof. Africa, who compares the legend of Odin with the history of Hannibal. He admits that Odin existed before Hannibal, but also believes that the two were merged in stories. It occured to me that Odin, the mythic man, and Hannibal, the historical man, represent the same thing: beings that encapsulate the meaning of the real death shaman (a dark and magnificent power) through story.
I believe, no matter how illogical according to modern science or unprecedented in Germanic religiosity, that the gods are something much more timeless and complex than they appear to be in the mythic plays. That the legends and stories provide us with something that our minds can latch onto and that enables us to create idols that capture the essence of them. The idols may evolve, such as from Odin the wolf god to the Odin-Hannibal complex, but the actual power/reginn that moves across the earth does not.
“The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to the abstraction which they see only in spiritual worship.” ~Tacitus, Germania
[The following is pieced together from a discussion I've been having.]
For some pre-christian Germanic tribes, gods weren’t divine personalities but ruling forces on earth such as death, rain, etc. Those obviously exist…
Germanic religiosity is a world-accepting worldview. There aren’t any concepts of salvation, enlightenment, or Gnostic mysteries. God is evidenced through miracles outside the working order of the world, the gods are evidenced in the working order of the world. These gods, according to Tacitus, were never personified or viewed as celestial beings (despite what christian retelling may say), but were simply spiritual abstractions of the natural order. Thor isn’t the rain, he’s the binding natural law of rain.
These laws, which we apply spiritual meaning to and try to live alongside of harmoniously, were born of the first law: wyrd. Wyrd is the concept that the very first action of the universe impacts and determines every action following it. The past builds the present, there is no set future other than the obvious and necessary final outcome of events. There aren’t miracles or actions that occur outside the laws of nature. These laws of nature are evident. When these laws collapse (Ragnarok), then the world collapses and new laws (gods) take over.
I’m actually an agnostic polytheist. I have my personal experiences but nothing that would consist as tangible proof, even to myself. Though, the folk truism that speaking to plants causes better growth has never been disproven (even by Mythbusters :p), and since I believe that there is a natural god (as previously defined) governing the function of fertility it appears to me that there is some validation to the idea that they can be affected by worship*. Dancing, singing and pouring out libations in worship can be seen as influencing Freyr (god of fertility) to grant better harvests. I don’t do all that, per se, but I do pour a beer out to my plants and trees once in awhile in the spirit of gift-giving. This isn’t Christianity; I don’t expect Freyr to answer prayers about my finances, or to grant me entry into a heaven, or to miraculously heal a cold. I expect Earth to function as earth, rain to function as rain, etc etc and then I “worship” (find awe and gratitude and meaningful living) that they do just that. For example, Simek states that it’s clear that the Germanic tribes worshipped trees not because they were gods, but because they symbolized growth. It’s a spiritual way to look at the world without requiring it to be anything but what it is.
*Worship and prayer being a completely external process of action and result. The gods don’t see into your soul or hear your thoughts. They aren’t Omni anything.
Is it Still a God if it Doesn’t Consciously Provide?
If you’re defining God from an Abrahamic perspective, then no. But in Germanic spirituality (which is really a stupid term because they wouldn’t have understood a division between religion and the mundane), a god was just a ruling force. Kings were divine because they were the ruling force of the tribe. Prophetesses were divine because they were the ruling force of a tribe’s wyrd. Since seeing wyrd was the ability to recognize how the past would influence the present, prophetesses were essentially using a ruling ability for logic, deduction, and strategy. Veleda is one historically recorded living goddess of the Germanic people, who led the Batavian Rebellion through her military advisement.
Gods weren’t even seen as creator deities. They were products of the first action/material matter. Like earth, gravity, or ourselves.
Then I Could Worship a Toaster.
The goddess Nerthus was a wagon cart. It sat empty in a grove until it was filled with peace and then it would be paraded through tribes who all laid down their weapons and ceased fighting. Peace, obviously, is an invisible, immaterial concept. The worship of Nerthus doesn’t work unless people chose to recognize the import of their deeds; how they create the action through action and it should be right action (the point of worship). I know the Romans thought any foreigner was a barbarian but that was far from the truth. Germanic polytheism wasn’t all primitive superstition. Its a cart but more than a cart. Its rain but more than rain. The rain exists as a philosophical, artistic reality as much as it exists as a scientific reality: Spiritual abstractions of natural things. AKA gods.
If your toaster can affect that kind of change in the world around you then worship that bitch up.
But, I highly doubt that anyone’s toaster will be significant to the cultural change of a community. I’m certainly not advocating the worship of anything because it just feels good.
Around 5800-5700 BCE there was a clash between the old hunter-gatherers and the newly developing herder-farmers. Herding and farming was extremely controversial and was viewed as ethically and morally wrong by the hunters. The hunters thought it was wrong of the herders to walk a cow around and deprive their family of food when they could just as easily kill the cow and feed them that same day. I know it won’t seem this way, but we’re talking about a sociopolitical upheaval similar to today’s same sex marriage debate.
The first year (and subsequent years) of a successful harvest and slaughter was most likely celebrated with huge local feasts that were the great-grandfathers of our modern day holiday dinners and religious ritual. The investment had paid off, man and land cooperated as a successful team, and the rewards should be shared. It was also an economic revolution of trade, power and wealth. Throw in the wagon cart, which transferred the burden of work from man onto animal and machinery and which also extended trade lines and land ownership and we have a symbol of luck, harmony, success, survival and peace. The cart became an important socioreligious symbol of the partnership between man and man and man and earth.
Back to same sex marriage: the LGBTQ community has the belief in– for lack of a better term– a god-given right (small g) to pursue their own happiness and lifestyle that supersedes the sociopolitical laws and rights decided by man. Now, I don’t believe (and I don’t think they all do either) that this “god-given right” is literally awarded by a divine big G personality, but refers to a law of righteousness and justice that is unhampered by intellectual judgement or bias but obeys solely the rule of its own law. It just IS, and that can be, in itself, an eternal and consistent ‘god’, displayed and celebrated in rainbows and parades.
The feasts and traditions of the farmer-herders was a celebration of a revolutionary lifestyle that succeeded within the law of that principle despite the controversy, criticism and risks they faced. And we’ve all benefited from their commitment so I find it somewhat awesome.
So: if a toaster should ever affect change to that magnitude than I wouldn’t side-eye you for treating it as an idol of sacred principle and spiritual abstraction.
[Edit: (Source: The Horse, the Wheel, and Language)]
Isn’t Worship of Natural Order Obsolete
Rudolf Simek, noted scholar, summarized the entire point of Germanic religiousity. It wasn’t for a better afterlife, it wasn’t for spiritual enlightenment. The point of it was simply “plenty of fish, a good harvest, and peace.” There is absolutely nothing that goes against that ideal of Germanic spirituality in acknowledging the scientific process of agriculture, in utilizing better technology, or in accepting that the ruling forces/natural world that we rely on for that don’t have to be warrior gods on steeds (probably a revision to the mythological image made by the Huns as they became the ruling elite, anyway), but still realities we depend on to achieve that ideal life. No one really cared if they went to an afterlife because you live on through your life’s work and your children. “Cattle die, kindred die, Every man is mortal: But the good name never dies, Of one who has done well.”
‘Sin’ would be the BP oil spill, because it destroyed the whole “plenty of fish/peace” thing and threatens everything we work for. Whether you call it worship or not, can’t it be acknowledge that we need to treat our earth with some sort of respectful sacredness since we literally depend on it for life and continued existence? I’m sure the idea of the annihilation of the human race, the only record of your existence and experience, must also seem a sin to you. We aren’t stewards of anything (christianization). We’re vulnerable animals with an amazing capacity to fuck things up. And the world will go on pretty much eternal with or without us. It feeds, provides, punishes and destroys on a level disdainful of our wishes or protests. That’s god-like, yeah?
By worshipping the dynamic world and its spiritual abstractions I’m living — as newagey as it sounds– in harmony with the world in a way that provides me the best experience in the present, not the best experience in some heaven. I enjoy the rain for what it actually is, I don’t need to infuse it with a type of Jesus Love or ignore it as being “just rain”. That’s how worship (originally worth-ship, giving something worth) has some meaning whether it’s influencing the object of worth or not.
The first offering I gave was after I been reading about Germanic religion (heathenry) for a few months. I felt that I wanted to participate in some sort of religious action to internalize it even though I didn’t have any confidence in my decision or its results. I was experimenting with the experience.
It was actually rather pathetic. After getting the kids on the school bus I went down into a wash and threw two plain pieces of bread under the biggest tree that I had found. I didn’t even get close to the tree; I stayed several feet back and tossed the bread at the base of trunk as if there was a stray dog there that I was hoping to placate.
Later I tried to develop a routine similar to the ones I had seen performed by other people. Simple offerings of a cup of coffee once a week, dinner once a week, etc. I took these out to various places in my yard until I finally settled on the spot beneath the orange tree. I went out and purchased mead and gave libations.
Then I felt that I should try something within the home. Nothing extraordinary or averse was occurring with these procedures and they were simply an attempt to found and maintain a tradition. The home space was centered on a shelf where I kept three small wooden bowls and jars. I gave offerings when I felt the moment seemed to call for them.
The home space constantly left me feeling unsettled. I returned to placing offerings at the orange tree. This back and forth was going on for a couple of years and I still had no real idea of what I was accomplishing. I was simply going through the motions of what I felt was an interesting– if not perplexing– act of spiritual and meaningful connection.
In the years that I’ve been reading about Germanic religion and worldview my focus has mainly been on the conception of death. It’s the area that I’m most comfortable and confident in and almost all of the information I’ve gathered on it has roots in the dead.
So it was, that when I was teasing out the concept of hugr, that the notions involved in offerings also began to fall into place in a way that made sense, at least for me.
Hugr is the name for the mind, spirit and thought within all creatures, which can be thrown into other forms outside of one’s own body, and which continues to exists after physical death. The issue with this is that the hugr has to have something physical to latch onto.
That idea is considered (by some) to be central to the concept of the shape-shifting berserkers. Rather than literally transforming into bears, wolves, etc., the warriors actually brought forth the animal’s hugr which they had ingested through blood and flesh after killing them in an initiation ritual. There’s also evidence of this belief being present within the theory that early Germanic hunters would recreate the form of their prey on stone, bark or soil for the spirit of the animal to attach to, and have continued existence in, since the meat and bones were often transformed into foodstuffs and tools.
The question for me was that clearly we don’t ingest the hugr of our everyday meat, and it was doubtful that historical heathens did either. There was a gaping hole in the information that I had concerning how the belief was infused in everyday generic life. And at the time, this was still completely unrelated to my discomfort with offerings.
I came across something in The Horse, the Wheel, and Language concerning the excavated village of Bernashevka. This Cucuteni-Tripolye culture was on the frontier of the hunting-foraging/herding-farming shift and beneath the homes in every village a domesticated cow or bull skull was buried. Since the meat intake of the village consisted of 75% cattle I wondered if perhaps the skull was placed for the purpose of capturing the spirits of this main, everyday food source. There was also one home in the village that held the bones and skulls of wild game, which accounted for their non-domesticated diet.
I was beginning to make the connection between religious idolatry and offerings. If the belief was that the spirit must connect to something for continued existence– which survivalists would want for their food source– and you didn’t want it to necessarily be attached to the tools and furs that were composed of it’s physical body, then you would have to offer something to the spirit for it to enter. At this point the single skull probably wasn’t just representative of one animal, but totemic. It became the threshold from which the spirit world and material world crossed paths.
And this brought me back to offerings. If spirit must attach to something, and nothing is offered up for it to move between the worlds then the health of the relationship between worlds became vulnerable. Herds would fall ill, crops would wither, luck would essentially be absent. In a sense, the world will find and achieve balance. If something is given then something will be taken.
And the laws and functions that supervise this balance? Are better known as gods.
Long story short:
I have often read about and mentioned the reciprocal relationship, but I realize that I didn’t fully understand what it entailed meaningfully for myself. Offerings weren’t gifts. They weren’t favors. They were measurements of balance. They were an intricate part of a complex spiritual ecosystem. Being participants in maintaining that harmony allowed for at least a modicum of control in an unpredictable world.
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