Bear versus the armchair viking association

Where to start? LOL Anyone who’s investigated Heathenism or Asatru is probably aware that there are small pockets of white supremacists using Asatru and Odinism and Heathen as cover for their retrograde attitudes. It’s a real problem in Australia, they seem to control all the mailing lists.*

A while ago I was joining up and sussing them out. Left most of them because I don’t enjoy constantly engaging homophobic he-man armchair vikings. I want to join a Heathen or Asatru discussion list to hear opinions about Heathen spirituality. In Australia you get some nutter quoting conservative christians or muslims to support homophobia. Great.

Last night I was having another wee tantrum and mentally composing a “fuck you all, see you in Hel” email that I was going to retire on, and return to my Solitary practice.

“That’s it! I’m now officially Agnostic!” I bawled as I stamped my widdle tooties and pouted. “To Hel with these white supremacist neanderthals!”

I could almost feel Thor huffing at me. “Oh really? After all this time needing my help and protection, now you don’t believe in me?” Freya for her part was somehow giving me a big warm hug. I’m a bit bi so a warm hug from a wonderful Goddess like Freya is all the more welcome for the innuendo. The night before I’d felt something similar. An encouragement to trust in the Universe, trust in the Aesir and Vanir. They’ve led me well so far…

This morning it occurred to me that the Aesir and Vanir probably don’t want their followers stuck in the past recreating and repeating the same old mistakes. Why should there not be room for us to grow, learn and evolve? It’s not as if there’s enough info to comprehensively recreated ancient Saxon or Norse culture anyway, the christians did too much damage when they forcibly converted the North. And that’s a whole ‘nother post in itself, the internal incongruity of christianism.

It pisses me off when people act as if we should be as true as possible to bronze age society, as a cover for being homophobic and conservative. When they quote brutal religions to support their ideas it seems simply ridiculous. Why would you leave christendom for something you think is better, only to bring along so much harmful cultural baggage? Surely if you’re going to go to the trouble of redefining your spiritual perspective, you’d go the last few steps of reviewing the effects such religious pathology has had on your understanding and values? Why use ancient Greco-Roman purity codes and household codes if you’ve swapped to Heathen or Paganism? Jordsvin has a fantastic article discussing all this, btw.

Another problem is that with these throwback ideas is that the same post-christian anglo social construct, which rejects homosexuals and defines masculinity as violent and militaristic, subverts women. He-men are often defined in contrast to sex class women who serve only as disposable incubators for the next generation of “warriors”. Any trait or expression culturally defined as feminine or effeminate is rejected as being unworthy.

Considering there’s quite a bit of evidence for cross-dressing and other “effeminate” behaviour in cultic worship of deities like Odin and Ingvi-Freyr, and stories of Loki and Thor cross-dressing, not to mention the sense of humour the ancient Saxons and Norse seem to have had, it’s a wonder anyone who’s seriously homophobic or misogynist would even consider Heathenism.

Well anyways. There are plenty of others out there who want to deepen their experience and understanding of Heathen spirituality without resorting to retrograde neo-nazi bullshit. You can’t always walk away from discussion groups that are dominated by such lunatics, where would you end up?

*Possibly because Australian culture is still so androcentric. You know, home of “Damned whores and God’s police”.

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Considerations

This past week has brought many curious and provocative changes to the way I’m travelling. For a while now I’ve been aware that the whole psycho-spiritual crisis kicked off by my rejection of xianity had left me in a bit of a vaccuum, meaning wise. I needed a format in which to hang my self and understand where I fit in the universe. I’m happy with the scientific rationalist explanations of the evolution of humans as a species and possible origins of the Universe(s), but what I need is a working mythology.

It was with some enthusiasm that I began exploring Heathenism and Asatru, as it is a pretty comprehensive world view. Asatru or Heathenism incorporates mythology, cosmology, magic, divination, ritual… And I’m finding that everything I’ve intuitively collected in my electic solitary life is porting over with in most cases simply a change of name. The most amazing coincidences are occurring. Yesterday I was given a set of runes hand made by a friend.

There’s been a real issue however with finding others with whom to discuss this experience. Apparently Asatru in Australia has a bad reputation for being connected with white supremacy. I have a little Thor’s hammer charm that I’d like to wear along with my pentagram. (And the way I came across the hammer is very special!) The pentagram’s okay as a symbol of where I’ve come from. I don’t mind if people see me as connected with weird arsed stories about eating babies, Satanic worship or sex with animals, but I will not be associated with racists. Having initially encountered attitudes that I thought belonged in Alabama in the 50’s, I find myself quite suspicious and critical when researching new contacts and sources.

I had a read of Henry’s article on masculinity and Australian culture, and I find that I agree with most of what he’s saying there. That the socially enforced gender roles are potentially harmful and can keep people from really developing themselves. Being stuck to having to be seen as tough or aggressive and so forth prevents a valuable integration and self-knowledge. It also totally screws up your idea of personal boundaries. Building on that I’m trying to understand why people see a need to be so exclusivist and nasty about “who can share our faith”. As if it were a human’s job to defend the gods… As if the gods weren’t able to draw people into spiritual understanding and experience without needing to get the all clear from a self-important gang leader.

We live in the midst of global monoculture, which is admittedly pretty awful and treats humans as mere grist for the mill. Another consumer unit to be manipulated by advertising and the mass media into buying, voting and hating according to the will of the publishers. It’s difficult, even if you are consciously aware of it, to filter out all the overlearned stereotypes and emotional triggers in the sea of information we’re constantly bombarded with. And the enforcement of social constructs is absolutely brutal.

As an animal, the human species evolved in groups. Over 6 million odd years we didn’t survive because we were smarter, stronger or faster. We prospered because, in spite of what corporate culture would tell us about competition, we co-operate. We are a group animal. And acceptance within our group is one of the strongest motivators for us. We need to be needed. We need to belong.

On a tangent, the human species evolved in Africa. White skin is a very late evolutionary mutation. If you’re seriously going to search back for the common spirituality of “our ancestors” you ain’t going back to anything white, baby, you’re going back to black. And it can’t be that different from other indigenous spiritualities since a pentecostal minister was able to port demon exorcisms and trance states from his experience in Africa in the 70’s back into churches in the US without anyone blinking an eye. Except the psychologists on the fringes trying not to wet themselves laughing.

Over the years the influence of puritan religion and the lingering after effects of the Greco-Roman purity codes, not to mention the idea of humans as sinful, tainted creatures, has led to a distorted understanding of ourselves. The things we don’t like about ourselves or percieve as “bad” according to those religious codes, are repressed. The shadow side of our nature, everything we don’t like or consider unworthy, still remains as part of us even if we don’t integrate it. And in this repressed state, we tend to project our shortcomings onto others. For example, rather than seeing myself as short tempered and trying to find healthy ways of dealing with that, I see anger in others and am critical of it. Homophobia works in a similar way. Rather than having a good, honest open look at my sexuality, I direct all manner of hatred, abuse and discrimination against “poofters”. All of this also screws up our personal boundaries and concept of self-control or autonomy. If we’re “broken” how can we trust ourselves to develop morally? How can we learn to understand our own limits and let others be responsible for theirs?

I think that’s where the racist attitudes are stemming from. This combination of an unyielding, abusive monoculture and the lack of permission to journey within and know thy self in wisdom. How often have you heard “new agers” described as selfish or self absorbed? How often have you heard people in the midst of personal crisis told to “get over it”? Our culture does not encourage personal development. That would make us all wiser about what we think and buy and we can’t be having with any of that! ;-)

So here we have a situation in which people are feeling alienated and manipulated. We’re stuck in the suburban siege and we’re in pain.

Fortunately there are many systems around that have helped humans throughout the ages to journey through this stuff. We may have to dig for it now and be brave in stepping out into that exploration, but it is available. One of the great things about Paganism and Heathenism is that they incorporate many of the best tools for self-development from ancient and recent sources. That the tools seem so similar in so many different religions and spiritualities is testament to the need humans have had for them throughout our evolution.

While I’m pretty unhappy with the idea that the spirituality I want to devote myself to is associated with white supremacists, as a bit of a compensation there is within the faith plenty of avenues for people caught up in that sort of repression and hatred to deal with it and develop more healthy wholeness. Unless they’re simply using Asatru or Heathenism as a pathetic excuse to cover their racist attitudes, if they’re following the gods at all, eventually they’re going to be led to confront the anger and inner turmoil.

The journey of discovery, dealing with issues like sexuality and social roles is one of the most painful and difficult, and one of the most valuable, that any person can undertake. That’s why the metaphor of Odin hanging on the world tree in search of wisdom can be so powerful for us now. We need it more than ever.

Although I despise the racist elements in Odinism and Asatru, it isn’t my job to defend or protect the faith. The gods can look after themselves. If a person is drawn to a spiritual practise it’s for a reason. If they need to travel that inner path dealing with inner hurt, emotional conditioning, past memories and present fears, as many of us do myself included, then good luck to them.

It’s just a bit ironic that I threw off xianity because of all the harm I’ve seen done in that system, to find this one similarly beset by problems. I guess it’s all human behaviour. The gregarious animal, in possession of a frontal lobe…

Which leaves me with my little Thor’s hammer, wearing it inside my clothing where it can remain personal. And I remain, for now, the solitary eclectic.

The trail of raven feathers, part de trois


Last night I sat up till nearly 3am reading, reading, reading… About Loki. About runes and about factions in Asatru. Mostly from the Uppsala site, which I wholeheartedly recommend. It was sent to me in a bunch of links by a friend on alt.pagan.

One thing I particularly found interesting that needs mentioning here is the concept of reincarnation. In yesterday’s post I referred to some comments about ancestral reincarnation that I’d read in an essay and a newsletter. Wayland makes the point that reincarnation is rarely if ever considered to be something that happens purely within ancestral lines. In Hinduism and Buddhism it doesn’t even stay within a species. And there’s no evidence that the Norse or Saxons were treating reincarnation anyway. So that’s clarified. That’ll learn me. I Must Do My Own Reading. LOL

Fortunately I’ve met a couple of thinking characters who are recommending history books to me. Well, for a given value of fortunate. Means a lot of reading!

In both the Uppsala site and Assembly of the Elder Troth are mentions of the Nine Noble Virtues. WTF? When did I cross over into Buddhism? ;-)

It seems really interesting to me that groups focus on these kind of purity codes and at the same time worship gods and goddesses given to all kinds of bizzarre behaviour. It’s a bit like the Greco-Roman purity and household codes among people worshiping Zeus. A bit of a paradox.

No doubt it won’t be popular, but I’m wondering how much influence behind the Virtues is drawn from the lingering influence of those Greco-Roman purity codes in puritan religion, particularly after the industrial revolution, that has influenced contemporary globalist and Anglo-Saxon culture. The idea of values or virtues that decide who’s in or out has been an effective tool for religious control of the masses, particularly the conservative middle class, while those at the top reap the most benefit and get away with gods know what. As a person develops into adulthood there ought to be all sorts of developments of personal boundaries and self-control, an ability to make moral decisions, that should cover all of this “how I live and how I interact with my tribe” stuff. But, I guess some people need to think about structure and others would prefer to accept what’s given. Might be a function of different personality types and ways of handling information.

The focus on “industriousness” is of particular interest to me in Australian post-convict culture. After white Australia was settled largely at the expense of abused criminals and poor Irish, “hard work” was about the only vector offered to the children of the convicts to redeem themselves. This is still an influence in our society and again, a tool for control and manipulation that benefits the status quo and global consumerism. Something to think about, anyway.

That the Nine Noble Virtues originate with a group that refer to themselves as Odinist is reason for pause, so far in my experience. I’ll sit with it for a while and see what turns up down the track.

Now. Loki.

For safety’ sake I’m going to mention that Wodin and Loki are considered to be quite close, often working and travelling together. Heh. What a give away. Anyways, articles about Loki sometimes refer to an idea of him being a bit like the xian Satan. Well, it seems worth mentioning that Elaine Pagels apparently (I haven’t read it first hand) treats the ancient Hebrew origins of Satan as being vastly different from its presentation within christendom. Satan was originally the adversary. Someone who could stop you in your tracks with a question or circumstance that would really get you thinking and affect the way you see yourself.

This is obviously vastly different to the embodiment of evil and sin that has been so successfully used to alienate the shadow self and resulted in projections of percieved evil on to all and sundry. With particular attention to women and minorities.

At one stage I decided that the original Satan was a good or at least potentially helpful character. There was a conversation in which I said I was going to change my name to Satan. A friend replied “That’s a boy’s name.”

All of which is really only what was going through my head as I’m reading more about the Saxon pantheon….

I probably also should mention the cross dressing gods. That really surprised me. It’s one thing to read about Zeus turning into a swan or some such… but a particular god whose priests were expected to be quite effeminate during rituals and worship was not something I’d expected to read in the Heathen sources. Maybe its simply the groups I’ve encountered so far, maybe it’s the influence of social conditioning in global culture, but many of the Asatru seem very male dominant. Cross dressing gods and very strong, independent, particularly sexually independent, goddesses are an encouraging sign.

Now to see if I can find a photo of that one eyed raven who used to hang around here….

Further reading on Heathenism.

Last night I wandered back into usenet after gods know how many years. It’s even worse of a mess, if that’s possible. The Pagan and witchy newsgroups are a lot of fun if only for the disparaging of all the xian trolls in there. I was laughing with tears in my eyes. Perhaps I should get out more ;-)

Anyways, further in this reading about ancient Saxon history and contemporary Heathenism… The various groups seem pretty certain that the current Heathen groups… (Heathen being a Germanic reference similar to the Latin Pagan, meaning people in rural areas who adhere to the old (pre xian) religions) are not reconstructionist like 19th century witchcraft but maintain an unbroken line of historical continuity. Experience has taught me to do my own research, so I’ll reserve comment on that one for now… with the exception that it seems possible, not necessarily probable or even plausible, that in some rural areas in Scandinavia elder traditions may have continued like herb lore and folk beliefs did in other areas of Europe hiding under the skirts as it were, of enforced christendom.

What’s important for me at the moment is finding a mythology that works. This doesn’t mean I’m intending to throw into it balls and all as if it were scientific rational reality. Mythology is the stories we tell ourselves that couch our understanding of the universe in which we live. In other posts I’ve mentioned ideas like the Jungian collective unconscious or developmental ideas about the nature of quantum consciousness. Most of humanity seems pretty simply explained in terms of animal behaviour qualified by the development of the frontal lobe and opposable thumbs. Our need for stories and understanding is a result of us living in tribal groups for most of 6 million years and having the capability of imagination and verbal language. Simple. (;-))

But as I posted yesterday, it doesn’t give me much shape for the emotional attachments I have to the natural world in which I live or some of the stranger experiences I’ve had.

So. Bring on some more reading.

Fortunately this morning I came across an ostensibly Heathen web site which includes some blogs. The writer of Henry’s journal is a psychologist as well as a Heathen, and has a curious way of mixing his world views in a way that rings a few bells for me. Here’s someone who’s doing some critical thinking within his spirituality and talks about not being “lore-locked”.

And that’s probably the main issue I’m having with this field of enquiry right now. Having escaped xian dogma I have no intention of falling for another one. I’d much prefer to go into it with my eyes open. The other problem is of course the links in a few areas with Asatru and white supremacists. Not to mention that it seems terribly male dominant. Fortunately there’s the archetype of Freya… That’s worthy of a bit more research before I discuss her, but she’s a bit of a saving grace for someone like me.

So I shall continue to follow Woden’s trail of feathers and see what the mailing lists & ors turn up. Now I’m wondering if I should enrol in that Psych degree or opt for history and archaeology instead LOL. And go buy some runes. Just what I needed, another “new-age” consumerist spending spree. Gear Aquisition Syndrome sets in again. *sigh* ;-)

The local Hindu temple near where I live has occasionally put out the following slogan: “God Is One, Though The Wise Call Him By Various Names”. Now that’s a subtle and very interesting point of view to hold. Viva the pan-Indo-European connection!

This slogan recognises the ultimate interconnectedness of everything (which is the spiritual truth of monotheism at its best), but also the significance of individual beings’ unique spirit (which is the spiritual truth of polytheism and animism at their best).

Re-renewing?

This year has been absolutely the worst experience with depression ever, and I’ve had some bad ones. I’d write that I feel like I’m emerging from it but I thought that in early October too and turned out to be wrong. It’s probably simply another matter of biding my time and letting everything do what it needs to. Whether I understand what “everything” is or not.

Since April I’ve been wrestling the worst and blackest experience of emptiness and deep, deep misery. Fortunately there are odd occasions when the sun comes through. Like the present. I’m told that it’s “transitional”. There’s simply more stuff lingering around from past experiences that needs some sort of psychic regurgitation to feel dealt with. What I have is not simply depression but Borderline Personality Disorder that looks (and feels) a lot like PTSD. Rather than extending from an episode of trauma in the adult life, it develops during childhood.

The idea that all of this is somehow hard wired because of being a result of childhood trauma has been, pradoxically, a relief. There’s a kind of legitimacy now. Someone else gets it, which means that although I’m mental and it is all in my head, it is also very real.

The future is not “dealing with it” or “getting over it” or even really “moving on”. It’s management. Coping with life and people and nothing more. This way of thinking is providing some space for me currently to take a breath and look at what changes I’d like to make and how I might go about such. This is something I’d categorise as A Good Idea. I don’t care what Satan’s little helpers over at News Limited think of this perspective. Anyone who makes money out of exploiting people who are struggling with psycho-spiritual questions and mental illness deserves what’s coming to them. That means you too, Rudd. Bloody Sydney Anglicans.

In the midst of all of this, I’m trying my own little tricks within my own worldview that gives me access to magic and witch craft. Without going into too much detail, good, healthy male archetypes and a solid sense of self empowerment and self-control are not only beneficial but effected through magic ritual. Developing healthy male and female archetypes is obviously going to be a challenge and a help to someone dealing with child abuse. A male who isn’t necessarily an agent of destruction and a female capable of independence and, well, capability… Bring on the ancient deities. (BTW, anyone need a friend for Beltaine?)

I’m not sure how much to write about the internal stuff. I’d like to rant on about every little thing I’ve been experiencing lately spiritually, but that seems somehow to cheapen it.

After reading Richard Dawkins I must admit I was deeply influenced. Heh, I even became facebook friends with P Z Meyers because I appreciate the critical thinking of Atheism. Meyers’ wit makes me want to convert. :D However, I need a world view that will help me make sense of my own experiences, so there needs to be some scope for either something like a quantum mechanical collapse of super consciousness… Like that proposed by Amit Goswami, or a collective unconscious such as proposed by Jung. Since mainstream religions don’t do it for me, and even supposed alternatives based on Hinduism and Buddhism can somehow import a lot of right-wing judgmental assumptions into “new age” belief systems, it’s right back to the drawing board for me.

Witch craft provides the option of the eclectic. Take what you need and leave what you don’t. Together with some Uni training, this provides the space to read and research and measure theories against one’s own experiences this is very liberating! Some might opine that this disconnects an individual from any organised or authorised moral code, and nothing outside such a system could really be legitimate. The problem is that such “authorised” belief systems these days unfortunately include an awful lot of assumption and enforced emotional attachments through psychological manipulation and conditioning.

That’s why there’s little point engaging a religious person who feels that abortion is wrong because a foetus is vulnerable. Every human who’s physical existence can be threatened by another person or circumstances is equally as vulnerable as the unborn foetus. The trouble is that forcing a woman to give birth to a child she can’t feed and who won’t be supported socially is going to maintain the vulnerability not only of the child but will potentially endanger the rest of the family as well. But the emotional conditioning in organised religion and particularly in the kind of right-wing charismatic conservative thinking so prominent in the West today detrimentally affects the thinking of a person who may otherwise want to question the assumptions taught to them about such values or situations. Emotional conditioning, overlearned stereotypes, social conformity… It’s a lot of overhead to try to deal with in order to discuss personal choices.

If you’re going to step out from under the umbrella (or jackboot) of authorised moral thinking, you’re going to be going out on a limb. If you’re dealing social and personal management issues you’re half way out there already. It’s a big responsibility getting your head around a way to understand the Universe. That might be why the myth of the long, dark night seems to continuous in human experience. From the Mithraic last supper, death and resurrection, to the christian version of same, to Odin hanging on the world tree for nine days seeking wisdom… Doing the psycho-spiritual crisis and reinvention is clearly no novelty for the human animal.

And I’m going to use that to segue clumsily into a reference to my current reading on Saxon (not Anglo-Saxon) history and spirituality, and the contemporary Heathen reconstructions of Norse and Saxon spiritualities. Because Odin is cool ;-) (Heh, for me. For the moment.(Spot the theology student!))

Where all this goes, who knows? It’s keeping my head above water. I do actually feel like there are some constructive changes going on somewhere in there. Stay tuned for the next rant… :D