Archive for April 30th, 2014

This is yet more thoughts on meshing Heathenry and the principles of Gnosticism. The first, explanatory post is here – read that one first, and then some of my further thoughts here.

sansaromanoff asked me about my impressions of the Old Man and the Father of the Wolf in this context, and I think the important thing to state is that I’m a hard polytheist here. The gods and spirits and other wights aren’t archetypes, or simple personifications of natural forces. Nor are they metaphors – they are beings in and of themselves, just as we are.

The reason I’m stating this right at the beginning is so no offence is created when say, I point out that much of the lore we have regarding the gods is folk-lore and poetry which, while recountings of the gods, ancestors and heroes and their deeds, is composed for humans, by humans. The depiction of sacred reality is not without its political and social agendas. In fact, a distinction should be made that everything I write from here on is not to be regarded as the Truth. Words and language are only methods of transportation and conveyance, tools for changing awareness and transmitting ideas.

(“Make your lies into truth, and your truth into lies.” This I was once told, and it is that what I do.)

Some of you may have read an answer I gave about Odin, a while ago. The whole thing is here, but I’d like to reproduce a section of it:

The Old Man aint like us. That’s the first thing to bear in mind. We’re talking about, even on the simplest level, a god who ripped out his own eye for a chance to drink from Mimir’s well. We’re talking about a god who stabbed himself with a spear, and then while wounded and bleeding, hung himself from a tree for nine whole nights, with no bread, no water, no nothing. Just his pain and the intention that it be made holy – that everything he was be given as a sacrifice, so he could become Something More.

This is a god who will raise up a hero, so that they may lead armies and have  songs sung about them forever, and then turn the tide of battle against them so they are violently slain,and gathered up by the Valkyria.

This is a god who will throw a spear over a battle to make it his own, so that the battle itself is his to manipulate, regardless of what side wins. This is a god who, with a sly wink and tip of his broad-brimmed hat will go about the worlds, proudly bearing the name Bolverk – Worker of Evil. A god who will, according to lore, be willing to commit genocide and murder in order to create the worlds we now inhabit.

Yet for all that, this is a god who is a healer, who sought knowledge so that he might manipulate the inevitable end of existence into a better form for all of us. This is a god who is fiercely kind, who wears ten thousand faces and forms – who gives the gifts of inspiration to poets and artists. This is a god who sees the potential in the worst of times, the wonder in the darkness and the beauty in the most horrific of situations.

If anything, this is a god who embraces non-duality. This is a god who leads us into darkness so that we may see the relentless, restless nature of creativity – who teaches us that all materials can be used for the furtherance of who we Really Are.

Remember, this is a god who is very old, and very much a giant in some senses – unflinching and uncompromising in the expression of his Being.

[…]

This is the Master of Fury we’re talking about here. Woðanaz. The one who gave breath to humankind. Lord of Inspiration. This is the one who pulls back the curtain, and reveals to us that change is the only constant in the whole kosmos – and that it is literally impossible to remain static. This is the god who shows us that everything – literally everything – is interconnected, that everything affects everything else.

This is Oski – the fulfiller of wishes. This is One Eye, Weak-eye – he who nonetheless sees more than any except Frigga. A disabled god who binds himself, wounds himself and starves himself.  He accumulates his weakness to its most terrible extent and yet emerges triumphant. This is the Deceiver, the Masked God. The one who tells the Truth even as he spins lies.and tells tales.

He bears all these names, you see. For a moment, take yourselves out of the lore context which Snorri laid down. See these names, and understand the fact that each one is an expression of the same being.

Can you feel the hunger, the way it catches your breath? The way there is an excitement there, of the kind you might feel as you crawl to the edge of a cliff and look down into a vast abyss?  The way a grin shoulders its way up from your heart to tug your lips into a fierce smile of Hell. Fucking. Yeah!

And more than that, for you cannot tell me that you have forgotten the joy in that moment when you finally understood something, or the suddden realisation that one thing leads to another and another?

Not just a simple adrenalin shot, is it? No, that sense of wonder, of sudden limitless possibility, of witnessing just how much variety of experience spreads out before you. How far it takes you from what you thought the world was…

Myth tells us that it was Odin and his brothers who slew Ymir. Who carved the worlds from the bones and flesh of that great jotun. But even before the Father of All did that, let’s consider his father and grandfather. Because here is where things become interesting – for Buri emerged from the ice, freed or shaped by Audhumla’s tongue as she licked the salt.

From whence did he come, this man of ice, emerging from the primordial ice. For all can know that there was only Fire & Ice at the beginning, yes? Just as all know that the lore is written to suggest that another world shall arise from Ragnarok. And whether that beChristian interpolation or not is irrelevant – it matches the cyclical structure, does it not – the cycles of ages spoken of by the Hindus?

For there’s jotun-blood in Odin’s veins, and something more. Something alien to the body and blood that waxed and spawned and died in Ginunngagap, and was rendered into worlds.So buried there in the ice, was perhaps a kind of primordial intelligence, which passed along and down the ancestry.

And as we’ve already suggested, perhaps the blood with all its salt andd womb associations, is yet another vehicle of Soul? The jotuns were all but wiped out in the surging roiling ocean of Ymir’s blood, were they not? The tale says only a pair survived, to spawn the jotuns anew.

All this is mythic language, a drama to evoke certain thoughts – and it’s these thoughts which we may view from a Gnostic perspective. After all, for all his foresight, why should the Allfather choose to mingle blood and soul with Laufey’s son? For despite some folks insisting that he is the Old Norse version of Satan, let us consider that it is he who obtains weapons and treasures  for the gods. That he provides the distraction which aids the reconstruction of Asgard after the Aesir/Vanir war – which its heavily implied that Odin kicked off. Loki is the Mother of Sleipnir, best of all horses – and you wouldn’t give that kind of gift lightly. It is Loki who travels with Thor to retrieve his hammer, amongst other journeyings they have.

In classical Gnosticism, Sophia (wisdom) is the one who falls into ‘creation’. Even when she is ‘rescued’, her divine nature has been passed on to humans by the unwitting demiurge. She is, in a very real sense, the mother of the gnostic spark which remains in all things, waiting to be awakened.

Could this be related to the concept of the anima mundi,or World-Soul?

This has quite a few implications, not least when one considers the fact that the mead of poetry is watched over by a giant-maid who dwells inside a mountain. It is she who Odin woos – and rather than assuming her a passive participant, one  might look at her name which is anglicised as Gunnlod – roughly translating as ‘war-foam’.

The notion of the lady within a mountain or under the earth exists in many forms, and nor is it limited to a male protagonist. If we examine the concept of the dwarfs in Norse myth, we find that they are described as maggots which existed in Ymir’s corpse.

It’s clear that they inhabited the deeper parts of the earth, and it is to them that Loki goes to obtain the gods’ weapons. Yet it is also said that the goddess Freyja won the Brisingamen by spending the night with several dwarfs. Further it’s suggested that Odin learnt the ways of Seidr from Freyja. Traditionally, seidr was held to be womanly magic, unsuitable for proper men – a fact that Loki brings up in reference to Odin during his bitter flyting written of in the Lokasenna:

  Loki spake:
24. “They say that with spells | in Samsey once
Like witches with charms didst thou work;
And in witch’s guise | among men didst thou go;
Unmanly thy soul must seem.”

But what brings on this? A similar accusation levelled at Loki in the previous verse:

Othin spake:
23. “Though I gave to him | who deserved not the gift,
To the baser, the battle’s prize;
Winters eight | wast thou under the earth,
Milking the cows as a maid,
(Ay, and babes didst thou bear;
Unmanly thy soul must seem.)”

Both blood-brothers, it seems, are not beyond transgressing social gender boundaries for specific purposes. For the Jungians, one could argue that the uniting of anima and animus is obvious here, but it goes deeper than mere symbolism.

If the motif of being under or within the earth is important, then we quite clearly are presented with Heraclitus’ words again “The path up, is the path down”. Could this hold a hint – that a coming-together with the chthonic and worldly, perhaps even the Other/Underworldly is vital in obtaning Gnosis?

Is it perhaps something like katabasis  a descent into the world beyond the world one usually inhabits? Considering the story of the meed of poetry, Odin’ entrance into the mountain by means of turning himself into a serpent, and subsequent escape from Gunnlod’s enraged father as an eagle seem to illustrate a classic initiation.

One only has to look at the medieval romance built up around Tanhauser, who comes across the goddess Venus in a mountain bower filled with faerie courtiers and or/souls of the dead, to realise that such themes provide potential keys to gnosis, despite distances in time. Even the general legends around the Venusberg mountain provide a wealth of materials. Check out my esteemed colleague theheadlesshashasheen‘s post entitled Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to the Venusberg we go for more info there

For this reason, those of us with a Gnostic perspective might do well to pay attention to the particulars of the myth of Ragnarok. Many blame Loki for this, citing the apparent murder of Baldr, the birthing of monstrous children on Angrboda, and many other episodes of shit-stirring.

Leaving aside questions of origin, the fact remains that Ragnarok is the point at which the maintanence functions of the norse cosmology begin to fall over. However, it’s my contention and experience that it should be viewed with the awareeness that the Norse knew everything ended. Mortality was going to happen. Things change. That’s the fury of Being. Without the siring of the children on Angrboda, there would be no Jormungandr to mark the boundaries of the ocean, no Helja to care for fallen Baldr, allowing him to remerge unscathed.

There would be no reset. No new beginning.

(April 13 2010: The water pours down as I close my eyes in the shower. Amidst the roar of the shower, there’s the sly smile and the shaking of someone deep within the earth. Something twitches and scarred lips touch my ear: “We begin worlds, and we end them.

Ravens call, a wolf pads over earth. Eyes open.

In the corner someone stands, a familiar dark shape with broad-brim hat. It nods at someone  who must be standing next to me. I know there’s no-one there, but you try telling these two that.

A singular gaze, then, from the corner. Another voice, just as familliar, speaking without words:

“Beginnings and Endings. Endings and Beginnings. All the same. We make worlds. And we break them.”)

On April 14 2010 Eyjafjallajökull erupted, bringing chaos to air travel in Europe.

This then, is why we call Gnosis a disruptive thing. It can destroy your old world. Suddenly the boundaries and restrictions placed upon us by archontic forces are broken apart – the structures which enable discrete piecemal experience of existence are blown apart when the beacon of the soul begins to burn, when the deeply buried and bound powers elect to stretch out and break the chains that kept them bound. Except of course, they were never really bound to begin with.

Some call Loki Worldbreaker, and feel the rage of of a bound god’s suffering. Some call Odin the God of Battle. The Wanderer. The Fetterer. The Loosener

The Gnostic in me sees a pair of cunning escape artists, more than willing to teach you their tricks. Your mileage, may of course vary.

NOTE: This was originally written on my Tumblr as a response to a question on there. As such the html may come out funny, but this is here for larger linkage and archiving

First of all, hello to my new followers. I hope you find this Tumblr vaguely interesting. Second of all, thanks for such a positive response to the original Heathen Gnosis Explanation post – I was actually expecting  a bunch of ‘you’re not a real Heathen’ comments, to which I would have responded by grinning, and mostly ignoring them. Instead it seems to have gone down rather well for something that was actually finished at 4am!

Since it seems to have reasonated on some level with lots more folks than I thought it would, I thought’d I’d unpack things a little more, as I see them. This is mostly because I’m aware the original post was pretty dense, as well as being rather long.

One thing that always seems to provoke response is the idea of transcendence – of moving beyond the world and its suffering rather than continuing to toil under the yoke of those forces that would limit and oppress us.

In the language of gnosticism, we might call them Archontic forces – Archon, meaning ruler and being a component of all those words end in -archy. Now that’s not to say that they are ‘evil’ per se – more that these forces are the regulatory tendencies, bodies, entities which maintain the status quo.

The kind of gnosis of which I’m speaking is always defined by those outside of it as ‘against’ the status quo. However, the problem with such an adversarial and dualist description is that it holds the status quo to be the default, when in fact, as Heraclitus points out: Dike eris – Strife is Justice. That’s to say that the regulatory functions which seem unchanging are in fact being constantly maintained – there are constant tweaks being made to ‘smooth out’ the raw flux of existence.

(In short, the Wodhanic fury is subsumed into functions of kingship – the furious inspiration and ecstasy is tamed and made societally acceptable. Wodhanaz becomes Odin the Monarch, head of an artificially enforced pantheon – which itself is a Greek word. But that’s another post.)

So, gnosis as I’m speaking of it is the knowing-of-that-flux, both as experience of and being-part-of-it. As part of that Beingness, the transcendence brought about by gnosis is not a beyondness. In fact it is within the flux. One does not seek to flee the kosmos, but to strip away the false filters and categories which have been laid upon it by Spirit.

For example, I suffer clinical depression, as do several family members. I have been suicidal, rendered breathless by the crushing weight of existence.The pain has been so great that I considered suicide as a way out. When one is depressed, it is extremely hard to ever contemplate another state of being. The horror of it seems to stretch endlessly in all directions.

Yet if we consider existence as flux – that even our bodies rely on homeostasis – then we begin to recognise minute changes in what we are experiencing. Our mental state does shift, however by default we attempt to self regulate so that it seems constant – a complete continuum. This does not blame the sufferer, rather we are saying Spirit would wish us to believe in the two distinct states of Depressed and Not-Depressed.

Soul, on the other hand reminds us that experience is like the ocean – it may seem flat when viewed from above, but it is composed of a multitude of tides, currents, peaks and troughs. This itself can seem terrifying – that there are movements and shifts in experience which we cannot control. We fear these changes may ripple outwards, growing in intensity, until we ourselves are lost.

And yet, have we not said that  Soul is composed of myriad interconnected beings – are we not surrounded by our ancestors? Do they no live in us,and are we not unique expressions of what they have  left behind, combined and born in this place and time?

So gnosis is therefore a deliberate knowing-of-what-is.It’s fundamentally pragmatic, concrete instead of abstract. Gnosis concerns only the Now, which, like a mustard seed, is capable of expanding to unfurl something vast. Something that does not correspond to usual notions of time and space, with clock-time and minutes and seconds.

Instead,we speak of a way of existence in which the past, present and future are in fact all one fabric.If the Old Man is the gifter of Soul and breath, then study of that breath , it’s cyclic motions of inhalations and exhalations, provides us with a way of understanding. By deliberately following the cycle of the breath and being mindfully focused on only what-is-happening-Now we begin to understand something. We need not worry about doing things correctly, or concern ourselves with any past present or future.

All we need do is breathe.

No doubt other things will occur to us, perhaps we may find our attention drifting, or experiencing sensations we were not a moment ago. And that is fine, because we have been breathing throughout all our experiences, and indeed will continue to do so without trying.

So we return our attention to the breath, recognising that it is a manifestaion of Soul, and in breathing, so we immerse ourself in Soul, curiously seeking gnosis with no expectation, only observing what is.

And in doing so, we will often reconsidering and revaluating what we thought we knew, as the knowledge of the head becomes suffused with Soul and transmuted into the gnosis, and the knowledge of the heart. It is a deep and wide understanding, into which we descend – for as Heraclitus says “The way up is the way down.”

For this reason, we pass through suffering, rather than seeking to avoid it. Suddenly, the transcendence is achieved through the world – the escape comes not as flight, but as a prisoner learing the secret which enables them to pass through the walls of their prison.

The principle of weakness applies here – we are taught that strength is to be extolled, that the best thing is to become the top dog, the greatest individual. To our Heathen forebears, none was individual. Even Beowulf was always referred to as the son of Ecgtheow. The interlinking of people, both in terms of friendship, but also in terms of kinship and ancestry means that the idea of self-reliance was fundamentlly different. It is impossible then, to achieve anything without relation to talents and proclivities  which, while we may have refined them, come from outside ourselves, either from help and learning, or from things received in response to heredity.

The notion of meginn/maegn is cognate to ‘may’ and ‘might’ So from a certain perspective we may (pun intended) say that the gnostic is one who is, much like the pneumatics, immersed in the Soul, taking their strength and ability from that interconnected, primordial and timeless Now whichis composed of myriad of forms, beings and ways. For the Soul is not and cannot be monolithic. By definition it too is like an ocean, filled with many things.

Therefore, one who has obtained the gnosis we are speaking of is never alone – but in order to do so they must give up, or sacrifice previous and standard ‘modern’ ideas of selfhood.

(And the next post is probably going to be about Odin a Loki specifically in this gnostic context, just fyi.)