Not all sick men are utterly wretched:
Some are blessed with sons,
Some with friends,
some with riches,
Some with worthy works.

The halt can manage a horse,
the handless a flock,
The deaf be a doughty fighter,
To be blind is better than to burn on a pyre:
There is nothing the dead can do.

It is always better to be alive,
The living can keep a cow.
Fire, I saw, warming a wealthy man,
With a cold corpse at his door.

A son is a blessing, though born late
To a father no longer alive:
Stones would seldom stand by the highway
If sons did not set them there.

He welcomes the night who has enough provisions
Short are the sails of a ship,
Dangerous the dark in autumn,
The wind may veer within five days,
And many times in a month.

The half wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
One is rich, one is poor
There is no blame in that.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead

Fields and flocks had Fitjung\’s sons,
Who now carry begging bowls:
Wealth may vanish in the wink of an eye,
Gold is the falsest of friends.

In the fool who acquires cattle and lands,
Or wins a woman\’s love,
His wisdom wanes with his waxing pride,
He sinks from sense to conceit. – Havamal, Auden & Taylor trans.

The Havamal is not holy writ. It is not some decalogue, some list of commands. It is a poem, and must be remembered as that which would be spoken in the halls of Iceland.

Yet, as a poem, we have to understand; these words were recited to the audience by the skald, as the words of the High One, the wisest god of all. Imagine then, if you will, these words spoken in a room lit by flame, occluded by smoke, filled with the press of bodies. These words are spoken, not in a revelatory context, but rather, in a realm of cultural knowledge.

Even if it never happened that way, even if the details are wrong, recall that these words, these concepts were not spoken in isolation, but as the product of, and part of, a living breathing culture.

Imagine then, the rise and fall of the skald’s voice, the poet’s rhythm; see the heads nod – the wordless agreement, the murmur of yes, this is known. This is how it is. Through the words, the metre of the poetry, with all their kennings and allusions, truths are revealed. Deeds are highlighted, connections are recognised, made and reconfigured.

Laws are spoken in similar ways, in this place of combined Thought and Memory we inhabit now – customs enshrined by being spoken in the holy places of the Thing. Words follow words, becoming deeds which follow after each other . Laid down like threads, woven together. For if memory serves, and it always must, lest so much be forgotten – even Odin fears loss of Muninn – we find ourselves confronted by the sheer humanity of our ancestors.

Have we not all been in that place, experienced a heart’s knowing, a gut-certainty which seems to possess, in that moment, so much more potency and depth than an intellectual knowing?

Have we not known something in our bones, felt it in our water, a primal understanding which can be communicated with a glance, with a nod; a knowing which passes between people, between folk who live in each other’s world?

Understand then, what I am saying to you, although it will be long, is not a thing of intellect. It is a thing of humanity, of shared bone and blood. Of survival and compassion in a world that shows itself as not some heaven, but instead as a forest in which there is much to nourish and strengthen us, but also much that which might disrupt our existence and perhaps even make things appear hostile.

Understand then, that when I speak of liberation, I do not speak of freedom in the absolute, but within the context of room-to-move, a territory in which we are allowed to pursue our individual Beingness.

When I speak of sovereignty, I do not speak of the tyrant; instead I speak of the proto-monarch. I speak of the one who has-the-knowing-of-how-to-Be-and-is-constantly-doing-so. The One who recognises and remembers that they are merely First-Amongst-Equals. I speak of the person who knows that a gift demands a gift.

And we all have gifts – the poem says that, does it not? The crippled, the sick, the deaf – are not these mentioned above? Were they not uttered, these words in that old hall, full of smoke and shine and laughter.

Were there not nodding heads? Yes, it is  known. Yes, so it is.

Known, aye

Known by virtue of a gift of an eye. Known by a gift of pain, of blood and stolen breath, upon a windy tree. Known by nine nights of hunger and sacrifice upon the gallows. For the old meaning of ‘victim’ was sacrifice:

victim (n.) late 15c., \”living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power,\” from Latin victima \”person or animal killed as a sacrifice.\” Perhaps distantly connected to Old English wig \”idol,\” Gothic weihs \”holy,\” German weihen \”consecrate\” (compare Weihnachten \”Christmas\”) on notion of \”a consecrated animal.\” Sense of \”person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another\” is recorded from 1650s; meaning \”person oppressed by some power or situation\” is from 1718. Weaker sense of \”person taken advantage of\” is recorded from 1781.  

A holy embodied creature; a functional participant in the numinous world of the Powers. A necessary bridging of the gap between thought and action. A thing of blood, breath and bone, of meat and chemicals and electric lightning crackling down nerves.

There is a form of theological engagement within certain streams of Roman Catholicism known as Liberation Theology. In this theology, it is held that the revelation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was for the benefit of all; that the suffering of that god was undertaken to liberate all mankind from suffering. For those who follow this theological stream, it follows that to be Christian is to follow as that god would, to do all that they can to liberate others from forms of oppression, social injustice and inequality. Furthermore, it suggests that those who suffer and are oppressed are, in some sense directly connected to that sacrificial act, that the death of that god was even more for those who suffer and are oppressed in every day life.

A gift  demands a gift. This is known.

As Heathens, we are aware of the threads of wyrd which bind us together. Yet Ygg, the Terrible One, did not sacrifice himself to another higher power. Instead, the hanged god sacrificed himself to Himself. There is none higher – he is High, Just as High and Third, as Gangleri found. He is Fetterer and Loosener.

That sacrifice, that willing  participation in the numinous flows of power and experience, even unto death and beyond, revealed the runes to Odin; gave the master of fury, the  roaring shrieker, the knowing of the secrets; the doors of which are found in sound and glyph, in the heart of language and song itself.

And it was not, unlike Christ, a gift for all. Not in the sense of intercession or redemption. The Gallows God hanged himself, for himself, not for mankind. He doubled down on his Being, tripled down even – hanged, wounded and starving.

Thrice on Thrice. for nights all Nine. This is known.


Yet, for all that, we benefit from that wisdom. We benefit from the wisdom learnt through that suffering, that most terrible ordeal. We benefit from his blinding, from his wounding, from his starving, from his thirst. We benefit from his pain, from his agony.

For without that wisdom he would not be the Being that he is. Would not be the beloved of Frigg, the student of Freyja, the blood-brother to Loki, the stealer of the mead of poetry, the witch-dancer, the eagle-headed raven-black shaman, the wandering wizard wrapped in corpse-blue whispering to his child on the pyre, protected from the coming storm by Hel’s hollow hall..

Would not be the High One who seizes the poet, and stirs the cauldron to bring the intoxication of inspiration so that the words of the High One might be written, that even this piece itself might be written nearly nine centuries later.

Would not be the Father of Victory, who sends the spear to claim all all sides in the battle as his own. For those words make clear a truth – all that will endure is the memory, the glory of the great dead.

All that will endure is the poetry and song; these meadhall moments, these rites and acts of numinous power which cast us, even now, into the closest proximity with our ancestors; into the heart knowing, the blood-gnosis of our ancestry, our history and songs.

Word followed word. Deed followed deed, from me.  This is known.

A gift demands a gift – the reciprocity is clear, for unlike the Christian tales, wherein god gave humankind the earth by divine right, we know as Heathens that our world, that fragile bounded space, that age of man with all its comforts, extends only as far as the firelight.

There are giants and monsters and trolls, thurses that make the earth shake and the sea roar, sickness and death; events which may descend and change us irrevocably. We have gods with missing eyes and hands, gods with stitched-up lips and mothers who mourn for dead sons. We know the ice can be treacherous, and that storms and cold can kill even the mightiest.

We have the stories and the tales, from times before the electric light and the certainties we certainly take for granted. We have the tales of great deeds when kings fared forth to answer ties of kinship, who entered barrows to slay monsters that would threaten their people.

We have the songs of great and terrible battles, where folk were hewn down to lie forgotten in the dust of some foreign fields, while their sons haul aloft a stone to mark their memory.

We understand then, the ties that bind; ties of blood, but more than that, ties of oath, to the mighty folk who gathered others to them. We comprehend how travellers from distant lands might settle in new soil and become as its true-born sons by weaving their wyrd with its wights.

This is known.

Or at least, it should be.

For such a knowing is very old. The knowing that the gods have arranged things so that we might thrive. That through our cleaving to these powers, we have established, by act, and oath, by piety and pact, a relationship with these powers, these wights, these gods. These Beings, whom when we encounter them, are understood by the knowing of their sheer, undeniable Presence.

And this then, is where we conceive, not of an Almighty, but a multitude of powers; the kosmos is revealed to be alive, pandaemonic, brimming over with vitality. With this knowing comes an understanding of the reasoning behind rta, maat, Puruṣārtha  – even order itself:

order (n.) early 13c., \”body of persons living under a religious discipline,\” from Old French ordre \”position, estate; rule, regulation; religious order\” (11c.), from earlier ordene, from Latin ordinem (nominative ordo) \”row, rank, series, arrangement,\” originally \”a row of threads in a loom,\” from Italic root *ord- \”to arrange, arrangement\” (source of ordiri \”to begin to weave;\” compare primordial), of unknown origin.

This weave, this tapestry, this structure, is a product of artifice. It takes work to achieve, activity and process. It does not merely happen, but just like the human body, requires constant adjustment in order to maintain the appearance of stability.

There is that which must be done, that which must be performed, in order to ensure survival. This then, is  the eternal work of the gods; even and especially their death, for only by that most terminal of functions of existence, can a new world be born. The cyclic, spiralling paths of existence, their labyrinthine twists and turns, must be explored, no matter their extremity.

This is the essence of survival, which our ancestors knew; a doomed battle which both mankind and gods must face, for death claims us all. Only Memory remains.

This is known.

The war then, is not a war. The struggle is one of survival, framed by the understanding that victory is impossible, that it is only achievable by the impossible; by the willing participation in a numinous lived experience which transcends ordinary notions of time and space.

It is in fact, a rescue mission – the gods reach out to us, we who have forgotten the proper ways and uses of Memory, we who are obsessed with real and unreal. We who crave results, and things,  who are told we are merely interchangeable, identical cogs in the machinery of existence, rejected and derided if we raise up our faces and ask: Is this all there is?

We, who in this reductionist, logocentric universe seemingly ruled by an absent or long dead Absolute, have nevertheless been drawn to the memory our many and varied gods, to here and now and the knowing which goes beyond the rational, beyond the intellectual.

Despite every dismissal, ever derisive smile, we do not believe – we know that we are experiencing something. Something that draws us to apparently long-dead tales and half forgotten gods; something that rises up from deep within our bones, whether we be gay, straight, queer, bi, trans, white, black, brown, indigenous, non-indigenous, healthy as horses, old or young, crippled or chronically ill…

On and on, so it goes, this rescue; this extraction from prison. For some it may be swift, others years in the making; For survival lies beneath it all, a primal recognition that we cannot survive alone – that we are better, as people, together, because safety is an illusion, and we are all a hair’s breadth away from suffering. That we are all part of an inextricably linked whole.


“Young and alone on a long road,
Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man,

A kind word need not cost much,
The price of praise can be cheap:
With half a loaf and an empty cup
I found myself a friend,”

The world is wild; the veneer of civilisation thin – and those with eyes to see can spot the primal forest, even amidst the streetlight and concrete. Earth is a giant, and our youthful adolescent arrogance will soon be crushed; by storm, fire and flood, by melting ice-caps and burning droughts. We shall have to pay attention to our ancestors and their ways sooner than we should like to think.

And even then:

Down we shall go, all of us, into the place of dissolution; into old age and pain and suffering – these are the doors to death. And those who suffer and are oppressed, who are hated and enslaved by the machinery that would squeeze out our very blood, our very blood, for counterfeit gold?

Are we not confronted with the necessities of existence? The recognition that this world which has been built, this so-called civilisation has no place for us save as interchangeable blind parts? As slaves? Cast aside, reviled when we can no longer serve, or when we disrupt the precious ‘norm’?

Do we not feel pain, do we not feel wounds of the soul, the mind, as the failed attempts at cutting us into ‘proper’ shape ache and twist us up with scar tissue?

Do we not  feel hunger and thirst, like all human beings, like the god hanging on that Tree?

And does not that ache grow more powerful, that agony swell as our blood quickens? As the pulse beats out its drum-beat, does not the agony of our own negative capability drive us to bite back a shriek?

Do we not struggle against our bonds, to little avail; feel them bite deep, and deeper still as the blood-flow surges? Our pain, our suffering, our restriction, our terrible knowing of how-things-are; yet with no excuses; we must survive, we must live, eat, drink, take shelter on this the Longest Road.

There is no escape. This is known.

The half wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
One is rich, one is poor
There is no blame in that.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead.”

And so, those who suffer, who are with little comfort; there is no blame there, for us. No censure. It is what it is. This is known.

Has been known, for centuries, perhaps even thousands or millions of years. It is we, who have forgotten. We who, all unthinking, have lost our memory of what it is to be human.

But Memory has not lost us. The hall remains, all bright-darkness, smoke and mead; there is shining gold there, lit by the light of the blood pulse, the sheer biological necessity of existence.

Within us, within all phenomena, lies that gold which makes us not apes, but more human than human.

Here then, in a world suffused with the monolithic, the monocultural which seeks to co-opt and reduce diversity, we are confronted by the empty eye of Odin; the blazing monocular intensity of hollow bone and endless death’s head smile.

Vision reduced – an expression of the implacable esoteric wisdom, so One Eye takes the singular narrative, the binding noose which throttles the Life from existence , and bears down upon it with terrible fury and endless gravity.

Under that unblinking gaze, all is shattered and broken, all is ruptured and set free. The feral, primal understanding at the heart of humanity leaps to meet us, to rescue us at the fundamental level.

And in being rescued, we recognise the Other in ourselves; the countless multitude of ancestors who gather about us and others, who guide our arms and words. It is we then, who filled with the most primordial impulse, with Memory singing its golden mead-songs in our veins, become the stranger on the Long Road who offers the lost one  half a loaf and the drink they need to carry on on their journey.

This is the ancient duty of hospitality writ large.

hospitality (n.) late 14c., \”act of being hospitable,\” from Old French hospitalité, from Latin hospitalitem (nominative hospitalitas) \”friendliness to guests,\” from hospes (genitive hospitis) \”guest\” (see host (n.1)).

host (n.1) \”person who receives guests,\” late 13c., from Old French hoste \”guest, host, hostess, landlord\” (12c., Modern French hôte), from Latin hospitem (nominative hospes) \”guest, host,\” literally \”lord of strangers,\” from PIE *ghostis- \”stranger\” (cognates: Old Church Slavonic gosti \”guest, friend,\” gospodi \”lord, master;\” see guest). The biological sense of \”animal or plant having a parasite\” is from 1857.

Only by this primordial attitude of fierce kindness do we become human, do we allow ourselves to become sovereign, do we become re-connected to our humanity throughout space and time.

Only by allowing ourselves to receive the kosmic Stranger, do we  find ourselves once more amongst the familiar, do we find ourselves part of a community which works together for the benefit of all.

And as our ancestors knew, the leader gains strength from those who pledge themselves to them, such an interwoven web of pledge and loyalty that it brings benefit to all. The sovereign’s duty is to their land and people.

So too, with the  one who has-the-knowing-of-how-to-Be-and-is-constantly-doing-so. For while gnosis is the knowing, that same knowing radiates outward, for it changes its receiver irrevocably.

For the Wanderer, the Waytamer is the Lord of Strangers. The Strangest of the Strange. The Queerest of the Queer. Yes indeed, the most Ergi of the Ergi.

He who receives all comers, no matter which side you were on. And so it is with his teacher in the mysteries of seidr; the Lady who knows no boundary, who is Free as Free Can Be. For it’s she who gets first-pick of the battle fallen, or did you forget?

This is known.

rescue (v.) c. 1300, from stem of Old French rescorre \”protect, keep safe; free, deliver\” (Modern French recourre), from re-, intensive prefix (see re-), + escourre \”to cast off, discharge,\” from Latin excutere \”to shake off, drive away,\” from ex- \”out\” (see ex-) + -cutere, combining form of quatere \”to shake\” (see quash). Related: Rescued; rescuing.

The mead ferments; the cauldron bubbles, full of blood and and honey. The blood seethes in your veins and arteries. Embrace the fury. Shake off your chains and aid your brothers and sisters in shaking theirs.

Their’s work to do, remember?

Our sentence is up.

This is known. Would you know more, or what?