You can definitely see the smoke in the air this morning. It’s partly cloudy with the rising fog at 200 feet, but the light is reddish, reflecting on the Bay in a metallic pink. We’ve gone from an AQI of 7 to 11 to 15 in just a couple of days from the smoke of the Canadian fires. Up to 50 is ok, but that’s quite a change from our usual. 55F, wind at 3mph and no rain in the forecast.
Yesterday was more than way busy for a Sunday. We did have a lot of shoppers in, but Tempus and I had to keep taking turns with who was out front. I did class. It went well and we’re quite a ways into lesson 4. Then Tempus was doing various chores around the shop while I worked with people. Then I got a nap and he watched the front. Then he got a nap…. you get the idea.
The D&D folks came in the late afternoon and had a good game. Tempus got the crabapples scrubbed. Our last customer came in right before 9pm, but we didn’t get home until midnight.
Today we have a *lot* to do. Tempus has errands to run to storage, the pharmacy and other places. He needs to get the plants that I re-potted the other day shifted so that I can do the rest and get the crabapples cooked. I’m hoping that at some point I can do a little more writing and I’m going to have do a couple of small orders for the faster-moving things in the shop, like mood rings!
A photo for today from 8/6/16 by Ken Gagne of an Osprey in Yachats Bay. Isn’t that an incredible shot?
Today’s Feast is Obon, the Japanese festival of the Ancestors. It is a time of family reunion. Graves of ancestors are cleaned and offerings given, family altars with ancestor tablets are set up, and there is a lot of dancing, which sounds like trance dance from the descriptions. All of this comes from a Buddhist custom, meant to alleviate suffering of those who have already passed from this world. Different areas of Japan have different dances and different times to celebrate, plus there are several ways of dating, one from the modern calendar, and one from the lunar, and then local ways. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obon and on the one in Gion here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guj%C5%8D,_Gifu#Guj.C5.8D_Odori
Today’s plant is Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. It is naturalized in the PNW, being native to Europe, not the Americas. Digitalis was one of the first heart medications and was extracted from the plant and then synthesized. The plant is poisonous, not just because of this (too much causes irregular heartbeat), but some other chemicals. Also known as Lady’s Glove, Witches’ Gloves, Fairy Fingers, or Dead Men’s Bells. – Feminine, Venus, Water – A Druid sacred herb associated with the “little people”. Lust, protection, decision, grow in a garden for protection of house and yard, reveals insincerity. Flower meaning – a wish, “I am not ambitious for myself but for you”.
The shop opens at 11am. Summer hours are 11am-7pm Thursday through Monday. Need something off hours? Give us a call at 541-563-7154 or Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org If we’re supposed to be closed, but it looks like we’re there, try the door. If it’s open, the shop’s open! In case of bad weather, check here at the blog for updates, on our Facebook as Ancient Light, or call the shop.
Love & Light,
Today’s Astro & Calendar
Waxing Moon Magick – The waxing moon is for constructive magick, such as love, wealth, success, courage, friendship, luck or healthy, protection, divination. Any working that needs extra power, such as help finding a new job or healings for serious conditions, can be done now. Also, love, knowledge, legal undertakings, money and dreams. Phase ends at the Tide Change on 8/26 at 4:56am. Diana’s Bow – On the 3rd day after the new moon you can (weather permitting) see the tiny crescent in the sky, the New Moon holding the Old Moon in her arms. Begin on your goals for the next month. A good time for job interviews or starting a project. Take a concrete step! God/dess aspect: Daughter/Son/Innocence – Associated God/dess: Vesta, Horus. Phase ends on 8/15 at 2:58pm.
The thin crescent Moon waxes through Virgo whenever it’s August. In twilight, spot the thin waxing crescent Moon very low in the west. Venus shines about a fist-width at arm’s length to its left, as shown here. High above them shines Arcturus >>>> (out of the frame).
Assuming you watch the Perseid show this morning, don’t pack up when twilight starts to paint the sky. About 45 minutes before the Sun comes up, look for a bright object hovering just above the horizon in the east-southeast. This is the night sky’s brightest star, magnitude –1.5, Sirius in the constellation Canis Major. From mid-northern latitudes, the luminary climbs some 4° high a half-hour before sunrise and should stand out if you have a clear and unobstructed horizon. The return of Sirius to the predawn sky was an occasion for celebration in ancient Egypt. Around 3000 B.C., this so-called heliacal rising of Sirius heralded the coming flood of the Nile River, an event upon which agriculture — and all life in Egypt — depended.
While the brightest star hangs low in the east before dawn, the brightest planet lurks low in the west after sunset. Venus dazzles at magnitude –4.4, nearly 15 times brighter than Sirius. Pay particular attention to Venus this evening, when a 10-percent-lit crescent Moon appears 10° to its right.
Mercury is hidden in the glow of sunrise.
Old Farmer’s Almanac Sky Map for August 2018 – https://www.almanac.com/content/sky-map-star-chart-august-2018
Goddess Month of Hesperus runs from 8/9 – 9/5
Celtic Tree Month of Coll/Hazel, Aug 5 – Sep 1, Coll
Runic half-month of Ansuz/ As /Os/, 8-13-8/29 – This time is sacred to the god/desses of Asgard and contains the time of the Ordeal of Odin and the festival of the Runes. This time is also referring to Yggdrasil, the Tree that give order to the Worlds. This is a time of stability and divine order visible in the world.
©2018 M. Bartlett, Some parts separately copyright
Celtic Tree Month of Coll/Hazel, Aug 5 – Sep 1, Coll (CULL), hazel – The hazel (Corylus avellana L) is the source of hazelnuts. It forms a shrub up to 6 m (20 feet) tall, inhabiting open woodlands and scrubs, hedgerows, and the edges of forests. The filbert nut in North American groceries is Corylus maxima, a related species. The European hazelnut is cultivated in North America, primarily as an ornamental. Hazelnuts are in the Birch family (Betulaceae).
Day High Tide Height Sunrise Moon Time % Moon
~ /Low Time Feet Sunset Visible
M 13 High 2:05 AM 8.5 6:17 AM Rise 9:00 AM 2
~ 13 Low 8:47 AM -1.5 8:24 PM Set 10:07 PM
~ 13 High 3:09 PM 7.6
~ 13 Low 9:04 PM 0.9
Affirmation/Thought for the Day – In seeking happiness for others, you find it for yourself.
~ Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. – Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913) British banker, politician, naturalist. British Wild Flowers
~ The Saint Patrick Irish Battalion (San Patricio Battalion) arrived with the invaders, but fought alongside the invaded. The Irish made theirs the fate, ill fate, of the Mexicans. Many died defending the Churubusco monastery without ammunition. The prisoners, their faces burned, swing to and fro on the gallows. – Eduardo Galeano, Faces and Masks; the Irish of the Battalion of San Patricio were executed in Mexico on September 13, 1848
~ Be not deceived by a nation that is at war with Mexico, for a friendlier and more hospitable people than the Mexicans there exists not on the face of the earth. – Capt. John Riley, leader of the Battalion of San Patricio, writing from prison in Mexico City
~ Most of us don’t know about happiness until it’s over. – Claudette Colbert (Lily Claudette Chauchoin), French-born Hollywood actress, born on September 13, 1903
All Nature helps to swell the song
And chant the same refrain;
July and June have slipped away
And August’s here again. –Helen Maria Winslow (1851–1938)
Heathen Ethics, Part 6: Taking it Back
The funny thing about how I write is that I frequently find new projects in the middle of work I’m still trying to finish. I imagine I’m not alone in this, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when I try to tackle something and find an excess of material hiding there. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling when I search for one thing and end up finding a dozen other things hiding in the darker recesses. It makes me feel like an explorer.
Let’s talk about the singularly, nearly uncontested linchpin of Norse Polytheistic ethics; “We Are Our Deeds”
I was researching where the phrase came from (I still don’t conclusively know) when I encountered an extremely acidic (though deservedly so) rundown of the phrase over at Adventures in Vanaheim. The post in question had a lot of fire, and the author of the work definitely has some poignant things to say on the matter. I’ve seen some of the same behaviors, and I regard them no more kindly than she does. The phrase can and does mean a variety of things, but one of the meanings that everyone agrees with is “actions speak louder than words. The problem is that people often use the philosophies involved to allow for a theological backdoor.
You see, this is where I get extremely amused/upset at some of the more conservative sides of Norse Polytheism. There are people who will absolutely malign anything perceived as Christian. They do it with no shortage of conviction or passion, either. Peace, hospitality to people outside your Innangard, any political policy that has the semblance of charity…all of it is cast quickly on to the bonfire as the relic of another faith. Than these same people will use “We Are Our Deeds” the way poorly acting Christians use “What Would Jesus Do”; as a means of using their religion as a weapon and a barrier
They see something they don’t appreciate, look for a way to spin such an action into a parallel of some faux pas, cherry pick a reference within their literature or lore that superficially validates their outrageous condemnation, and than feel theologically justified in acting like judgmental assholes. It’s absolutely flabbergasting.
As much as it would enjoyable to continue to comically compare WWJD to WAOD, That’s the low road. My wife has had a lot to say to me about my writing as of late; she’s been pointing out how angry and contentious Heathenry is within it’s own body, and that’s it sad state of affairs when a religion seems to exist simply because all the people involved get angry at the same things. How much do we talk about those we cannot stand, and how often do we embrace the things about Heathenry/Asatru/Norse Polytheism which we actually like? If reflection upon that doesn’t bother you, you may be part of the problem.
Another reason I’m not going there is, of all things, The Oatmeal. In his strip that focused on Columbus Day, he pointed out how easy it is to rip something apart…and how much more difficult and rewarding it is to find something worth holding up. As easy as it would be to simply tear into those who misappropriate “We Are Our Deeds” to justify their own petty intolerance, it’s more appropriate to try and turn the same phrase into something that has the meaning it truly deserves. It’s also probably a lot less hypocritical, while I’m thinking about it.
Which brings up to “We Are Our Deeds” itself. What does it say of me if the best thing I can do is just be a more tactful form of critical and brash? Criticism is needed, and it’s a powerful tool. There is, however, a very apt saying about what happens when all you have is a hammer….
First and foremost it’s not about holding others accountable to us, but in holding ourselves accountable to the world. Our actions are going to be our best spokespeople and/or our harshest critics, and that’s exactly how it should be. We should see it as a tool for self reflection first and foremost, as there is no shortage of such a viewpoint within the lore. Let us consider the countless entries in the Havamal* which talk about watching your own conduct carefully, and letting the conduct of strangers speak for themselves. Be certain that you have used it on yourself far more than you ever use it on another. If you come off looking awesome 100% of the time in your own estimation, than you’re doing it wrong; no one is perfect, not even our Gods and Goddesses.
It’s also a great way to compliment other; if someone is busting their butt doing tons of work yet still pushing themselves to do more, you can remind them that their dedication already has provided more than the fruits of their labor ever can. It also reminds us that our criticism shouldn’t be tied to gossip, first impressions, or mere hunches; all criticism should be crafted from the actions of that person, as anything else is just pointing to a shadow or a phantasm.
If we are tired of hearing that phrase misused(and we should be), the solution is not to simply discard it; I believe we should challenge ourselves to use it appropriately. The ethics it represents are solid, and resonate quite strongly with the morality that is found within the lore as well as in the cultures that crafted such tales. More over, there is a wonderfully simple logic to it; I am no more or less than what I have done, so judge me by that and that alone. There is pragmatic brilliance within that sentiment.
I’m not saying that the tool is completely unfit for analyzing others either; it’s just not how you should be using it more often than not. There are times, however, where it is fair to use a person’s behavior to get an understanding of their worth. That makes sense. What doesn’t hold water is when the same philosophical engine is used to pass judgement over a person in connection to a single action or behavior (Loki worship, Syncretism, having no problem with Wiccan praxis, wearing that hat with those shoes, etc) that doesn’t impact anyone but that person. That’s not on them; it’s on you.
There are people who use ethical and philosophical outs when it comes to ethical and religious considerations. There always has been, and there always will be. You can’t prevent it. All you can do is determine how you deal with it and, in this case, I feel the best thing we can do is use this simple but powerful tool to the best of our abilities. Use it to challenge ourselves, and be better people. In short, we can simply be our deeds…and let other, less informed, less enlightened people be theirs.
*Yes, yes…I know…I’m usually the last one to refer to the Havamal or the lore. I don’t have a problem with it, however; just in how some people use such works. For example, when the Havamal is used to inform ethical considerations and thew, rather than create entire ethical codes from scratch, it’s actually a wonderful resource.
Posted in Heathen Ethics
Ironically, it worked long enough to create this meme…
So…this. For those who just don’t feel like reading a blog entry to make sense of another blog entry, here is the lowdown; a Troth Steward posted his thoughts above forgiveness, on the Troth’s official blog.. Let me tell you, I found the entire article pretty depressing in how badly it missed the mark. Let’s take a look at what I consider the “business” paragraph of the article.
“Heathens do not forgive, for to ask you to forgive me for what I have done to you cheapens the victories you have fought long and hard to win in rebuilding what my actions have destroyed. In asking for your forgiveness, I am now taking from you your right to rage, your right to the fires of anger to balance the loss, pain, fear, or despair that accompanied whatever effect the wrong I committed cost you. Further; the implication is that if you refuse to grant this to me, or continue to resent me, the person who wronged you is now morally superior as you can’t forgive them.” -John T. Mainer, Troth Steward (July 27th, 2013)
Earlier on, he states that “Forgiveness isn’t Heathen.” and that we “don’t do sin, karma, or forgiveness.” Honestly, the man really has denigrated his point, as two of those words were definitely concepts within any iteration of a Heathen worldview. He’s very accurate in regards to karma, but the word sin actually has it’s roots in theGerman, Old Norse, Middle English, and Old English languages…so it’s definitely a concept that old world Heathenry had a handle on. I’ll throw Mr. Mainer this one, however, as that’s a pretty semantic argument; the Norse view of sin would likely not be the same as the Christian view of sin, and I’m not going to pretend it’s otherwise. My issue is that, for an article that takes itself very seriously as it tries to speak upon an important issue, it’s an obvious flaw.
“Heathens do not forgive” doesn’t make sense. He is, broadly correct when he says that forgiveness isn’t a Heathen concept. It’s also not a Christian, Hebrew, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Wiccan, or a Pastarfarian concept. It’s a universal concept, taking shape as a mechanism within any number of cultures and societies. Our faith possesses no automatic mandate to oppose forgiveness as an idea, just because Jesus Christ had an awfully lot to say about the subject.
On that subject, Mr. Mainer doesn’t bring up the Abrahamic religion that most people associate with forgiveness in his piece and that is to his credit. Instead of turning it into a smear piece aimed at the Christian faith, he discusses the path that he feels Heathens should take. While I have a lot of issues with Mr. Mainer’s article, he does a damn good job of taking the high road in his writing. Heathenism was not crafted to be bizarro Christianity; it was crafted to be Heathenry, and nothing else. Every time we define it by what we feel it is not or construct an argument that accepts the Christian worldview as an automatic conceit , we’re talking about another faith more that we speak upon our own. That does not send a very good message about our own faith. As much as I dislike his stance, Mainer’s discourse get a couple of major things right.
I get to disagree with him about the Heathen faith, instead of where our faith differs from Christianity. At the end of the day, I think we all feel better when this is the shape our discourse takes. Or, to put it another way, if I’m praying to Thor I’m not doing to so to spite Jesus. With some Heathens, I’m not so sure if they understand that.
He also does a good job at writing some stirring, positive ways of expressing his point towards the second half of the article. I can’t pretend that only the second half exists, however, and I think it sets a very troubling precedent.
To that end, if we are our deeds (something Mr. Mainer speaks upon near the beginning of his article) than we need not worry about anyone’s presumption in regards to moral high ground. If person X did not give you reason to accept an apology, then there is no moral imperative to concern yourself with. I have every right to make an assessment of how you conduct yourself in such situation, however. If you refuse someone’s apology for a transgression that had little to no effect upon your long term well being? I can view that as petty, should I so wish. Likewise, I may think that someone let another off to easily by accepting an apology too earlier. If ‘we are our deeds” is the cornerstone of our self conduct? Than the matter is extremely simple.
Yes, moral superiority is a malignant tumor that does exist within some denominations of some religions but presenting it as an anathema to Heathen thought makes no sense. Forgiveness is not a Christian invention that Jesus had gained the patent for. It’s more defined by one’s culture, with religion often weighing in on certain aspects of it within that culture. On that note, our religion doesn’t really speak much about it, so forgiveness is each person’s to define. Much like the separation of church and state (Matthew 22:21, punks), slavery, and heroic figures returning from death, forgiveness is a concept that Christianity has talked about, but does not own.
Mr. Mainer’s sentiments do not reflect anything I’ve seen within the Heathen lore or worldview. If one feels a psychological compunction to forgive someone, based on a fear that you will be ethically subjugated if you do not do so, that’s your baggage. It has nothing to do with how any of us need to practice or act upon our faith. If I don’t accept an apology, it’s because either I don’t think the person is sorry or because I’m not ready for that. I have no need to feel guilt for it, so I don’t; if I have been wronged, I get to determine the way I heal and I’m not going to self-flagellate because it makes my transgressor feel super sad about things. If I’m angry, I allow myself to be angry until I decide I do not want to be angry any more. Anyone who feels it acceptable to guilt trip me in the interim displays their own ethical weakness.
Forgiveness is not a right in Heathenry; it is something earned via owning up to your failings and offering recompense for them. Sometimes that recompense is material, but more often the most meaningful sacrifices are the ones we make from our pride and arrogance. We can accept the responsibility or our wrong doing, fix it as best as we are able, and do all of it with the firm awareness that there is no demand our apology be accepted. Our quest for forgiveness carried more weight than, as does the acceptance of the apology.
How forgiveness works is for each of us to define. Each of us has our own mandate to decide what it means, and how it should be gained. There is no authority that is legion here but our own. I do not think we should throw away forgiveness, when it affords us ways to define ourselves and the way we view the world.
Edit: (9/9/2013) Modified slightly for clarity.
The Nine Noble virtues definitely gave me a lot to think about.
I had a bit of a discussion with a historian about ethical systems after I talked about the NNV, and she put forward that ethical codes were mostly for the philosophically and morally lazy. It’s definitely true that the OR’s was, but I couldn’t help but think that the AFA almost had touched on something amazing. Further, there had been ethical codes and structures that had meaning before. The thing is that no one sat under a tree and said “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to create a comprehensive ethical system!”.
Well, actually, someone probably did do just exactly that…and the end result was probably a spectacular failure.
A true crucible of ethics is a critical choice, made in less time than it takes to check your e-mail; when we only have time to act. Telling someone the virtues and strength of courage isn’t a bad thing, but it does nothing to prepare that person for acting with courage. In my mind, an ideal ethical system makes no choices for us but, rather, trains us so that we make make proper choices when we don’t have time to consider things.
A truly meaningful system isn’t a list of instructions, but an ethical compass the guides the person who considers it. That compass doesn’t serve you well in isolation; you need a map, and the will to find your bearing. You provide these things, and in turn the compass provides perspective on your surroundings. The AFA’s version of the virtues almost did exactly that, and they did it by suggesting that one thing was greater than another. Yes, it said, sometimes dogma is comforting and there maybe times where your choices should be made in strong consideration of it. However, you shouldn’t select tradition at the cost of you real and present needs. How do you define dogma, realism, pragmatism, and their value? That’s for you, the individual, to decide.
So how do we craft something like that? How can we create an ethical system for Heathenry that gives us something to chew on, rather than a watered down list?
Anthropological Sources Cannot Be The Primary Source for Material: I realize that some people will look at that statement and feel like I’m denigrating our ancestors, or throwing away all of the lore in a heartbeat. I’m not; I’m simply being realistic and considering a broader picture. Our ancestors lived in an entirely different cultural climate. Sometimes, the circumstances which made up their society was actively chosen. At other times, it was made due to the prevailing conditions of society and environment. Often, I think, it had little to do with what our ancestor did or did not want; it simply was the choice that worked.
Yes, societies were more closely connected back than. They had to be; the nearest settlement might be two days time away, the winter was coming and lasted nearly half the year, and these crops weren’t going to harvest themselves. Our ancestors had no choice but to pursue frith and honor grith, as well as harshly castigate those who didn’t, because doing otherwise would have been potentially fatal. This doesn’t mean we should completely abandon these concepts, but it does mean we are somewhat obliged to figure out where and how they fit in a modern world. I have Heathen friends, but my survival does not depend on them, and their does not depend on me. The reasons any of us might pursue frith are unavoidably different that the reasons out ancestors did, and that drastically changes the forms our social ethics can and will take.
My ancestors also raided; every large, successful culture/kingdom/empire at that time did. This wasn’t something that the Vikings owned, they were just particularly good at it. Thing have changed here, too. If I see my neighbors having a BBQ, and I don’t like my neighbors, using my lawn tools as weapons and than attacking them for their pork ribs does not mark me as a proud Viking warrior; it marks me as a dangerous psychotic with a rake.
Anthropological sources are great, but they simply cannot be the only lens we look through. At the very least, we should also be looking at the cultures of Germany, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and similar places. While they may have been forced to abandon our Gods, their culture and history are both marked by the actions of their/our ancestors. Do a little research into how Iceland recently changed it’s own government; the energy, vigor, and strength of our ancestors can be seen in modern times, should we be willing to look for it.
No Mystic Hang Ups: Odin sacrificed himself, to himself, for nine days. This makes the number nine very symbolic in a mystical sense. Here is my issue with that: ethics aren’t inherently mystical. I’m not saying that ethical considerations and spiritual awareness don’t have some overlap, but we shouldn’t be constructing our moral guidelines in deference to symbolic observance merely for the sake of a self-imposed obligation.
If we believe the Gods are Gods, than we believe them to have enough power to influence the process as needed. If we missed something or added something that did not have a proper place, we can count on the grinding gears of time and the hand of the divine to apply sandpaper and putty wherever it is needed. The symbolism will take care of itself.
Nothing Included That Speaks to Politics and/or Racism, One Way or the Other: Yes, that means our ethical system(s) shouldn’t address the various flavors of Nazitru, Hyper-Folkishness, and bigotry that had come up within the Heathen spectrum of faiths in any sort of overt way. You have no idea how much it irritates me to say that; my Grandfather served in World War II in the US Army. His unit helped capture concentration camps, and his own actions earned him the silver star. Nazis in my religion? That burns me like the heat of a thousand angry suns.
That being said, I see no reason in trying to get into some infantile pissing contest with people who never decided to look up the actual etymology of the word “wight”. Calling them out not only initiates a pointless argument with unreasonable people, it only validates their viewpoint simply by mentioning it. I’m not trying to entrench the arguement further, and harsh words just gives them something else to fight against. So no, no special “racism is duper dumb” virtue. Or, to put it another way, putting a clause in about racism suggests that we had to remind ourselves to not be bigots.
On a related not, we should have nothing that suggests favoritism or insults to the Asatru Folk Assembly, The Troth, The Odinic Rite, Forn Siðr, Asatru, Vanatru, Rokkatru, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, or anyone else.
When was the last time you saw “group politics” and “ethics” get along in any way, shape, or form? I know I’ve never seen it work it out, and I don’t suspect I’m alone in this. This is a code for you; not a list of restrictions for them.
In the end, I think it’s less important come up with a sound and workable code than it is to simply consider one. If you do feel you need one, these are the rules I’d go by.
Posted in Heathen Ethics
Oh Gods….who put Vril in my Legos?
I have had this article in the making for years now, though I only committed to writing it very recently. Finding the right words to express my feelings was incredibly difficult, and it took an even longer time to figure out what my feelings even were in the first place.
Disagreements and conflict are inevitable in any religion, and Heathenry is no exception. Sometimes, these catalytic offenses are some sort of unacceptable behavior or action. At other times, the issue is that someone had the shamelessness to call someone else Heathen when that person has the lack of respect to have melanin in their skin. * Regardless of how reasonable or idiotic the issues are, it seems that most people believe that the go to reaction is to pronounce some sort of social boycott. The lengths to which this boycott should go vary greatly between groups, but it is typically as the defining method by which Heathens seem to enforce social consequence.
It’s also bloody fucking stupid. **
The Heathen faith is small; tiny, honestly. We are also a religion with a certain amount of attachment to social structure. This leads to tightly-knit, and heavily inter woven group of people. Simply put, any sort of shunning of any sort throws this dynamic into chaos and damages everyone involved. I have seen three different arguments occur that I would classify as major enough to warrant discussion. In two of them, I was a close observer. One of them I was an unfortunate participant.
In the two cases that didn’t involve my person, I saw a variety of ‘consequences’ enacted by one side against the other. In both cases I saw more damage come from this social boycott than I ever saw come from the catalyst itself, and befell the observers just as much as it did the “guilty” . People weren’t able to invite both parties to the same event without causing more drama. These actions brought third parties into an argument that they did not belong in, and that they didn’t want to be a part of.
Our entire community weakened, and for what? So an individual or small group could feel better about themselves. Madness. I am to understand that there are people that mock “Internet Heathenry”, saying that online interactions could never carry the weight of real life actions. Anyone who says this with room for exceptions or irony really ought to get out more; things look pretty similar to me.
If you are willing to weaken the entire strength of a community for the sake of your own ego? You shouldn’t belong to a community. You can be Heathen, Asatru, or whatever; these aren’t terms that any one person gets to bestow upon or remove from another person. A community, however, requires a certain amount of sacrifice for the greater good. We are part of a proud faith, that champions accomplishment…but without some consideration for our brothers and sisters? There is no community. As soon as your pampered little ego matters more than the greater good? You disrespect every Heathen you know, and every Heathen they know in turn.
My falling out with a friend was bitter, harsh, and filled with unkind words. It is highly probably that the two of us will never speak again on friendly terms, if we ever speak to each other at all. Yet, I still speak to this person’s husband. We speak often, and we speak freely. Our respective families don’t attend the same social gatherings by coincidence, not be prearrangement. If we were to attend the same function, I can honestly say I expect that we’d both put on our big boy pants, and act like civilized adults.
If these two can get along on my tumblr, what’s your excuse?
There is no use for a social boycott here; all it would do is drag our mutual friends into the crossfire and show both of both as petty and foolish. Those who are my friends aren’t thought of as lesser or disloyal for sharing frith with her, and I am to understand the same basic courtesy is extended in return. We can’t stand each other, but that is both where it begins and ends; our disagreement is not something that community as a whole needs to be involved with. In does not even so much as extended to our spouses. That is a good and noble thing, and that is how it should work.
The only difference between our argument and those I have seen? Neither person forced everyone to choose a side. Both of us, individually, decided that our egos were less important than our friends and our faith. I am angry at my former friend. I am hurt beyond words, and it took me months to get to a point where I could refer to her in anything but anger. I’ll say this, however; in one action, she showed more frith and concern for consequence than I’ve seen displayed by entire kindreds. **
I’m not saying there is no reason to shun someone; if someone tried to assault my wife and/or stepdaughter, steal from us on a scale that prevents us from feeding ourselves, or something similar? Yes, they’re getting shunned…and than I’m calling the authorities. However, I am firmly of the opinion that a majority of such social boycotts are idiotic, ego feeding power trips, designed only to heighten one person’s perception of their own awesomeness.
If you couldn’t file a police report about it? Chances are you are being a cry baby, and you need to get over yourself.
* This is sarcasm.
** This is not sarcasm.
As I was writing about the Odinic Rite’s Nine Noble Virtues, it became clear that I really should take a moment to talk about the Asatru Folk Assembly’s version as well. After all, they’re worded much differently so they require their own analysis. After careful consideration of them, the depressing truth is that they’re good enough to reveal how truly good they could have been had they been crafted with more forethought.
In my opinion, an ethical code needs to have an eternal truth it grabs a hold of and lays bare for the world. This eternal truth can be very broad or very specific, but it needs to be there. Further, it also must be firm enough to offer a measure of guidance, yet flexible enough to be applicable to just about any circumstance. There will be questions that a code can’t directly answer, and that’s okay; it’s supposed to be a filter to view the world though as opposed to a sheet of instructions. Using your own heart and mind to interpret things isn’t just desired, but necessary.
The OR’s NNV fail because they’re very narrow, internally redundant, and crafted to serve numerology over ethical introspection. The AFA’s, by contrast, is a handful of amazing ideas surrounded by the blatantly obvious. I get that their virtues are set up to provide a binary comparison to prove which quality you should most actively bring into your life…but at the same time, most of these comparisons are stupidly obvious.
Look, I get it; honor is better than dishonor. The problem is that I understood that before I read the AFA’s ethical code, and even before I was Heathen. I understood this the moment I knew the definitions of both words, and I suspect I am no savant in this respect. Of the nine virtues they have, six of them aren’t outlining anything that will change how people see the world; do you have to point out that freedom is better than slavery? I mean, unless you are into that sort of thing of course. One way or the other, I don’t think Stephen McNallen is weighing in on bedroom practices.
Strength is better than weakness. Courage is better than cowardice. Honor is better than dishonor. Kinship is better than alienation. Vigor is better than lifelessness. Yes, being alive and moving around is better than being stagnant and decaying; glad we cleared up the confusion. This isn’t philosophy, ethics, or anything very deep; it’s portraying two extremes as the only options that exist, and than pretending that this was some sort of difficult question.
A good one, by contrast, is “Joy is better than guilt”. If this was another pandering paradigm, the other word would have been “sorrow” or “sadness”. The choice of guilt provides us with something to think on and consider. It’s better to be happy than to obsess over your wrong doing. It’s a denouncement of the theory of living in sin. It can suggest optimism, living with agency, or treating each moment as if it were your last. It can mean all of these things or none of them, providing a virtue that opens itself to the consideration of the one that follows it. I’m a little annoyed that it’s wording suggests that it’s talking more about theological based guilt possessed by from Christianity, because guilt wouldn’t be much of a consideration otherwise. It’s still going in the right direction, however.
The best of the bunch, to my mind, is “Realism is Better Than Dogma”. It’s probably the only one of the virtues that I can appreciate without conditions, because it balances two things that can both be considered valuable in the right circumstances. You can use tradition and scripture…but all things being equal, chose the most pragmatic option. See, this does something that six out of nine virtues don’t; it prompts interpretation for the sake of our faith alone. The value of real world needs against the value of traditions for the sake of respect comes up frequently in Heathen discourse.
Too bad they spoil it with “Ancestry is Better Universalism”.
Well, perhaps spoil is the wrong word. I feel like it’s more of a subtle slap in the face to Paganism in general (and perhaps the Troth is particular), but this virtue still has a lot it can say. Considering that it’s being said by the AFA, however, I just don’t understand how it’s choosing to say it. In moderation, it’s brilliant; contrasting it with “Realism is Better Than Dogmatism” provides a very no nonsense rule of thumb; don’t do something just for the sake of tradition, but don’t forget that the traditions of your family made who you are. That can be powerful, meaningful, and deeply spiritual if you allow it to be.
The problem come in when you take it at a greater whole. This is the same AFA that turns a blink eye towards white supremacists amongst it’s ranks. This is the same AFA whose members have had issues with people of other races professing to be Heathen. This is a group with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to racially based hatred, and it makes their ethical code weak as a result. Is the AFA calling out universalism because they truly feel that disregarding the ways of your ancestors is cause for concern, or is it because many of these theological concepts come from non-Aryan people?
Of the nine virtues, six are functionally useless. The three that are good are very good, but their message is diluted by principles that don’t have the same strength. Their function is rendered moot when compared to the organizational politics of the AFA. When I dug deeper, I found amazing things…but considering the source, I couldn’t blame anyone who refrained from doing that digging. I look at what many AFA members choose to stand for, and it makes it hard to view the group as anything but racists with fears of the stereotype.
I had been ready to pretty much call it meaningless. Truth be told, I wish I still viewed in that manner. I preferred viewing it as a useless pile of pandering dross, over something beautiful ruined by pandering dross and bigots. The foremost I can mock and have a good time of doing, where the later just makes me feel frustrated and depressed.
So where do we go from here? Is it wrong to try and have something like the Nine Noble Virtues, or have we just gone about things the wrong way? There is still the six fold goal to consider, or is it just another list of words? Next time, we continue to look into how Heathen ethical codes can operate.
Author’s Note: I am well aware that one can be a member of the Asatru Folk Assembly and not be racially motivated bigot. I am not portraying all members of that organization in the light. I have heard that the leadership of the AFA combats racial problem when they see them. Regardless of what their intent is, however, it doesn’t change the prevalence of circumstances that seem to arise from that group. “We are our deeds”, after all. I view the organization as having a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regards to racism.
Posted in Heathen Ethics
We interrupt this discussion on the Nine Noble Virtues to talk about Taqiyya, and the Heathens that practice it.
Allow me to clarify.
The word Taqiyya comes to us from Shi’a Islam. The short version is that it is the practice of a Muslim lying about his/her religious beliefs when the truth about them would endanger their life and/or property. It allowed them to have a theologically clean conscious if they needed to perform blasphemous acts in order to save their lives. They could lie, eat pork, and drink wine without issue if it allowed them to survive.
I did not find this word by my own research. I found this word when a Heathen elder of my acquaintance posted it, along side some hate speech. To their mind, Taqiyya was the Muslim practice of lying to people to convert them to Muslim beliefs. I do realize that there are two sides to every story…but when one side is a calmly wordedwikipedia article and the other is a bunch of openly bigoted “tea party patriots” spouting hate speech, I know which side of the argument looks rational and which one does not.
So if that is Islamic Taqiyya, what is the Heathen version? Well, simply put, it’s when a Heathen pretends that they’re not racist, bigoted, or prejudicial by finding weak words and muddy philosophical concepts to cloud the discussion. They’re not bigoted, you see, they’re “against universalism”. They’re not racists, they’re “encouraging others to find their own, native, folkways”. They’re not hatemongers, they just “don’t want multiculturalism diluting the sacred traditions of their ancestors”. Don’t be fooled; it’s all smoke and mirrors. This propaganda is a greater act of dissimulation than the true definition of Taqiyya ever was or could be.
Doesn’t this neatly come back to the Nine Noble Virtues? The Odinic Rite calls “truth” and “fidelity” virtues. The Asatru Folk Assembly says that honor is better than dishonor and that courage is better than cowardice. Both of these organizations have the highest number of incidents with racism, but no one actually is willing to say racist. No, they’re just trying to keep a “pure tradition”. Ask about the impurities they’re worried about, and they either change the subject or move directly into bigoted turns of phrase.
If you hold bigoted, racist, hate-mongering opinions or views, you’re allowed to have those. I don’t like them, and chances are I won’t like you for having them, but I have no power to strip your opinions from you. When you lie about those beliefs, you are telling me that youknow that they’re just petty hatred and that you don’t want to admit it. You’re showing the world you are a spineless coward, afraid of your convictions but too weak-willed to change them. When you lie about these beliefs, you contradict everything you have said or will ever say. There is no consequence for your life or property here; there is no wide reaching, cultural reason for a Heathen to lie in order to save their life and/or possessions within the United States. No one is going stone you for being a petty little twit and dropping racial slurs; we’re just not going to like you very much.
That’s the only consequence; other people’s opinions. You don’t want those consequences though, so you pussy foot around the topic instead of facing it with dignity. This is the worst oath breaking that exists, for it is the sunder of honesty with the one person all men and women should be sworn to be honest to; themselves.
To any Muslims who read this, I am not attempting to provide insult against you or your faith. I saw one of my own faith manipulate the terms of yours in order to confirm their own biases and hatreds. When I call it “Heathen Taqiyya”, I do not seek to mock you; I seek to hold liars to account, and than assign them the straw-man of their own creation. They have created lies in the shape that they believe you to be, not realizing that they they were looking at their own reflection.
To any Folkish Heathens who read this, I have nothing against those with ancestral pride. My issue today is strictly with those who allow the pride to sour into hateful bile for others, and that have neither the strength or will to be honest about their beliefs. I have issues with hypocrisy of demanding honesty from everyone themselves. I have an issue with people ignore frith and hospitality for convenience, rather than actually have the strength to practice their religion when it works against their biases.
If you want to be racist, I can’t stop you. If you want to lie about being racist, than you are admitting to yourself that you afraid of the consequences of honesty. I can’t stop you, but I sure as hell don’t consider you a Heathen.
Posted in Heathen Ethics
Let me make this clear; I think the Nine Noble Virtues are pretty damn pointless.
I can understand the psychological appeal of a codified ethical list. Humans like what they can understand, and lists make complicated subjects look understandable. The problem here is that the moment you simplify an ethical question or process is the moment you’ve probably messed it up.
I’m not here to malign the Virtues just for a laugh; I take ethics very seriously, especially when it comes to codes of conduct and behavior. Even intelligent, well-written, and poignant ones can be the catalyst for actions of unbelievable horror. Even the serenity and contemplation of Buddhism was not immune to such madness. Imagine than what a poorly realized code of ethics can do in the hands of a faith that has no aversion (in theory at least) to physical conflict.
As much as that is a valid concern, it is not good enough to simply say what we should be afraid of; fear-mongering is among the worst of tools that may be implemented in debate. So, to showcase why the NNV truly have issues and problems at their core? I shall analyze and dissect them using one of the most revered tools within modern Heathenry; the Nine Noble Virtues. If they are truly an ethical code worthy of consideration, it should be easy for them to withstand their own scrutiny.
Spoilers: They don’t. Not even a little.
Courage: Dictionary.com defines courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear; “. Things that cause difficulty, danger, and pain are typically things that are unknown; if they were something we had an understanding of, they’re ability cause us problems would be diminished. It’s easier to deal with things when their dangers are easily marked for us. Clearly than, the worst dangers are the ones with unknown factors. The Nine Noble Virtues are made to give ethical guidelines to Heathens, but the truly courageous Heathen is prepared to face their ethical quandaries without having an easy and convenient list.
True courage isn’t what you do when you have everything laid out before you; it’s what you do when the easier thing would be to run, either literally or metaphorically. As such, courage seems a bit out of place for us to include in a list such as this. Our ancestors were brave because they needed to be, not because they needed to be told to be.
Truth and Fidelity: My issue is that these are, practically, the same thing. Yes, I understand that one is talking about speaking nothing but truth, where the other states that we should not break our promises. If you are truly speaking the truth in the first place, your initial word was all that was needed. To speak only the truth is to never make a promise that isn’t intended to be kept. The redundancy at play here exposes just how ridiculous the NNV can be.
Why would you need redundancy in honesty? If we are truly wished to be forthright, we would only need to be told once. This bizarre need to express this same virtue in two different words displays some upsetting implications. Did the virtues need to be crafted with multiple reminders to remain honest because there was a fear that once wasn’t enough? Was it to satisfy the desire of the authors to have nine of them for some symbolic worship of Odin? If all of these upright upstanding Heathens are only dishonest via the influence of Loki, why do they all need two reminders to be honest?
Okay that was a little bit of sass on my part, but it’s still a pretty poignant question. Our ancestors and their cultures are referred to by history as honest and forthright. The Havamal repeatedly depicts honesty as being pretty binary; either you’re telling the truth or you are not. Our ancestors did not need to be told something twice so, if we wish to emulate their strengths, why would we accept a redundant code of ethics?
Industriousness and Self-Reliance: Do you wish to be self-reliant? Do you wish to make forward progress in your own life’s path? Good; than throw out the Nine Noble Virtues and make your own code of ethics.
Only two men can claim to follow the Nine Noble Virtues and be both industrious and self-reliant, and that’s because they made them.
Honor and Discipline: These two have a better run of the NNV than many of the others. They don’t score points for that, however, because they’re words that have a great deal of personalized meaning. To define honor is to, in a manner of speaking, define yourself. Further, what one man views as discipline is sloth to another; likewise, what one man views as discipline can be obsessive madness to his neighbor. These words, by their nature, mean what you attribute to them and nothing else.
They’re not part of the Nine Noble Virtues; they are a part of the human being that considers them and their place in their life. In truth, to blindly use another person’s definition of honor and discipline is to have an absence of both in yourself.
Hospitality: To be hospitable is to treat all who come in to your home in a dignified manner. Friends and strangers, by the standards of our ancestors, should both be treated with respect and dignity. My issue, in this case, is not with the virtue; it’s how so many selectively disregard it. I have seen plenty of Heathens retract offers of hospitality for banal or idiotic reasons. This says nothing of the elements of racism that sensible Heathens attempt to combat on a daily basis.
I’ve seen friendships discarded over momentarily lapses of frith. Is a mistake in frith good? Of course not, but frith is not an absolute; it’s a social contract. Mistakes only remain mistake if they’re left unrepaired. Yet, I see these mistakes being accepted as a perfectly acceptable reason to shun someone. I’ve seen philosophical and ideological arguments used as justifiable reasons to deny oaths of kinship. I’ve seen backhanded mockery, which disrespects both hosts and fellow guests.
Our homes and our message boards should both be filled with the very essence of a warm welcome and welcoming hearth. All too often, it seems that they are the exact opposite. The Havamal doesn’t provide too many exceptions for hospitality. Why do we?
Perseverance: To persevere is to not give up in the face of adversity. Much like truth and fidelity, perseverance feels like a redundancy; what can you say for perseverance that does not apply to courage and discipline as well? Why do I need a redundant reminder to have the strength to follow with what I believe is right? Either the writer’s thought they needed an extra reminder to stave off from weakness, or they were so dead set on having nine items that they were willing to use a thesaurus instead of their souls. One thing is certain; if they had truly had perseverance, they’d never have put down perseverance in the NNV.
Where is frith? Where is the reminder that we obliged to create harmony, whether as a guest or as a host? That hospitality is nothing without the social contract that fuels itself upon it?
Where is our religious faith? Many texts speak of the piety of the various cultures that made up the Norse worshiping people. The belief that our ancestors did not bow to the gods is situational at best and a complete modern fabrication at worst. Anecdotal records depict our ancestors as being devoted to their faith. Why do we not depict the same within our ethics constructs?
Where is the hunger for knowledge that Odin displayed? If we needed nine of these virtues in order to show reverence to the Allfather, why is there not the virtue He would surely place the greatest emphasis upon? Do you mean to tell me that we opted for three different words that meant standing your ground in the face of adversity, but we didn’t have room for ingenuity? For brilliance?
Where is the joy? Freya, Frey, Thor, and many other gods in our faith have been shown to be joyous entities. Yet, in spite of Their example, there is no happiness in these virtues; merely the grim detachment of a falsely assigned Jungian archetype.
For those who disagree with what I say, surely you must see that my words point to some troubling problems. Even if my arguments are struck down, there is so much of our faith that is missing.
For the record, I do know that I used the Odinic Rite’s version of the NNV and that the AFA has their own. Next time in Heathen Ethics, we’re going to be taking a look at the Asatru Folk Asembly’s version of the NNV. I’ll be walking through and see what they got right, and what they still managed to get wrong.