This was an older piece of poetry I wrote while in my Hinduism course in my last year at college. During this course I wrote a comparative essay on the Bhagavad Gita and the Havamal. Good times, and good food for thought. This was one of the results of thinking on Hindu religion and looking at my own.
Is it in my nature to fulfill my Dharma?
Or is it Dharma’s nature to prompt my Wyrd’s weaving?
Is it the weave and weft of Wyrd to fulfill Dharma’s drive?
Or is it only the choices we make that determine where we lie?
If in death I find a pull, a push, a paradox
Between the way that I am and the way that I was
I will know the way between Dharma, Wyrd, and Way
From the fullness in Death I take from Life
Wherever my soul’s to stay
So whether I am in the Halls of Hel, Sessrumnir
Or Valhall’s shining stone
Or enter into nirvana with the Gods
Or nothingness alone
I have made choices, changing Wyrd within my Path
At the end my choices are all the means that I have had
What do you think is the symbolism/significance of Odin giving an eye to the Well of Mimir as opposed to some other sacrifice?
– Do you think this may or may not have affected his decisions and the potential outcome of Ragnarok?
– Does this affect your enjoyment of pina coladas?
I can see Dreaming is on a pina coladas kick, but the quick answer is no, it does not affect my enjoyment of them. I mean, it might if I had enough, but I’m sure enough pina coladas and anyone’s enjoyment would be affected by the potential outcome of Ragnarok. Don’t mix thinking about Ragnarok with alcohol. Bad things ensue, I am sure.
The significance of Odin giving His eye to the Well, to Mimir, is that He is willing to do anything to ensure He has the power, coming from wisdom, to achieve His ends. Truth be told, all of the sacrifices Odin makes, from His offering His eye to Mimir, to His Hanging on Yggdrasil, to His hanging between two fires as described in the Grimnismal, to sacrificing the solid ground His gender may have stood on to learn seidr (and I think spá) with Freya, His sacrifices are to give Him the power and ability to do what He knows must be done. No less than Loki’s many gifts, are Odin’s many gifts needed to see all the Gods, Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun, through the hard times. No less than Thor’s might, Freyr’s prowess or Skadi’s skill are Odin’s gifts needed to see through the hard times. He goes through pain and torture to attain His goals, and in my experience, and the experience of others who hail Him and follow Him close, He asks much the same of us.
That He gives half of His vision to lay in the Waters of Wisdom is indeed rife with significance and symbolism. One eye to see in the Worlds as it presents itself, another to see in Wisdom. He sees all without from His throne, Hlidskjalf and hears all from His Ravens, Hunin and Munin. His drinking from Mimir’s Well, His sacrifice to Mimir is indicative of the lengths He is willing to go to achieve Wisdom, and alongside it, the Power to do what is best and, more important, necessary for the survival of Gods, and the Beings of the Nine Worlds.
Keep in mind He came to Jotunheim at that time leaving everything, from Sleipnir to His spear, His helmet and armor, aside. He then riddles with Vafþrúðnir, betting His head against the wisest of Jotun to find Mimir’s requested sacrifice in the first place. As Vafþrúðnir tells Odin, no one has yet to make that sacrifice. He has to lay one of His two eyes in the Well of the wisest of all Beings. So He drank from Mimir’s well and saw the future. More importantly, He saw why things happened as they did. Whether one sees Odin as actually still seeing through His given eye or it merely being there as a symbol of His sacrifice in the Well, He gave what no other would for Wisdom. It is a piercing Wisdom that see through veils and bullshit, that cuts away the dross and lays bare the truth as it is.
The symbolism of Him sacrificing His eye, His full vision, is very different from, say, Tyr’s sacrifice of His right hand. If the eyes are indeed windows to the soul, and given we see the liche (body) as part of the soul, then Odin’s sacrifice of His eye has powerful symbolism. He has given a window to His soul, a way for Him to see the Worlds around Him for insight and Wisdom. Tyr sacrificed His oathing hand to bind Fenrir; the symbolism is far different, but no less poignant. Where Tyr bound a danger to all the Worlds (and particularly Odin), Odin unleashed Wisdom, seeking ways to avert annihilation. If nothing else, Tyr’s sacrifice gives Odin the time to gain that Wisdom, to gather the forces, to do what is necessary to avoid the demise of everything. Neither one is a failure; both are needed for the Worlds to be remade at Ragnarok, and both are said to die during the event. They both give Their all to help the threads of Wyrd continue. Both do as Their Wyrd requires, and the Worlds live on.
So for me Odin’s sacrifice of His eye indicates the lengths He is willing to go, the dedication to a course of action, the strength He employs that action with, and the reward such action brings. There is Gebo, despite the pain He goes through to gain that Wisdom, and the pain the Wisdom itself brings. That reward for His pain allows Him to do the necessary Work at hand, giving Him the ability to see that everything that must be done through to the end is, in its own time, done.
How does being a godatheow affect your relationships with your family? partner? child? employment?
Being a godatheow puts my God at the top of my list. Given how most people feel about children, and how much I love my son, that is not an easy thing to admit. Mercifully, it is an understanding with Him that my partner understands, and much of my family at home understands. As for my employment, well, this is may sound odd, but I did not get regular employment until after I became a godatheow.
I had a temporary job in the drought of four years of unemployment. When I was laid off from that job after about two months, ironically while I was at Etinmoot, where I was told I by Odin that I was His godatheow, it was another year or so before another job so much as reared its head at me. I worked for the Great Golden Arches for a few months under a wonderful, understanding manager, and now work doing respite care and direct support. The pay and hours are better, and I am getting practical experience in my degree. So while there was upheaval in my life from the impact of becoming a godatheow, once I got with the program and started walk with the leash instead of against it, my life, and that of those around me, got easier by several degrees. I have a budget now, and by and large, have stuck to it.
So much is going right in my life since Odin took me under His leash. My relationship with my partner has never been better, to the point where she, along with our son, now live with me. My relationship with my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and landvaettir has never been stronger, or so deep in my life. If anything, becoming His godatheow has been a stabilizing force in my life.
Where my being a godatheow may have the greatest impact is on potentials, such as where I might work, the next place I might live, relationships, and the like.
Odin owns me. Odin owns me.
If He dictates to me, in a manner I cannot mistake as anything other than a command from Him (and I would do goo-gobs of double-checking, discernment, divination, talking with elders, friends, etc. just to be sure) to leave everything behind and to start wandering I would do that. Not because I want to abandon my family, not because a roadtrip sure sounds swell, but because my God demanded it of me. Would I try to get out of such a command? No, but I might ask Him to delay that until, say, my son is out of school or we are in a better place financially. I would ask He lay that burden on me, but not upon my family. I cannot say whether He would accept such a request, but I know He loves His Sons and knows how deep I love mine. The Gods are not without mercy; He has not asked such a thing of me, yet.
Thinking about this is not easy. Not in the least. Let no one tell you being a godatheow is easy, because these kinds of choices can loom over you. I have to think down this line, and talk with my partner and loved ones about this because there is the possibility that someday I may be called to do something that society would deem ‘crazy’, like taking off for 9 days/weeks/months/years and then coming back. Is that written in stone? No, but then again I would be a fool not to look at that possibility, and at the least make people aware of it.
While being a godatheow has been one of the most stabilizing forces in my life, it also has the potential, at any given moment, to destabilize it. It makes me thankful, even if I am not always as vocal as I ought to be in that thanks, for the stability I do have, for what I may have in the future. It makes me treasure the moments where I have down time and I am not going here and there doing my God’s Work, or my other Gods’ Work for that matter. It pushes me to be thankful and treasure the moments I have to be a father and a lover. It makes me treasure the moments I have to relax. At any moment Odin can say “Time to go this way” and there I will go.
It is not easy to have this kind of relationship. It is far easier to brush it off, to self-sabotage, and say “I am not worthy” or “I cannot do this thing” and let the charge be. That said, it is hard to argue with a leash about your throat and feeling a supreme tugging this way or that. I will eventually get there, wherever He is leading me, but it is entirely incumbent upon me whether or not I make it harder.
Odin owns me, and in so doing, He has direct influence on my life. My life is my service, and my service is my life. In understanding this simple truth I have made my life a good deal easier. Do I still have autonomy? Yes, and choices in my life are plentiful, but this autonomy and these choices are within the larger context of what He gives me to choose from.
With my life being Odin’s, doing well everywhere I can in my life is an offering to Him. Parenting my son well, treating my partner with respect, love, and dignity, and doing well by my clients are all part and parcel of offering to Him. My work with the communities, great and small, are part of my Work with Him. There is no aspect of my life untouched by Him, no aspect of my life that cannot be offered to Him. While being His godatheow may present challenges to me, my loved ones, and my communities, it is also one of the greatest blessings He has given me.
Being a godatheow is not for everyone, nor am I any better than one who has never ‘heard’ their God. This is a wholly different way to live one’s life, to worship and to serve the Gods, a God or Goddess in particular. I do not expect everyone to be a godatheow to have a deep level of commitment to their God/Goddess, nor godspousery, nor even to ‘hear, see, taste’, etc. Each person’s relationship with their Gods is between them and their Gods, and while there may be community standards one needs to meet to be part of a community, this is not one of them in the Northern Tradition. You do not need to be a shaman, a priest, a godatheow, a godspouse, or anything ‘called’ to love your Gods with everything you have. You just need to give the Gods your time, attention, energy, and love wherever, whenever you can.
Gather at the Well
The lines are now unwound
Arrange them right and left
Arrange them up and down
First comes Urðr laying
the string She has at hand
The beginning strands of Wyrd
and destiny’s demand
Now comes Verðandi crossing
the tapestry of Fate
The strands of all potential
and all decisions’ state
Finally comes Skuld weaving
the end of every string
The doom of All who are
From God and rock and king
Gather at the Well
The lines are now here wound
Within the woven Wyrd
Do all Our Paths abound
Remember the fallen, | one’s own kin
In action and word they live;
Lessons learned | from lives well-lived
Carry on to child and friends
Remember the fallen, | the friend well-loved
Lives in memory of word and deed;
Memory woven | is like a blanket
Wrapped close in cold times
Remember the fallen | the names forgotten
Deeds and memories lost in time;
Better a stone | raised to nameless dead
Than their passage never marked
I am not sure where all these Havamal-style posts are coming from, but I have been trying to write something else and it just won’t stick.
Patient is the Long-Watcher | who seats Hliðskjálf
Seeing the whole tapestry;
Sighting the Threads | woven by Frigga,
Wyrd is known well
There are times where I write poetry to grasp the Gods, the spirits, the Ancestors. When I reach for words to grasp at the ineffable, that which is, to quote a favorite song of mine, “Beyond the Invisible“. Sometimes there is a feeling in prayer or meditation where I can feel my Gods in a feeling beyond feeling. Sometimes when I smoke a cigarette to the Ancestors (the only time I smoke), or especially a cigar, I can hear Them, in a way that words do not have words for. It is more than just ‘They are here’; there is communication on some level, more often levels, that occurs when They make Themselves this known to me and I am paying attention.
Feelings can rush up; images, smells, tastes, sounds, snippets of songs, or a phrase, a word, a sensation of being touched or hugged or the feeling of embarrassment or joy that fills me head to toe. Sometimes it is an urge, or a deep-down compulsion to dance. So many words that fail to capture a moment of being in the Presence of a God or Goddess, the Ancestors, the spirits.
Sometimes there is a great emptiness. Sometimes the Gods are not here, and I wish They were, more than anything. Sometimes there is a deep aching for that connection that I am denied. I recognize that this is so, at times, because what I am craving is not so much the connection itself, but that feeling of reassurance or that feeling of alleviation of insecurity. Other times the Gods are doing something; They are Gods, and have Their respective things to do, whether one believes that the Gods control or are related to certain aspects of our lives (i.e. Frigga weaving Wyrd, Freyr helping the wild plants to grow, Gerda helping the plants in gardens to grow, etc.) or do things besides (i.e. Odin wandering the Worlds gaining wisdom).
I find that the Ancestors tend to be with me all the time, in some fashion or another. There’s a lot of Them, after all! Once I began engagement with Them, especially through regular engagement at my Ancestor altar and my necklace, I could feel Their Presence in some fashion or another. A big part of everyday engagement with Them is through a necklace I wear made out of bone fashioned into a human skulls. I use it in prayer, and as a focus throughout the day, a physical reminder. This necklace is also a physical manifestation of my Ancestors. What does Their Presence feel like? Sometimes a warmth that has nothing to do with the environment, others, a feeling of familial love, a touch on the shoulder, a harmonica (particularly if Great-Grandpa is around), and others times just a knowing that They are there. Sometimes They are the statue on my altar, the necklace around my neck, a guiding voice. Sometimes words simply fail to convey.
This is why, at times, when someone asks me “How do I know if a Goddess is near?” or “How will I know if the Ancestors are with me at prayer?” I can only suggest and say so much. Language reaches its limit, as do my experiences. I’m not the do-all, end-all of anything. I am a being, a being with a human’s world, limitations, and experiences, and I am just one person. I am bound by physical laws in this world, same as any other. Sometimes I get things right on the nose, and sometimes I get things horribly wrong. I am beholden to Wyrd; I work, I pay taxes, and one day I will die. My hope is that somehow my words, my actions, my life, helps someone else to be more than they were, to leave this world better than it has been in my time within it.
Despite the limitations of words I still try to capture what I feel, how I envision the Gods, Ancestors, etc. with words. The Ancestor Anthology is coming together, and there are so many words not my own, words that may be someone’s key to unlocking a deeper relationship with the Ancestors. Words that I may never have thought to string together, experiences I have never had, rituals I have never been part of, and so much I have not done. This is the beauty and power of coming together, of crafting books together, of making music and art and ritual. We may never fully capture our Gods, Ancestors, or spirits in songs, paintings, or words in a ritual or text, but we can provide touchstones and open doors with them.
O Son of Leafy Isle
and Ever-Biting Sky
I pray You hear this little prayer
Where ‘ere You may reside
I pray You know Your Holy Name
Rests on lips of me and mine;
That always is there a place
When ‘ere You come to dine
I pray You know that somewhere
Some will call You friend
That my children know Your deeds
And know where ‘ere You’ve been
I pray that You can see
The offerings left outside
That some carry love for You
A love we will not hide
I pray that You can hear
The songs that we sing
In praise of You, O Flaming Hair
In our small gatherings
I pray that You can feel, Loki
The love and trust and pride
For counting You among our Gods
In You, our prayers abide
Hail unto the Fiery One
To Hag and Aesir Bride
Hail unto Your Beloved Kin
Your family and Your lines
Hail to You Ever-Changing
To all Your blessings known
To Wyrd that You have made with us
To Wyrd that will be wove
My Ancestors have spoke Your Name
My heart knows but this:
My kith and kin are blessed by You
Because You do exist
Please hear this prayer I pray, Loki
Trickster, Fire, and Friend
We shall hail and praise Your Name
Beyond Yggdrasil’s End
I have seen the lines of red
Running back rivers and streams
I have seen the threads
Twisting, threading, knotting
Rent and repaired
I have seen the foulest deeds
Murder and rape and desecration
I have seen the gentlest hands
Healing and relief and release
I have seen the brutish lives
Starvation and need and pain
I have seen the brave stands
Defiance and hope and declaration
I have seen the spiritworkers
Sacrifice and work and toil
I have seen the crafters’ end
Thought and experiments and care
I have seen the downtrodden
Slavery and rape and murders
I have seen the lines
I have heard the names
I have felt the threads
I know the blood that sings in your veins
I know the soul’s journey to your flesh’s home
I know where you come from
I know your mother
I know your father
I know your grandfather
I know you grandmother
I know your Ancestors
I know who you are
All the things that make you, down through the generations
I hold you in my hands
And know you
And all that has made you
Whispers from your blood
Sings from your soul
Shows me the tapestry of you
In the threads of your Wyrd
I see You
I wrote a critique of Harner-style shamanism in response to a blog commenter post on Ms. Krasskova’s Gangleri’s Grove. It eventually grew into a long post that had to be reposted in several places.
I am interested in hearing others’ views on this topic.