The mead brews
Little bubbles flow up
The honey-water froths
A month and Yuletide
A gift to loved ones
A raised glass
A raised horn
Cheer and warmth in Winter
They call Him grizzled; His hat hangs low over an eye.
They call Him one-eye ’cause one is elsewhere.
They call Him bear-father and wolf-father ’cause the berserkers and ulfheðin are His.
They call Him eagle-head ’cause He is one.
They call Him bear ’cause He is one.
They call Him battle-wolf ’cause He is one.
They call Him a rogue ’cause He’s sly.
They call Him silver-tongued ’cause He’s talked His way out of death.
They call Him Hanged ’cause He hanged on the World Tree to get the Runes.
They call Him Runemaster ’cause He died to bring Them back.
They call Him Wanderer ’cause He’s seen all the Worlds.
They call Him Journey Adviser ’cause He’s who you talk to before you take one.
They call Him Monster, ’cause He is one.
They call Him God, ’cause He is one.
He’s Odin, Woden, Wodenaz. He’s Jotun. He’s Aesir. He’s a chief. He’s a shaman. He’s a wanderer. He’s a warrior. He’s a killer. He’s a maw. He’s a scholar. He’s a wizard. He’s a berserker. He’s an ulfheðin. He’s a rogue. He’s a ruler. He’s a watcher. He’s the Allfather. He’s Runatyr. He’s Fury. He’s Terrible. He’s Gallows-God. He’s Sacrificed. He’s Sacrificer. He’s Twice-Blind. He’s One-Eyed. He’s Long-Visioned. He’s Spear-God. He’s Battle-Fury. He’s Howler. He’s Odin, Woden, Wodenaz.
May Eir and Mengloth bless those in harm’s way
May the healers be careful, skilled, and compassionate
May Thor protect those in harm’s way
May the communities be safe from harm, secured by His Hammer
May Loki, Angrboda, and Sigyn bring laughter, protection, and perseverance
May mirth, solidarity, and determination lift up those harmed and grieving in this tragedy
May Tyr and Forseti bring justice to the Dead, to the families, to all those harmed
May justice be done, lawful and swift
May Freyr, Gerda, and Freya bring Their love, sensuality, and vitality
May we celebrate ourselves together, and with Them, stand by those we love
May Odin and Frigga bring wisdom to the leaders
May action be guided by wisdom, may work be guided by insight
May Hela take up the Dead
May She bring Them comfort and care
May the Landvaettir be heard
May They, too, have justice, and may Their needs be met
May The Dead hear the calls of Their loved ones
May They know They are remembered, and may those They left behind be comforted
May the newly-Dead be long-remembered
May They be remembered for more than Their deaths; may Their lives be remembered well
The road rushes past
My cigar glows in my hand
The rainvaettir come down, a billion upon billion rattling dancers
The road, the car, all full of the sound of Their feet
The road rushes past and I see it
The first lightning bolt of the season here
Arc through the sky, behind the clouds
A silhouetted dancer
Whose drumming partner pounds and the sky shakes
Tendrils of smoke out the window and up to you all
The Thunderbird People
The Jotuns of storms
The Spirit of Storms
I call to you and say your names as Midgard fills with stomps with billions of feet
As the skies split with the fury of dancers and beating of wings
As the wind shakes and the clouds let loose the crowds
As the drumming thunderers crash and clash
The Worlds are alive and here
The Worlds are alive and there
and I am thankful to bear witness
The game of our time is no longer chess. Nor is it truly blackjack or craps.
The game of our time is tafl. This is a game few people are familiar with, so I will give a basic explanation. As I am most familiar with hnefatafl, it is the example I will be using going forward.
Tafl is a game of strategy and skill. There are two sides: attackers and defenders. The ratio of attacker is 2 to every 1 defender, and a chief that starts in the center of the board. Unlike chess, all the pieces move in straight lines, and can move wherever they please in these lines. Both sides capture by wedging an opposing piece between two pieces of the same side or one piece pinning another against a side of the board, or against the center of the board which is where the chief starts. The chief may also capture.
The object of the game for attackers is to capture the chief. The object of the game for the defenders is for the chief to escape by getting to one of the four corners.
I see this as the game of our time economically, politically, and environmentally, and understand it as a drastic shift away from the chess understanding a lot of folks apply to how U.S. citizens exist within this country. The simple reason is that the parameters of the game we all exist within have changed. It may have changed for many of us a long, long time ago, or you may have been playing hnefatafl from birth. Because of the ever-increasing poverty line, a majority of people in the United States are understanding this shift in very direct ways. Very few of us actually ever were more than a pawn in our political or economic system. Now, we face a future where we must escape the attackers in our midst. Some of us have or are contemplating taking the opposite approach: taking the others’ chiefs.
The point of hnefatafl is survival rather than complete victory. Its mindset is wholly different than that of chess. You are not seeking to crush an opponent, or if you are, you may entirely miss opportunities to help/stop the chief escaping, or become entrapped by your opponent. No piece once reaching the end of the board can become another, and there are no special moves. In this way, the potential of the chief is no better or worse than that of the other defenders, save that they are the leader that the defenders are trying to evacuate. In an interesting twist, the attackers have no leader. They are all focused on the destruction of the chief.
Unlike chess, in order for the chief to be secure, he must move, attack, and defend himself. Unlike in chess, which sends other pieces to die so that the king is secured and the opponent’s king captured, the chief in hnefatafl must place themselves in the same danger their fellow defenders face. The chief in hnefatafl cannot rely on the bishops to leverage diagonal moves, the knights their L-shapes and jumping, nor the rooks their unfettered straight movements, nor the queen her omni-directional moves. The chief in hnefatafl moves in exactly the same manner and with the same abilities as their fellows.
Similarly, we are entering a period where standing amongst one’s people and understanding ourselves not as inherently special, but as people belonging to a group with leaders rather than despots are requirements for thriving. Peak oil and climate change render chess’ model of allocation of political/military power to rooks and knights, religious authority to bishops, despotic divine right powers to the king and queen, and all of them using the poor, the pawns as front-line soldiers, moot. This old way of doing things is a use of time and resources we cannot afford to waste. We may never be without kings or chiefs, but the old way of doing things that enabled chess to dominate the landscape of political thought is passing on.
The game has changed, and it is time to play.
Links for A Polytheist Reflection and Response to Convenience, Consumption, and Peak Oil
I owe a special thank you to Sannion for talking with me on these matters, for hosting a discussion on this via the Bacchic Chat, and for providing an excellent sounding board and helping me to dig into different aspects of David Bowie’s music and other personas besides Blackstar that I had not encountered before.
I think it is interesting that I feel more comfortable saying Blackstar than I do David Bowie in regards to my feelings on him and understanding of him. Especially since David Bowie’s recent passing. I am still putting together my thoughts and feelings on all of this, but something I decided right after hearing of his death, is that I will be extending the same courtesy to David Bowie that I would to any of my Ancestors, or Dead I would worship, venerate, or pay homage to:
Wait a full year before putting Them on the Ancestors’ altar. This gives Them time to acclimate, gives Them time to get through the journey They may need to do in the afterlife(ves) that They may be going through. Doing so for him would be respectful and give him time to settle in, get the lay of the land, and so on.
I did not, and will never know David Bowie. Given how private he was, I would be surprised if all but the closest of family members and friends actually knew him.
I had just ran into David Bowie’s music full stop last week. I’d heard him sing in Labyrinth, but nothing from any of his albums. Blackstar and Lazarus hit me over the fucking head, and it was like…echoes from Odin. So I went back and forth on writing something for him. Then, I read Sannion and Galina were going to go to SoHo to lay down offerings for him.
I finally just broke down, sat down and wrote this for Blackstar. I hope he enjoys this and it is a worthy tribute. I have made a recording of it here.
I know not if Runes had touched your tongue;
If you had drunk from Suttung’s well
But I know that I felt sadness
When the elder Blackstar fell
I know not if Bragi blessed you
With a voice of silk or gold
For I saw you in your end
In Olmen burning bold
I know not if Odin blessed you
With wisdom deep and harsh
But I know my soul was touched
By the darkness of Blackstar
I know not if Loki blessed you
With shifting form and face
But I know you touched the generations
With what you shared in grace
I know not what you saw
In your button cloth-bound eyes
But I know Who you recalled to me
The God known as Twice Blind
I know not what you were
Priest, prophet, saint, or star
But I know you shaped whenever you were
By being who you are
I know not what you are
Apotheosis ascended or inspiration in the Earth
But I know your mark was made
Before I knew my breath or birth
I know not what you will be
A God? A Guide? A Guest?
But I know you will be welcome whenever
At altar, stage, and desk
I know not if you would know me
In Helheim walking well
But I thank you for sharing, anyway
With all of us, your spells