Lyrics on original YouTube link
Genre: Viking/Black Metal/Folk Metal
Lyrical Themes: Epic tales, heathenism, Lore, Norse Tales
So What is Hávamál? It is “the sayings of the high one.” It is a single poem in the Poetic Edda. For those of you who don’t know what the Poetic Edda is, it is a collection of Old Norse poems from the Viking Age. Hávamál basically gives advice for proper living, good conduct and day to day wisdom. The verses themselves are attributed to the wisdom of Odin.
Some Key Hávamál Quotes:
FROM WISDOM FOR WANDERERS AND COUNSEL TO GUESTS
On courage and cowardice:
“A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life.”
On mockery and judgement:
“The miserable man and evil minded
makes of all things mockery,
and knows not that which he best should know,
that he is not free from faults.”
Was the Ancient World all flower power?
Maybe the sacrificial victims were crowned with flower garlands before they met a bloody end.
People assume that Matriarchal authority is a peaceful affair.
Yet the Ancient Queens of Peru beg to differ.
A Divine Journey to the Inner Self and God Consciousness.
Yoruba is a West African spirituality that some Anthropologists estimate is 10,000 years old! It comprises the beliefs of the Yoruba people, whose homeland is in the South Western part of Nigeria and adjoining parts of Benin and Togo. Yet the beliefs of Yoruba are also incredibly widespread around the world. Some of this was due to migration that occurred before the Egyptian dynasties. Yet the most recent migration is because of the Atlantic Slave Trade that brought the peoples of Yoruba to Trinidad, Tobago, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, North America and elsewhere.
Today, many people of African descent are returning to their roots via exploration with the Yoruba spirituality. There is a great article on this very phenomenon on NPR.
The spirituality of Yoruba focuses deeply on self exploration, learning one’s destiny (or fate), interacting with the spirits of nature as well as one’s ancestors, and getting yourself right with the almighty creator Oludumare.
Oludumare is not a “he” or a “she.” The only appropriate pronoun here is “it” because Oludumare is a genderless being who is responsible for all creation. It lives in a heavenly realm, far from its creation. Yet it has holy messengers who help to intercede between the Almighty and Mankind itself. These messengers are spirits called “Orishas.” In Yoruba you must believe and interact with the Orishas to reach God Consciousness.
There are many types of Orishas. Some who have always been present and others are humans who made the leap to divinity. And then there are spirits who take the form of natural resources such as rivers and trees. While some are similar to the Western concept of an Angel, there are also some key differences. Orisha’s are not perfect beings. They actually have very human characteristics, a variety of quirks and different attitudes. They marry, divorce and even have their own favorite beers and foods. Orishas also live on the Earth, rather than the sky. Some say that there are 400 and others say that there are more than 3,000. Of the real number no one can be certain. Each Orisha has their own color, drum beat and even an article of clothing that is associated with them.
Orishas are also capable of possessing the bodies of their followers or priests. This is done through an elaborate dance ritual where certain orishas are evoked through a particular dance and drum beat. The Orishas rise up from the Earth and mount the bodies and souls of those involved in the ritual. Men and women can both take place in these rituals. Some humans involved in the ritual even gender bend in terms of their clothing, if they want to summon an Orisha of the opposite gender.
However, not all spirits are good. There are some negative spirits called “Ajogun.” These spirits are typically responsible for the bad things that might happen in someone’s life: accidents, depression or an illness. People trying to get rid of an Ajogun will consult a priest, who performs a divination ritual to learn the spirit’s motives and the best way to banish them.
Ashe is a life force similar to Chi in Chinese traditions or the energy that flows through the chakras in Indian belief. Ashe is a force that has the power to bring about change – whether good or bad – and is contained in everything from lightning and hurricanes to blood and sacred names (Source: God Paths).
Rather than focusing on salvation, much of the focus has been on living a good life in the here and now. While there is some mention of a “good and bad heaven” most followers hope for reincarnation, which is actually a good thing in this religion, while it is something to be escaped in Buddhism. People who are bad or who commit suicide do not get to be reborn. There is also a belief that reincarnation matches family lines. Therefore, that a grandmother or grandfather will reincarnated back into his or her family tree. It’s not uncommon for a boy to be called names like Babatunde which means “Father Returns” or Yetunde which means “the mother comes back again”. Gender is hardly ever taken into account because its believed that it often changes with reincarnation.
In Yoruba, we get to choose our own destinies before we are born. This can be to the very exact details of where we live, who we love and our life purpose. Yet once we are born, we forget these destinies and must struggle to remember them again. Consulting the spirits is a good way to learn one’s life destiny and purpose.
In the Yoruba tradition, there are men and women who are specially trained to communicate with the heavenly realm. You see the Yoruba have specially trained intercessors called either Babalawo if men (which means Father of secrets) or Iyalawo if women (Mother of Secrets) who through an intense period of training are taught divination techniques that allow clients to seek help or advice from the Heavenly realm on anything from relationship problems to job issues. Babalawo are different from your typical psychic though.
They don’t claim to have any special power in and of themselves. They are merely people who are masters of the art of divination which involves knowing how to cast divinations with palm nuts, recording the results, and reciting the poem connected with each result. This however is not very easy since the chances of any one result coming up are 1 in 256 and four poems must be memorized for each one. Therefore, it takes a lot of work, memorization and dedication to be a Babalawo or Iyalawo
YORUBA MEETS CHRISTIANITY
When Europeans came to Africa, or traded Africans abroad, the Africans were forced to embrace many of the European ways – including their religion. The Yoruba spirituality survived better under Spanish and Portuguese Catholicism than the English Evangelical Christianity.
Catholicism had parallels similar to the Yoruba Faith. A belief in an almighty God who had many helpers (saints and angels). When the Yoruba converted to Catholicism, they made their Orisha’s into saints. However, the conversion wasn’t such a simple affair – since the Yoruba had less of a belief in black and white “good and evil.” Yet at least their Orishas were able to maintain some worship in Catholicism.
In the Christian Evangelical system, many of the Orisha’s were simply abolished.
Yet the Catholic Yoruba synthesis is alive and well in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Trinidad, Haiti, Cuba and New Orleans.
Because of Yoruba’s elasticity, it can adopt other religions quite easily. This may be part of the religion’s popularity. Some say that Yoruba – with its many different versions included – is the world’s top 6 most practiced religion.
Some have chosen to practice both Catholicism and Yoruba simultaneously. Yet others are leaving their Christian Faith behind altogether. They are enticed by a faith with African Roots, a personal connection to the spirits of the divine, and a deep connection with the spirits of nature. If you are still curious for deeper knowledge about this ancient faith, check out my resources below.
NOW ENJOY SOME SMOOTH RHYTHMS – DUB MUSIC BEFORE DUB STEP WAS A THING…
Jah Shaka & Mad Professor – People of Yoruba
The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts (Book on Amazon)
The World We Live In
The bears I surveyed gave this movie a C+.
There were two reasons I was initially excited to see this movie: a fascination with Ancient Celtic Myth and the fact that this was Pixar’s first movie with a female protagonist as the lead. Yet watching this film left me feeling like this was the “C” student who I was expecting to make an “A.” On this blog, I admit to feeling silly for criticizing a movie made for children. Over all, the movie wasn’t terrible. I still walked away from it being somewhat entertained. But there was also something about this movie that left me feeling frustrated.
PIXAR’S FLIMSY ATTEMPT TO CREATE A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER
I feel like “Brave” was Pixar’s attempt to make a strong female character, since they have been criticized for being something of a “boy’s club.” Yet instead of coming off like a strong, female Celtic warrior the likes of Boudicca (a woman who destroyed three Roman towns and nearly kicked the Romans out of Britain), Merida – the lead – remains a prissy, self entitled teenager who seems more likely to whine about doing her math homework rather than leading her clan to greatness.
NOTES ON THE MOVIE ITSELF
Brave itself is a movie that takes place in an idealized 10th century Scotland. The animation and scenery is remarkable, in this aspect, Pixar does not disappoint. Directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman both also have Scottish roots, which gives the film some authenticity.
The beginning of the movie seemed promising. Merida is a princess with remarkable archery skills. She wants to be a powerful warrior like her father, King Fergus. Yet she remains trapped by her mother with the responsibilities and traditions of being a “prim and proper” princess who doesn’t “put her weapons on the dinner table.” Eventually the day comes when it is time to marry Merida off to the future leader of another clan. Politically successful marriages were vitally important to the survival of a clan. These marriages were key in bringing peace to two different clans that may have ended up declaring war on one another. The Ancient Celtic Goddess Brigid herself played an important role in bringing peace to two warring tribes after her son was killed in battle.
Different clans come together in order to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage. The sons of all the clan leaders end up being quite unsuitable – suitors. In cliché movie fashion – they are all miraculously a bunch of bumbling doofuses who can’t tell an arrow’s tail from their own faces. I understand the element here was to introduce comedic relief. Yet I found it incredibly disappointing that ALL of the men in this movie were incompetent. The mighty king Fergus can’t even give a speech without his wife’s assistance. This element made the movie more frustrating and stereotypical than funny in my opinion.
The reality is that the Scottish clans of these times had an intense focus on warfare and raising up powerful warriors. The son of a clan leader would’ve trained his whole life in different skills of battle: sword fighting, archery and hand to hand combat. The idea that all the suitors would be this incompetent is just as insulting as it is stupid. But then again…I remind myself that this is a kid’s movie and I must suspend some expectation of reality here…
With a lifetime focused on physical training, like throwing logs and boulders, it’s likely that the Scottish Suitors may have looked something like this. Heart melts! Merida, if you don’t want any of the suitors, I’ll take all four. Mwahhaa!
MERIDA VIOLATES TRADITION
Merida ends up competing for her own hand in marriage – which violates all protocols of tradition – and wins. This horrifies her mother – the Queen – and increases the rift between the two. After a fight, Merida ends up running away. At this point in the story, I was expecting some heroic adventures and deep life lessons. Instead we get some wacky hijinks where Merida ends up using a witch’s spell to “change her mum” – the most vague request you can make of life altering magic – and ends up turning her mother into a bear. This is bittersweet considering that King Fergus is a mighty bear hunter.
Perhaps there may be some mythological significance to this transformation considering that shape shifting magic was a common theme in Celtic Mythology and that Artio herself was a mighty Bear Goddess.
However, getting back to the movie plot, the rest of the movie tediously makes its way through Merida trying to turn her mother back into a human. There are a lot of shenanigans that ensue which provide some slapstick humor and some clumsy plot development.
BRAVE IS NOT SO BRAVE
(Now that’s what I call Brave!)
Our heroine also does not prove to be very “brave” either. When she comes close to having a fight with a real bear she ends up screaming and curling into a ball out of fear.
Eventually Merida discovers that she must “mend the bond destroyed by pride.”After this revelation, I was hoping some life lesson would emerge about the destructive effects of pride – but in the end this was all muddled by some vague lesson of each person being allowed to choose their own path. Merida does not end up getting married, the unsuitable suitors go home, and there is not much clear indication of what happens to the rest of the clan as a result.
The reality is that the clans would’ve probably declared a brutal war on one another, destroy their alliance and bloodshed would ensue. Merida’s actions did nothing to benefit her people or her family. The desire to doom the future of one’s entire clan for one’s own selfish interests is not “brave,” it is selfish and “prideful” and frankly is a perfect description of what is wrong with modern values today. Actual Celtic history is replete with tales of women who knew how to fight – and there were women who even had their own fighting schools. Yet most Celtic men and women did what was good for their tribe and not necessarily what was best for themselves. If we are to learn from the past, we must learn to do what is best for those around us – not simply living for our own selfish ends.
LACK OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT OR STORY ARC
I think the problem here is that the boys at Pixar really had no idea how to develop a powerful female lead. They couldn’t conceive of an independent and strong female without also making her selfish and prideful, not really heroine material. A good character is also someone who has some kind of challenge to overcome. I suppose the challenge here was to mend the bond torn by pride – but she didn’t really end up making any major sacrifices or concessions for her prideful behavior. She was also a great archer from the get-go, so there wasn’t really much to develop on that end either.
WANT TO A GOOD KID’S MOVIE ABOUT A FEMALE HERO?
A much better children’s movie about a strong female lead was Mulan. She joined the army not out of some childish fantasy, but in order to save the life of her father, who was becoming too old to realistically defend himself in armed combat. She also isn’t a “Mary Sue” who ends up miraculously being good at combat either. Mulan was somewhat clumsy in the beginning and actually has to train and work hard in order to become a powerful warrior. In the end, she makes tough decisions and harsh sacrifices in order to save the nation of China. What’s even better, is that Mulan the Disney movie was actually based off a true story.
While Mulan was fighting to save the nation of China from Hun invasion and inventing clever war tactics, Merida was busy throwing tantrums and getting freaked out by Bears.
WANT TO SEE SOME STRONG CELTIC WOMEN WHO ACTUALLY EXISTED?