Norse Paganism

Paganism and War

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“Wherever you know of harm
regard that harm as your own;
give your enemies no peace.”
– Havamal 127

DISCLAIMER: The ideas on this blog do not represent all Paganism, just my own opinions.

First of all when I discuss paganism, I have to make clear that I am talking about the modern practice of Pre-Christian religions. This includes a wide-gamut of practices: Neopaganism, Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, etc. Everyone within these groups has different ideas on what makes a pagan, and some of these people don’t even like being called pagans.

But with that aside, I am going to attempt to tackle an important questions about warfare, pacifism, flower power and so on in the practice of modern day paganism.

Much of the interest in neopaganism got activated in the West a little before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Wicca was introduced to the public by Gerald Garner in 1954. Other similar traditions started to also go public at that time. And as these traditions grew, they — like any other belief system — came to include many of the popular notions of the era.

Since the cultural revolution of the 1960s took place after the tail end of a massive era of war and violence in the twentieth century (after WWI and WWII), people were understandably sick of violence and embraced ideas of peace. And if peace can be achieved over war, it goes without saying that peace is a good solution.

But is pacifism always the answer? Does it represent some eternal truth? If one thinks of paganism as the ideals inspired by the Vikings, the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus — none of these civilizations were pacifistic by any means.  The Bhagavad gita was told in the middle of a battlefield. (Not saying all pagans are inspired by Hinduism, but its concepts of Dharma and Karma are certainly key concepts for most). But I’ve heard Westerners try to rationalize this away by saying, “Oh but it was a metaphorical battlefield!” only for Indian Hindus to tell me…”Uh yeah, our Gods fought wars because sometimes war is necessary to defeat evil.”

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If anything, some of the ideas of pacifism incorporated into the writings and teachings on modern day paganism may even be influenced by Christianity. And it’s impossible for anyone in a Western culture not to be influenced by Christianity, since that has been the predominant cultural lens for the past thousand or so years. (Not that the broad practice of Christianity has been pacifistic in any means in the West considering the history of genocide, witch hunts, colonialism, inquisition, and so on, but that there are many pacifistic teachings from Jesus in the Bible).

So this article is my response to certain voices in the pagan community who say that the pre-christian world was predominantly peaceful. Or that the ancient Gods value peace above all. Or the Californication of both pre-christian and Eastern religions. There is an attempt to make these views and practices non-threatening, so people will buy into them (literally and figuratively).

First of all, the pre-christian world was not predominantly peaceful. As stated above, the Celts, the Norse, the Romans, these were cultures that had wars, celebrated warriors, told tales of brave warriors, and even had entire gods and goddesses dedicate to war. Part of the reason why the Roman Empire collapsed is because they were having too many damn wars.

In Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization,  a book written by a man who lived with modern tribal people, and studied ancient tribes, he discusses how ancient times may have actually been even more violent than today, stating that with tribal people, a greater percentage of their populations participated and died from violence than people do today. Certainly with what the news may show about terrorism and school shootings people may think, “Oh what violent times we live in.” But at least in Europe and the United States, less than 5% of male deaths are caused by warfare. Compare that number to the Jivaro tribe where the percentage is something like 60%.

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Human sacrifice was also practiced in ancient times, as I detail in my article about that topic. There is plenty of proof for this. Written accounts. Human skeletons found with the bones of animal sacrifices. Tales of human sacrifice in ancient myths. Historical accounts. Sure, human sacrifice may have been used as a tool of the Christians to smear non-christian people. But the idea that this NEVER happened and is some evil lie propagated by the haters is laughable.

I have read in multiple neopagan sources that paganism is a peaceful religion, based on peaceful cultures in the ancient world where everyone apparently celebrated flower power. But this is a sweeping generalization that oversimplifies a group of people, deletes a large chunk of their history and ritualistic practice, and more than that — is a glaring misunderstanding of basic human nature.

Humans at our core are aggressive and territorial beings. Tell me you’re not territorial when you get a bug infestation in your house and decide to kill hundreds of living creatures for the mere crime of being in your space (even when they’re doing nothing harmful to you).

As a species, we also bare a strong genetic resemblance to chimpanzees, which are one of the most aggressive primates.

The idea that humans weren’t aggressive or territorial until Christianity came along is fallacious.

Like any truth, it is important to understand that aggression is a normal part of human behavior, and should be accepted as such.

Does that mean that it’s okay for people to go around and pick fights and kill each other for no reason? No. Of course, peace and diplomacy should always be the first course of action, with violence being the very last. 

But in order to control aggression, the first step is to accept that we have it. In order to control our violence, we must accept that we are violent beings.

And any real spiritual practice that is worth its salt must encompass all aspects of humanity. Peace. Warfare. The Feminine. The Masculine. Earth. Air. Fire. Water. And so on and so forth.

Many ancient traditions had a cult of the warrior, religious practices for warriors, rites of manhood that emphasized learning how to fight, protecting oneself and enduring suffering (as well as rites for women too).  Ignoring that violence exists doesn’t protect one from it. It just makes one weak when the time comes to defend oneself. Modern day practices like self-defense and martial arts actually give people discipline, and make them less violent overall because they learn to control themselves and their own aggression.

And some even say that metal-heads are actually less violent and more well-adjusted because they listen to music that explores themes of violence, aggression and warfare.

So I’ll try to post some articles and sources here that can better understand traditions of warriors in the ancient world.


 ONLINE SACRED TEXTS

Hinduism

Norse Sagas

Celtic Folklore

 

VIOLENCE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

List of War Deities

Human Sacrifice in the Ancient World (Metal-Gaia)

Social Law vs. Natural Law: Wake up, you’re in the jungle baby (Meta-Gaia)

The Violent World of the Primeval Past

Brutal Visions of the Primeval Past

Buddhism and War

War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (Book)

 

METAL !!!

 


Write Your Name in Germanic Runes

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CLICK HERE TO WRITE YOUR NAME IN RUNES

The Rune Converter I link to above transforms Roman alphabet, as used in modern English, into five systems of Germanic runic writing: Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon runes, Long Branch Younger Futhark, Short Twig Younger Futhark and staveless runes (note that it does not translate the words themselves, it only converts letters into runes).

Note that the present converter works with modern English only. Letters with Old Norse (or any other) diacritics will not be converted into rune

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(“Metal Gaia” in runes)


Bathory – Shores In Flames (Full Song)

Country of origin: Sweden

Genre: Viking/Black Metal

Lyrical Themes: (Earlier Bathory) Satanism, Evil – (Later Bathory) Vikings/Paganism

An appropriate song for the end of winter. This song beckons us to set sail at the end of winter, in pursuit of treasure and battle on other shores.

Mother winter leaves our land
And opens wide the seas
The lukewarm breeze does beckon me
As it whispers through the trees

It says: Set your sails
And let me take your ship to foreign shores
Take farewell of those near you
And your land of the North!

This is a pretty long, but powerful song, filled with emotion and that nostalgia for the old Norse ways which Bathory captures so perfectly.

Quorthon, Bathory and Pagan Metal


Valhalla or Heaven?

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Hrmm…doesn’t seem like a difficult choice to me.


Wardruna and Anilah Collaboration – New Warrior Song

Einar Selvik of Wardruna and Anilah (Canadian, Shamanic Folk Music Project) have collaborated together to remake an Anilah original. Together they have come out with a new version of Anilah’s “Warrior.” Einar Selvik and Dréa Drury of Anilah are a natural combination of forces – considering that both artists create ambient, folk music that could be the backdrop for a ritual or meditation.

Anilah is the musical project of vocalist and composer Dréa Drury, a musician who hails from the Selkirk Mountains of Western Canada. Her music is influenced by traditional shamanic sound practices, sacred chant, dark tribal and Indian Classical. For more information on Anilah, check out my previous post.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wardruna, they are a Norse Folk Project put together by the former members of Gorgoroth. Their focus is on Norse Paganism, spiritualism and the runes. They are also famed for composing some of the music in the popular History Channel Drama Vikings.

ANILAH’S DESCRIPTION OF THE NEW WARRIOR SONG:

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(A picture from Cortes Island)

This song was composed on Cortes Island, a remote community off the west coast of Canada. The composition is meant to accompany ceremony and ritual, in whatever form the listener chooses.

“The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average man. The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.”

~ Carlos Casteneda Quote

SUPPORT THE BAND – BUY SONG HERE AT BANDCAMP 


Asatru in Iceland – Video on Next TV

The story about Iceland getting their own temple to the Norse Gods has been making the news. Because of this, people have been becoming more curious about what Asatru is, and specifically what Asatru means for people in Iceland. This short segment on Next TV goes to Iceland and talks to the Asatru community. The video quality itself is crap and I can barely read the subtitles that show names and locations (don’t worry, the segment is in English). However it still provides interesting information about Asatru from the Icelanders who are personally involved themselves. The best way to learn about something is straight from the source.

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Mythology Corner Interviews Asatru Tribal Leader

The above interview takes place between Professor Valle of the Mythology Corner and Vincent Enlund, the tribal leader of The Wanderer Kindred. First off, I will say that Endlund’s beliefs do not encompass all Asatru beliefs – he says as much himself in the video. I will also say that he appears to be either Folkish or Tribalist in his belief set, in that he believes that Asatru is a religion specifically for people of European heritage, and that people of different ancestries have different Gods (such as Shinto for the Japanese, Hinduism for Indians, Yoruba for Africans etc.). There are many reasons why I disagree with this outlook, but that is something I have already discussed at length in previous posts. If you wish to know more on my opinion about this, I can elaborate in the comments section if you are curious.

Anyways, I do think Vincent Enlund seems very educated and well spoken about the subject matter at hand. If you have an hour and a half to kill (maybe need something to listen to as you are cleaning or organizing a room) this is a mentally stimulating way to occupy your time. Enlund and the professor have a pretty extensive conversation about how Asatru got started, what it means for people in the modern world, Asatru services for the community (such as prison and military religious services), the interaction that Asatru has with other religious, beliefs about the afterlife, honorable behavior, community, etc. There are also some pretty deep conversations about what Yggdrasil means on a metaphysical level. There are also some controversial questions there too. For example, if all the Gods are real – then are the Monotheistic Gods real too?

In general, most of Enlund’s statements match general Asatru opinions I’ve heard from other sources: it is disrespectful to lump different Gods together and treat them as the same God (i.e. Isis is not Frigg), most people actually won’t go to Valhalla since Valhalla is for the 1% of the 1% of most excellent people (and most normal people would probably be exhausted by Valhalla anyways), and for most people new to the Asatru community, the best thing to do is a lot of studying and listening.

So while the video above isn’t the “authoritative source” on all things Asatru (especially if you consider yourself a Universalist), it is an interesting and deep discussion on the subject matter.