Below are two maps of the Viking world. One in English. One in Norse.
The Summer Solstice will be upon us soon. June 21st (in the Northern hemisphere). Midsummer is one of the most important holy days in Heathenry. The time of year when the great sun goddess, Sunna, rides her great chariot to the highest she can manage. When the sun shines upon the Earth like no other time.
During this time, many people from all over the world would celebrate the summer solstice, being the longest day of the year. This was a time of merriment, celebration, trade, prosperity, and for Vikings, a time for raiding.
“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.”
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%.
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
VIOLENCE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
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
(“Metal Gaia” in runes)
Hrmm…doesn’t seem like a difficult choice to me.
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.
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.
Attention Heathens, Asatru and Vikings of the internet. You will no longer have to raid the nearest settlement to find an adequate wench or knave to warm your bed this winter. There is a new dating site that has started up to help members of the Asatru community connect with one another and hopefully find romance – or lust – or a good time – or at least some pictures of guys with cool beards to look at.
The site is very new indeed. When I did a search for all the women in the world between 18-90, I only came up with 33 lasses total. (Apparently 90 is the age limit for this site, I guess after 90 you were supposed to die valiantly in battle instead of languishing around, getting older and eating up social security checks). If you are looking for a man, prospects are somewhat better. There are about 100 men on the site so far – another reminder that the world of Asatru can sometimes be a sausage fest. But that’s okay, if everyone on the site is okay with each woman having 3 men to herself, I’m sure everything will be just fine!
(Okay…this date actually looks a little awkward…)
Those in the United States will get the best odds, as most of the people I found were U.S. locals. For the rest, you could always try your luck putting together a ship, a crew, and making your way across the ocean as Leif Ericson did long ago (or do something far less epic, like just buying a plane ticket or sit around waiting for the invention of teleportation devices).
When you build your profile, you are given the typical dating site options: are you seeking male or female, are you divorced, single in an open relationship, etc. You are also required to answer questions such as your sense of humor, your interest in shows, whether you smoke, drink and all that other good stuff.
(“What do you mean you don’t like Cannibal Corpse? Sorry. We’re gonna have to see other people.”)
My main criticism is that the profile options need to give you a blank field where you can write in your own response if the preexisting responses don’t apply. For example, you can only be interested in males or females. But what about someone on the site who is bisexual? I actually do have a few bisexual heathen friends, so they would be a bit put off by this restriction. You can also only list a male or female gender, but what if someone identifies as a different gender orientation than either of those options? Also, the site requires you to list your exact location, down to the city you live in. I feel that some people would want to retain more privacy than that. Therefore, they should have an option that allows you to leave the option blank.
Yet with criticisms aside, I know that the site is very new, so they probably have quite a few quirks and kinks to work out. But I think it is a good idea that this site is attempting to do such a thing. It shows that the Asatru community is indeed growing and becoming more recognized. There is also an option to add blogs, classifieds and events, even though this hasn’t been utilized very much yet. It will be interesting to see where this site goes.
(“You mean you also enjoy crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of their women? You’re a keeper!”)
I enjoyed this argument for the author’s deep scholarship of the issue, as well as the time they put into their argument.
One key point in their argument is that a clarification of terms is necessary.
Universalist can mean a lot of things. The key understanding that most people have, is that Universalist opens Heathenry to all people, regardless of their ancestral background, while Folkish Heathenry believes that only people with European or Northern European ancestry should follow the Norse Gods.
Many people assume that Universalist Heathenry has more syncretism or less reconstructionism than other forms of Heathenry, when that is not necessarily the case.
So read this argument and enjoy.
Trying to understand the layout of the world tree is something that always confused me, so this simplified picture is pretty helpful.
Looking for a way to educate your children about the Norse Gods?
Or do you just want simple reading material?
Who doesn’t like books with pictures?
One of the largest excavations ever made in Uppsala
YOU TUBE VIDEO COMMENTARY
(All information below is written by original YouTube Poster, not me. I simply cleaned up some of the grammar and spelling)
The Pillars of old Uppsala 800 BC – 600 AD:
In October 2013, Swedish archaeologists revealed that they had found a 900 meter long wooden pillar column near the royal burial ground. In February 2014, they found the oldest samples from the wooden pillars – the oldest ones were 2800 years old!
So the wooden pillars were erected and in use during a time period of at least 1400 years.
Experts believe the pillars would have been at least around 7-8 m high and needed around 1,5 ton of rock to support them. Also a smaller wooden column of over 500 meters long has been found south of this column but hasn’t yet been totally excavated.
The colonnades were found near a famous burial site where the three Iron Age kings Aun, Egil and Adils are believed to be buried.
In Ynglinga saga, Odin is considered the 2nd Mythological king of Sweden, succeeding Gylfi and was succeeded by Njörðr.
These ancient colonnades were found in the center of Old Uppsala during work on a new railway line. It’s the largest excavation ever made in Uppsala.
Love it or hate it, The History Channel’s Vikings is back for season number 2. Some folks have criticized the show for its inaccuracies of portraying a “Biker Bar” image of the 8th century Viking World.
HOW TV THINKS VIKINGS DRESSED:
SOMETHING CLOSER TO HOW THE VIKINGS ACTUALLY DRESSED
Vivid colors, flowing silk ribbons and glittering bits of mirrors are not what we typically think of when imagining a Viking in his “digs.” Yet grave excavations reveal that Ancient Scandinavian men may have dressed much more colorfully than originally thought. Swedish Archaeologist Annika Larsson believes that the men could be vain and that the women liked to dress provocatively, with their cleavage exposed and the skirts consisting of a single piece of fabric that was open in the front. But this style of clothing disappeared once the Vikings made contact with the Christians.
Another glaring inaccuracy is the idea that the Vikings did not know where England was. Trading routes along the North Sea date back even before the Roman invasion of Gaul in the first century B.C. This idea is especially absurd considering that The Vikings were expert sea navigators for their time period.
The final inaccuracy I will touch on is the way that the role of Earl was portrayed. He is shown as a sort of local dictator who can make decisions about life and death for his entire tribe. The reality is that The Vikings were a fairly autonomous people who lived rather Democratic lives. Decisions were made through a vote at The Thing. The Earl, also known as the Chieftain, would take a role in helping to make tribal decisions about allocating justice in a legal dispute, choosing areas to explore, tribes to battle and deciding how much food to share in a time of famine. However, as far as we know, the Chieftain did not have the authority to condemn a man to death. The most harsh punishment was being exiled. Exile meant that a man no longer had the protection of his tribe, which means no legal protection if someone else wanted to kill him.
I’m sure there are all kinds of other minute details I could get into, but I’d rather discuss what is GOOD about the show.
Yes, The Vikings is not the world’s most accurate portrayal of the way that the Vikings may have lived, but this show wasn’t just released for History Professors and Heathens. This was a show that was designed to appeal to the general public. In doing so, people who may have known nothing about Vikings may now be intrigued enough to read a book or search the internet for Viking Lore. Sometimes, getting people interested in history is more important than creating something that is 100% accurate.
The Vikings is also a show that captures the emotional themes of the Sagas, if nothing else.
So enjoy Season 2, since it is on the internet for free after all.
One last exciting thing I’ll mention is that Wardruna, the Norse Folk Group containing former members of Gorgoroth, has written more music for the score of the second season. Here is a song that was included in the score of the first season:
Blood is red,
Bruises are blue,
Axes smash faces
And these vikings are gonna kill you!
And….that’s the extent of my Valentines day poetry. Enjoy the film above!
(Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, I’ve been seriously sick.
When I kick this cold’s butt, I will pillage your wordpress feed with even more exciting metal vids and articles!
The Viking Society for Northern Research is making all of their publications available online.
This includes everything they have published from their inception in 1893 to the present day.
Much of this information includes The Eddas, guides to old Icelandic language, lectures on Norse culture and more. Check it out for yourself and enjoy.