You, as a leader, fear to leave your people unprotected. You are responsible, but your responsibility is not total. They make their own choices. You cannot wipe every nose and bind up every scratch, and you are not the only one who can serve them. It is well to do the duty to which you have vowed yourself, but remember, the oath you swore was not to the people, but to the gods, though the people witnessed it.
Sometimes, the best way to serve the people is to make yourself a channel through which the gods can speak– as I do now. (laughter) And not speech only. When you carry my presence, or that of the Goddess, into the affairs of humankind, change happens. The presence of the Powers is a catalyst; transformation of existing elements will occur.
Nauðiz. Consider its meaning. Beware of becoming bogged down in details which make you lose sight of the real need. Ah, you want me to tell you what it is? This — that all of you, and especially those who profess to follow the Æsir, should face their own mortality, their own responsibility as physical beings, in this incarnation, this earth. Each one of you is responsible — to kin of flesh and spirit, to the place where you live — to the community, whether it is your community of choice or not, and to the landspirits of your place, the spirit of your house, a continuum of relationships physical and of the spirit, and some mixed.
Your lives are connected like the threads in Frigga’s weaving. You think the cloth is the weft, but the warp you have been given determines what can be woven. So you must look at your foundations, your structure. It is harder to change such fundamentals, but do not be misled to believe that playing with the surface will change things. You must address the root of the problem, and re-string parts of your loom.
Be conservative in your actions. Choose the smallest actions that are necessary; do not attempt overtly to rule the world. I search for a way to express this — you are not jotnar, building the walls of Valhall. I did that once, and it causes as many problems as it solves. The runes work better. They are a system which is only partly in this world. So. The visible structure should be the least of it. Set in place a structure which will allow the folk to bring their own building blocks.
Do not think I wish to be a dictator. That has been tried, it failed. I accept some, though not all responsibility for that experiment. Hitler was drunk on what he thought I was. And now you cannot even say his name. Even I make mistakes, but I learn from them. Never again shall you try to impose a reich upon the folk. Not for this age of the world. Not in a nation, and not in a religion.) Take warning. If you fail I will bring you down as well, but I will still love you. I tell you this because you will encounter those who do not understand that his dream was a false start. They worship an image which is now of the past. They fix on the parts of the dream which were in error, not those which I had hopes for.
What you must understand is that you are connected to these people. Not only in the eye of the public, who will tar you all with the same brush, but at a deeper level. They are your shadow. You cannot afford to suppress your shadows, or at least to suppress awareness of them, just as you must come to terms with your own personal demons. Their realm is svartalfheim — an irony.
So, you must act on two levels, the overt and external, in which you need a broad, simple, but strong, structure. And the covert, internal, unconscious and archetypal level, which is where the real work will be done. It is a great temptation to work on the external. Do not give in to it. But the inner work, now that is another matter entirely. My children especially must work on that level.
Three trees grow in the futhark, more if you follow the Anglo Saxons. And trees are the other half of the cycle with is my breath. What the World tree breathes out, I take in, and it lives on what I exhale. The Tree links earth and heaven, it links above and below, it transforms all elements. It never moves, and yet it is movement. It is an axis, a center, a point from which you orient yourself to the world. The trees that have lived longest have great power; you do well to consider them sacred. A vigil in the heart of such a tree would be a powerful thing. Some day take the time to go back to the forest and camp where you can go out at night and sit such a vigil. Be still and listen to what the tree has to say. Tomorrow, go out and touch a tree. Reach out to sense the life running up and down within it. One day take your people to a grove and let them feel its power. Your kind, humankind, could not have grown to humanity without trees. Trees are your mothers, your fathers. You are the children of Ask and Embla. .
Swear by oak, ash, and thorn, and you will be linked to the land. Though here, perhaps, it should be oak, redwood, and manzanita. .
Honor…Troth…truth… what are they? I am not known as a truthteller, and yet one of my names is Truthful. You do well to worry, and yet you must not forget that there are levels and kinds of truth, and that sometimes one must break one’s oath to be true to another, higher, faith. If your words make folk think, that is well, but you must not preach simplistic solutions. To insist on total truth in government is indeed naive. The difficulty is, very few humans know when they are telling the truth. The best that can usually be hoped for is that each one will tell his or her own truth. Even your scientists, who pride themselves on their objectivity, are bound by their methods and preconceptions. Within their paradigm they tell the truth, but they are not allowed to see anything that lies outside it.
You do not have to rub people’s noses in subtlety, in deception, but you do not need to glorify it either. Values have become seriously eroded when the state glorifies deception. It should be no more than a grim necessity. That is why people can accuse others of oath-breaking. They elevate to the status of a formal and conscious oath what they assume was understood consensus. You are concerned with this issue now because of the oath you yourself may be asked to swear. You wonder if it is legitimate to agree to wording which you are not entirely sure of, for the sake of a greater good.
You value confidentiality, but if someone told you, in confidence, a thing which the good of a group or another person required you to pass on, what would you do? If that greater good was indeed apparent, you would have no compunction about telling, would you? Perhaps you would try to salve your conscience by only telling part of the story, or trying to disguise your source. That does not change the fact.
Oaths are very important. Were not many of the early medieval epics about the conflict in loyalties when an oath binds a man to his own destruction, or to an unworthy leader? When you analyze the situations, these men are foolish to hold true, to die gloriously, as they did at Brunanburgh. Today you read that poem and think that the greater good, the defense of the land, required them not to be so noble. But you have seen the dangers of making expediency your highest good as well.
What it comes down to is this, what will you hold to, to death and beyond? What is it that you will not betray? For each one it is different, and the breaking point is different as well. The question is like the question of when you would kill? To protect your own life, the lives of your children, your country, or your country’s interests, as defined by whom?
What would you be willing to swear to?
What will you swear to me?
You know what you believe by what you do. But taking oath is an act as well. When you allow yourself to be marked for me that says something, but you must articulate what it means. The mark is a pledge. You do not have to swear never to take the mark off — you will have set that choice beyond you. You can pledge only not to ignore it, to live up to it — once you figure out what that means. What I ask of you is this — that you keep listening. You must make a regular time for me to speak to you. What else do I ask? Contemplate the meaning of the valknot, three aspects, or clusters, interwoven. One is the face which is concerned with battle and death; it is a major path, and you do not know it well. One is concerned with poetry, frenzy, ecstasy, growing drunk on words. And the third, the third is indeed that of a ruler. A ruler, not as a king, with tyrannical power, but as a king who serves, who sacrifices, who lives for the people. But my kingship is not overt and public, not since the days when the Anglo Saxon kings claimed kinship. My kingdom is of the mind and spirit. It is there I give my gifts. I rule by enabling the mind to understand structure and relationship. The runes can be a key.
Have faith, beyond my apparent chaos there is order. The order of the stars and spheres.
Kenaz… for you today the rune is fire. You did not draw it, so I give it to you now. I contain all runes, those given to humankind and those of the other kindreds, and runes which will not be revealed until the golden game tokens are taken from the grass. Baldur will reveal the hidden runes to the survivors of humankind.
The rune for this day is fire, the fire of life that burns in your body, the fire of the sun that warmed the air, the fire in the sauna. Three fires, all of them transforming one element to another and releasing heat. So it is with all great transformations. One thing is turned into another, that is important, but it is also important that you make good use of the by-products, the heat of the exchange. Even the “hot air” of the flamewars you complain of, can be useful. Indeed, if your folk would harness all the energy they are expending in foolish quarrels, they could change the world..
You are the torch, and yet it is not you they are seeing, but that which is seen by the light of the fire. You hold the torch, the light that you bear. Even I would rather they looked at the truth than at me. I am sometimes the Hidden One.
You seek to speak truth, to be simple and clear. It is not always possible. I will tell you when you must be devious. But a great deal of subtlety consists in simply sitting still and keeping silent. Those who do not say everything that comes into their heads get a reputation for wisdom. If you are silent, people will project upon you their own hopes and fears. This is how I acquired so many names. You reflect back all these other feelings, but as you understand them, they become your own, so it is not entirely a deception. Do you understand? What you must do is listen, hear what people say, then restate it back to them, so that they can hear what they are saying too.
Fire is a mighty power; the flames of the pyre free the spirit that seeks my hall. As the laws of your land now stand, it is likely that you will be released by fire, in the end. The fire reduces all to their disparate elements. Breath and moisture go back to the atmosphere. Substance, and you remember how little that is, may be given to the earth beneath the great trees, the worldtree. It does not matter. Your spirit comes then to learn the names I have not shown to humankind. Hold that as a hope and a consolation. None of these “flames” will matter when you pass through the flames of the pyre.
A rune of protection. Elhaz. What is protection, and what do you need to be protected against? Not the things you think. The ordinary dangers on the road and so forth you can for the most part deal with yourself. There are more subtle dangers. Pride, for instance, and complacency. It is a release to gossip with others, but retain your detachment there as well as elsewhere. Do not allow yourself to believe that the loose talk is truth. There is a warm glow of mutual congratulation which can be deceptive.
You may feel you need protection yourself from gossip and misinterpretation. You cannot be completely guarded. You must learn, instead, to take such blows without being too hurt by them. No warrior but Sigfrid came unharmed from every battle. You will take your knocks. and you will bleed sometimes, and weep and rage. But . . . Wear your scars proudly. They are experience, that is useful. Sometimes pain is the only way to learn.
What is faith? It is what you will to believe. Those who fought at Maldon had faith, even as they foresaw what end wyrd would bring them. They had faith in honor and courage, and in themselves, and their love for their lord. They wove their wyrd with those threads upon the warp the Danes had strung. It all comes down to choices — to making them advisedly, and taking responsibility for the results. That is an element you might inject into the discussion — the notion of responsibility.
Too often, “faith” is an excuse, a way to avoid thinking. To have an ethical code which is ingrained does save a certain amount of time, but you must not let it become too automatic. The basis of honor is self-examination — the foundation — otherwise it too easily becomes ego instead. There are some in Asatru that think that way. Again, there is a balance to be sought between detachment/self-examination and inaction/weakness. Doing nothing is also a choice. You seek peace, and a frith weaver is certainly needed, but sometimes conflict is inevitable. You can put it off, but for some things there is no “better time.”
I am here, but you know that. The ravens tell you so. Watch for the ravens, they will remind you that I am watching you. Carry the ravens in your eyes and ears and memory. You are also Huginn and Muninn, gathering lore, insight, information for me.
Your community is still at a delicate stage, like a sapling which has now grown tall enough to be vulnerable to the wind. You have been cut back, died back, hugged the ground. Now you are putting forth new growth; the sap is rising again and people will want action. This is one of the thresholds which you must successfully cross if you are to grow.
Take small steps, and support each one before you take the next. Rather than casting your seed broadly, let things extend from existing growth. This is not the route that will appeal to those who are hungry for glory, but it will be productive.
When you being a task, make sure that you have enough resources and energy to complete it. Just as low batteries will give out in the middle of writing, so that you will lose my words, if you begin a project with insufficient resources, even if it serves the gods, it will fail.
Proceed cautiously, keeping sight of the goal. You have neither allies nor enemies, only those who can be helpful or those who will hinder. Sometimes they are the same people. You cannot afford to cultivate enemies. Even the frith breaker has a use. Even the racialists have virtues. Recognize them, even as you remain separate. Separation is a political necessity, and a necessity for true progress. Your community must sink its roots ever deeper, and find the strength to endure. It is not “better” than all the other groups, but it stands for things which must be represented. It is an essential part of the religious ecology.
What should you give those who come to this meeting? The living reality of contact with their gods. Give something back to the earth in response to the peace and protection you ask the wights to provide. There, you are in Utgard, separate from the world.
There are many opportunities to make magic. Put a blessing on the food as it is cooked. Bless the buildings. Do covert as well as overt rites and rituals. Set up heavy wardings where the meetings will be held.
Where will you find the soldiers for your army? You must speak to the soul as well as the mind. Work magic. Lead the group in visualizing the community as you wish it to become. Let your sunfire be a beacon to draw those who should be with you, make the festival a time when everyone can enjoy the presence of the gods. A festival not only for the folk but for us — invite us, each night of the festival. Let me speak to you, and carry me with you.
And do not fear. Even failure is not final. Fight your best and something will be gained. You will lose some battles, but it is a long war, with many campaigns. Do not place too much weight on any single encounter.
I do not forsee disaster, but I repeat that the situation is delicate. You must feed the spirit — you must create a situation in which we can feed the spirit.
Invoke me as Wunsch and Wishfather and Oski and let my ecstatic excitement fill the spirit. Breathe. Let me delight and excite you and let my love carry you through.
Booze and good company are not the only reason for the folk to come together. You must also be a pontiff of the rainbow bridge, to link the people to the gods. In the long run, this will be as important as the rest.
There is never a time when you can sit back and take your ease, never a time to be complacent. Beware of the dangers of success. Young energetic people are coming in, eager to win honor. I have seen the same thing in an army when the new, untried warriors begin to feel their strength and seek a foe. Wise heads that counsel patience may find them hard to hold.
You must inspire them, harness those energies so that they will be used to some purpose. Perhaps the metaphor of a mother with a young family will mean more to you. Give your children something to do, lest they find mischief to get into.
This is not to say that you will not listen, and encourage them to be creative — you must develop new leaders, after all, or you will be condemned to do the job yourself for too long. But you must channel that energy to create the openings you want, so that it will go somewhere useful. All those efforts must be coordinated, or the energy will be scattered.
You ask where I think you should go? What a dangerous question! Ah, you are not promising to go there — that is well. (laughter) And yet I am not always a leader of berserkers. I, too, know how to be patient, to lay deep plans.
This is what you must say to them: that you stand at the threshold of a new time, when people everywhere will be more willing to accept new ideas, new customs, except for those who cling fearfully to the past. Think carefully, therefore about what you wish to leave behind and what you would keep or make new. You know all this, you have been doing it, but do you remember what you have done? Ask the folk of your community what place the Heathen Way should hold in this new world, and what dangers as well as what opportunities they see.
Communication is developing in a great explosion of connections. This is my kingdom; I ride the waves of energy. But even as you revel in the new networks, do not forget the wights. The danger of the land, to the whole of Midgard, increases. No communications will save you if the earth and sea rebel.
Ask your people to take thought for the implications of your beliefs — that trees are sacred because of Yggdrasil, and the rest. We made the world that you know from the devastation of an older world, the body of Ymir that preceded the body of Erda as you know it. Each thing is recycled to shape the next. But next time, it will be our children who do the shaping, and the time for it is not yet.
Perhaps that will be a sufficient call to arms, enough to distract the people from the pleasures and temptations of infighting. The enemy is not other heathens, or other religions, but the common foe that uses the Earth with mindless greed.
Your position gives you a right to speak. Use it.
You are not able to ask me what you most want to know — your own emotions cloud the connection. Ask a seer, if you will not trust my voice as it comes through you. Remember, all things are possible if you look at them the right way.
Huginn and Muninn wing through the heavens. I fear for Huginn, but I fear more for Muninn.
Thought and Memory. Thought can be dangerous, but memory is a greater hazard. People respond not to what is being said, but to their own histories. This quarrel is not about you. It is not even truth about the organization. This is about old pain, and the crowd, like dogs in a pack, races after the loudest, howling.
Reach out, not with hostility, but with healing. Loki has nothing to do with this, it is not malice, but hurt, that is the cause. Of course you must guard yourselves, but take no hostile action.
The first requirement is to calm the storm, to stop the hunt. The second is to separate the pack from its leader. The same is true for all of you: if the leaders remain united, you cannot be assailed successfully.
You must not only be responsive, you must appear to be so. Many institutions have sent out information that was ignored, then heard complaints from people who said they had not been informed. Still, to send out material and announce that you are doing so will diffuse some of the ire.
When you are walking on quicksand, find something solid and hang onto it.
Co-opt your enemies and make them your allies, then they will have a stake in defending the status quo. You have more allies than you may think.
The ship sails on. Storm winds veer, the crew or passengers may become hysterical, but you must keep a steady hand at the helm. Your will drives the ship on.
A leader cannot lead from just behind, should not lead from just the middle, and only the very suicidal lead from the front. Rather, the best leader does all three:
From the front, his scouts scent the land for the enemy: he gathers information before starting. When battle is joined, his spirit will infuse his men, and they will fight and die for him. This is how the general fights from the front.
In the middle, the general is part of the rhythm of battle, hearing its ebb and flow around him (yes, think of the lashed rafts [from a novel]). He takes every little ebb and flow in stride, and rallies his men. This is how you fight from the middle, how you lead.
The general who fights from the hindmost is wise: he is on the hilltop, pointing to and fro to his columns, and his orders are carried out. His ass is decorating a seat at battalion HQ and stays there, because the wisdom in his head is worth more alive than his memory dead.
The general in the rear has wisdom. The general in the middle has the presence of the eternal now. The general of the front has heart and spirit, enough for all his band.
Do you see how to lead from all three? It’s much easier in these virtual wars of words: you know the players, you know the terrain far better than they. When it comes to the personalities with whom you are in conflict, [another person] knows how to point and steer them, and be the general from behind.
You must be the general in the middle.
[In answer to an e-mail:]
Fighting can be senseless. Cooperation can bring complacency. I do not care which road you take (well, competition is usually quicker), as long as you are mindful of your choices and how you proceed! A berserk is only half-useful in an army: when the red curtain falls and takes him, the wise general makes sure to keep much of the army away from those half-tamed madmen, but what a mess they make of the enemy!
Modern anti-personnel mines are like berserkers. They do not care who they kill, and both have a very clear warning on them: THIS SIDE TOWARDS ENEMY. Neither are mindful.
Are you mindful? Is your rage being expended usefully?
Or are you just something to be pointed in the right direction and left to churn through the enemy?