Communal Duty?

•October 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Reading this post over at Bleeding heart Libertarians got me thinking about the idea of duty, gratitude, and social justice in an anarchist society. Being a Heathen also leads me to ideas about duty. I am going to start this post by claiming that in a commune and recieving the benefits of a commune requires your loyalty and gives you a duty to help out, defend it, and participate responsibly. I will say this from my Asatruar perspective alone: The myths teach us the virtues to strive towards, and where our duties lie.  Because we are left to judge for ourselves how to meet the challenges and responsibilities that are given us, there can be no one Asatru answer to those questions; no commandments,  just the need to judge for yourself.

I am a vegan psychologist who is a very non-violent person.   There are other Asatruar(and obviously much more orthodox who are omnivores  who also accept their personal responsibility to act to change the world, and are at least as firmly on the path as I am. I might disagree with them on many moral issues but that is my own business, but we we share an understanding of our duty to protect and defend the community, the nation, and the world in which we live.  The gods leave us no easy way out, the duty to act is ours.  How we act is dependant on our abilities and judgement. 

Of course, we have the same number of idiots as any other faith, and given the broad discretion that is mandated by our beliefs, they have a much broader pallet of possible bad choices to pick from.  There are some benefits to a “Ten rules to obey without question or thought”  approach, but without the possiblility of failiure, life would not be a true test.  Besides, until a person is dead, they always retain the ability to grow, learn, and change.  For this reason even our outlaws are given the chance to figure out they have been fuck-ups and mend their ways.  We don’t do forgiveness, so pretty much you are on your own to make resitution once you figure out you have been harming others by your mistakes.  Wisdom often comes with a heavy price tag.

I identified myself as an anarchist (the political philosophy) long before I came across Asatru.  My opinion was then, and is now, that society would be much better off if people were to live in smaller communities, where individual needs and opinions could be addressed, and then each smaller community would in turn meet with the community at large.  This reminds me a lot of the individual villages that existed in Northern Europe prior to Christian interaction. I tend to vote left in elections, because of my social views, and my opinion that those who are actually unable to take care of themselves should be provided for.  But I think poverty and many other issues would be much easier to handle in smaller groups, where individuals could work together to serve the community. In addition, if someone didn’t agree with the views or customs of the community in which he or she lived, there would be plenty of others, and most likely, one or more would suit said person’s taste.

I am an anarchist politically, as I feel no government could ever, in any way provide freedom or social justice.  I hold no party affiliation and feel that government is mostly an extension of corporate interests.  As far as issues go.  I am pro-gun, pro-choice, pro-LGBT, anti-racist,  feminist, anti-capitalist/pro-communist, and radical enviromentalist.

All of this leads to the idea of communal duty. Communal duty is another name for primordial morality which is an outgrowth of Wyrd .  In all of the amazing ranges and reaches of human experience, we often find ourselves comparing our way of living and thinking to others, after the many “ways of being and experiencing” collide and interact with one another, sometimes to good impact, sometimes to disaster. Wyrd forces us to take seriously our deeds and way of thinking; it also forces us to consider the way others act and think, for the deeds, thoughts, tendencies, and beliefs of other people can and will affect us all, eventually.

Those who wish to fall into a sort of laziness regarding the lives of other people, in the name of a truly unrealistic sense of “non-involvement” or even “leaving others to their ways” will swiftly find the danger involved. History gives us many examples of how disastrous social movements and conflicts began in very distant lands, but had a way of spreading out and eventually consuming the entire globe in their power.  Understanding Wyrd forces us to realize that all events in our world are relevant to us, and carries us to the full meaning of the old saying “involvement is the primary duty of the wise”.

When we think interactionally, we easily find our way into what I refer to as “primordial morality”- You begin wherever you happen to be, and you see yourself as a part of the social system that you are necessarily involved with- one’s people, one’s family, one’s friends, and one’s society. Those human groupings are necessarily involved with what we call the “natural” system of the world- the local water, land, forests, animals, and environment.

It’s all one web of power; these distinctions are only made to illustrate a point, and made to satisfy the dualistic nature of language and human understanding. You can (usually) see who and what you rely upon, and who and what your people and your land rely upon.

Reliance is a very widespread notion within the systemic model of interactionism- in the web of Wyrd, we rely on countless powers and beings. Acting and thinking in such a manner as to ensure the safety and health of our community-systems and the natural systems upon which they rely is the greatest “commandment” of natural or primordial morality.

When we consider things in this manner, and examine the realities of life in the ancient world, we arrive immediately at the notion of “tribal” morality; people in ancient times had to live and act in ways that preserved the immediate concerns of family and people. In our modern times, in these times in which the world has perceptually “shrunk” and forced all human beings together into an unavoidable interactive wedlock, the seeds of a global morality are blooming.

This isn’t a morality based on religious notions of “sin” or “God” or what have you- it is not a morality based on which culture is “superior” or “right” or “better”- it is a morality based on interactions that give rise to the common good of human beings and planet earth. Our own “good” is tied to the good of others- what any group of people do to the web of life, they do to all life. Our own survival- and the survival of society- is also tied to others.

Understanding the Seven Sermons to the Dead pt 3

•October 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Continuing with my series and my thoughts on the Seven Sermons to the Dead. The third sermon deals with the nature of the Implicate or Divine or better yet… as we should call it… Abraxas. I mentioned the revolutionary idea that we are Abraxas or effect in a previous post. The implications of the meaning of that should be clear from this part of the series.

Hard to know is the deity of Abraxas. Its power is the greatest, because man perceiveth it not. From the sun he draweth the summum bonum; from the devil the infimum malum; but from Abraxas life, altogether indefinite, the mother of good and evil.

Smaller and weaker life seemeth to be than the summum bonum; wherefore is it also hard to conceive that Abraxas transcendeth even the sun in power, who is himself the radiant source of all the force of life.

Abraxas is impact and is a force greater than the sun and the devil. Think about this amd think about this quote from Futurama’s episode the GodFellas: ” When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” Abraxas is beyond perception because perceiving Abraxas limits it’s power or rather the power of the pleroma or whole. In unity  and solidarity should we stand to increase our power and yet there is danger as implicated by the first sermon to give your self fully to a label.

Anarchists are the ultimate expressions of Abraxas they seek to effect radical changes on society and the world through radical activism, revolution, and social justice and yet even anarchists are a single aspect of Abraxas or the pleroma; individuation of the individual would further distinguish it from the whole.

Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible.

It is splendid as the lion in the instant he striketh down his victim. It is beautiful as a day of spring. It is the great Pan himself and also the small one. It is Priapos.

It is the monster of the under-world, a thousand-armed polyp, coiled knot of winged serpents, frenzy.

We exemplify both good and evil, most have positive and negative attributes. Human beings are not perfect and realizing this we must change people. Changing people can make anarchism a reality.  However we are limited by design, artificial reasons, or whatever. We have to aknowledge our strengths, our failings, and even animal nature. The Rígsþula or the Lay of Rig, those of a more social Darwin or “naturalistic” outlook mistake konungr to be justification for a literal king.As Siegfried Goodfellow points out here:

There are those who would invoke the Lay of Rig to justify this through calling up the “three classes” of Teutonic society, but let us make this clear : the Lay of Rig makes it painfully obvious to those who read it carefully that if there is a hierarchy, it is of those who are enlightened, who have opened themselves to the mysteries of existence, and since those mysteries are primarily revealed in myths which we have already demonstrated to be Gnostic in flavor, presenting the drama of a monstrous world being struggled against by divine powers which are in process of mending it by interweaving divine elements, but which struggle against human beings who become subject to the sorceries of negative powers, we can see that this is a very different kind of hierarchy than is usually propagated.

The naive “paganism = veneration of nature” equation becomes further corrupted in modern times into a “Social Darwinist Paganism”, that, seeing nature solely through Social Darwinist eyes, meaning projecting empire and tyranny’s worst characteristics onto nature, then seeks to worship that sociological model that has been projected into nature, a kind of vile heresy if I may so call it.

Nature as Zoroastrians have seen it has become a battleground between Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda, and thus from a Zoroastrian perspective, we would expect to see a mixture of tendencies in nature, with both hierarchical and anti-hierarchical, good and evil, natures in struggle. Imperialists glorify when they find hierarchical tendencies and hypostatize them to the detriment of perceiving anti-hierarchical tendencies. The point in all this being that as pagans or heathens, we are not required to uncritically affirm everything in nature, and especially not that which our scientists, engaged in a cultural practice called “science”, tell us is “nature”, a highly mediated, academically sealed and approved, nature, since they are often, and I am sorry to say this, feeding back to us their own preconceptions projected into nature. Many scientists will take umbrage to this, but it has been demonstrated time and again.

People of course need to change. Enlightenment in the case of an anarchist, means the liberation of an individual, individuation, and that balance of getting unity and indivduality just right.

It is illusory reality.

This final part I am going to comment on today, is going to be this.  I have implicated that the state, capitalism, and oppression are really illusory barriers, that have very real effects and limits. The problem that I find that people stumble on is this idea that these things are inevitabilities, things would get worse and so on. This is a frightening aspect of the reach of the capitalists, government, and oppressors.  Most of the world’s problems could be solved if people would expand their minds beyond what they thought was possible. It’s a process that happens slowly, as society itself changes. When people realize they can be the cop, they can fix their own stuff, they don’t need to depend on others to make decisions… well… things will change for the better.

My political compass… some thoughts

•October 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Communism is friendship and friendship is magic

One of the things that I think this confirms is my radical leftist stance. But on the other hand it doesn’t talk about my real attitudes about other aspects of radical leftist ideology.  Radical leftists for example tend to be anti-religious. I am not. I’m not even against Bob believing that God is a cheese sandwich that eats marshmellows. It simply isn’t my business unless your beliefs are oppressive or imposing. this doesn’t make me any less of a radical leftist. I have argued in favor of pro-life positions, it doesn’t make me any less of a radical leftist. While tools like these are useful for getting a grip of your place politically, you should never feel compelled to be dogmatically attached to the results of a test.

Locke the Socialist: applying Lockean principles to Anarchism

•October 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Yes, my title is accurate. I’m not some sleep deprived anarcho-communist that went to some liberal puke fest at Des Moines, Iowa trying to make some positive change for others. (oh wait…) I firmly interpret Locke’s theory of property to be socialist. This is also admittedly a very non-orthodox interpretation of Locke. While Locke’s political philosophy is filled with inadequacies, Lockean principles are not evil and in some cases compatible with anarchism and other forms of socialism.

The orthodox Lockean libertarian view comprises four claims:

1. Each person has a moral right to do whatever she chooses with whatever she legitimately owns unless her actions would harm nonconsenting other people in certain ways that violate their rights.

2. Each person has the right not to be harmed by others by physical assault, interference with liberty by coercion or force, physically causing damage to person or property, extortion, theft or fraud, breach of contract, libel, or threat of any of the preceding.

3. Each adult person legitimately owns herself.

4. All of these moral rights are forfeitable by misconduct, transferable from their holder to another by mutual consent, and waivable by voluntary consent of their holder.

An important derivative element in Lockean theory is that from the premises above, given a world in which material resources are initially unowned, it follows that individuals can acquire extensive private ownership rights over material resources.The exact specification of this derivation, the characterization of its outcome, and the assessment of its success are crucial and tricky issues for Lockean theory, much debated. However… I reject some of these and accept that in an anarchist society that there are side constraints that will affect fundamental rights.  My Lockean influenced anarchist theory makes three claims:

1. A person can do whatever they please with any of their possessions unless they would harm others

2. Each person has the right to equality of conditions, protection from harm(social or physical) and liberty from coercive elements.

3. A person is themself; they have complete rights to use their body as they wish.

Notice that I do not have an anarchist version of the fourth aspect of Lockean rights theory, this is done on purpose. While my idea of rights diverges from typical Lockean views of rights; the differences are important when discussing the Lockean Proviso and Lockean theory of property from an anarchist perspective. Anarchists reject the idea that you can own yourself and to be honest self ownership is fraught with metaphysical issues, it is not the purpose of this post to discuss that however.

As I said earlier I reach socialist conclusions from Locke’s theory from my reading of Locke, it is not a normal understanding of Locke and while my position is a soft Lockean one and certainly non-orthodox… Here is the Lockean Proviso:

Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any other man, since there was still enough and as good left, and more than the yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less left for others because of his enclosure for himself. For he that leaves as much as another can make use of does as good as take nothing at all. Nobody could think himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left him to quench his thirst. And the case of land and water, where there is enough of both, is perfectly the same.

This is admittedly filled with lots of nuances and interpretations. Hard Lockean property theory presumes a communal earth and that people own themselves; and that effort generates property.  As my position is a soft Lockean one, I argue that two constraints exist that affects this, all of the constraints affect the Proviso.

Constraint 1: Marx was right with his criticisms of capitalism.

Whether or not you agree with all of Marx’s criticisms of capitalism, Marx’s Das Kapital was essentially correct. I am especially referring to Chapter Five: Contradictions in the General Formula of Capital and Chapter Twenty-Five: The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation. These criticisms from Das Kapital are essential in understanding my interpretation of the Lockean Proviso. Exchanges can not be exploitative and alienate someone from their labor.

Constraint 2: Property is theft

As demonstrated by Proudhon property is impossible without a state, which means that a Lockean inspired anarchism would have to deal with this issue. Luckily, anarchists divide property into two distinct groups – possession and property.  As shown by this section of the Anarchist FAQ:

The difference between property and possession can be seen from the types of authority relations each generates. Taking the example of a capitalist workplace, its clear that those who own the workplace determine how it is used, not those who do the actual work. This leads to an almost totalitarian system. As Noam Chomsky points out, “the term ‘totalitarian’ is quite accurate. There is no human institution that approaches totalitarianism as closely as a business corporation. I mean, power is completely top-down. You can be inside it somewhere and you take orders from above and hand ’em down. Ultimately, it’s in the hands of owners and investors.” Thus the actual producer does not control their own activity, the product of their labour nor the means of production they use. In modern class societies, the producer is in a position of subordination to those who actually do own or manage the productive process.

In an anarchist society, as noted, actual use is considered the only title. This means that a workplace is organised and run by those who work within it, thus reducing hierarchy and increasing freedom and equality within society. Hence anarchist opposition to private property and capitalism flows naturally from anarchism’s basic principles and ideas. Hence all anarchists agree with Proudhon:

“Possession is a right; property is against right. Suppress property while maintaining possession.” [Op. Cit., p. 271]

With this constraint in place that leaves the only legitimate property is a possession. This will lead to a very nuanced view of the Lockean Proviso. The Proviso effectively becomes a means of exchange only and can only justify legitimate claims of possession and in some cases provides a framework where people can freely trade. I am a supporter of anarcho-communism so the rest of this post will assume a communist community. Communists are the supporters of “from each according to their ability and to each according to their need”, but how will exchanges work? Communism is partially a gift economy with other aspects

A gift economy is a social theory in which goods and services are given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future quid pro quo. Typically, a gift economy occurs in a culture that emphasizes social or intangible rewards for solidarity and generosity: honor, loyalty or other forms of gratitude.In some cases, simultaneous or recurring giving serves to circulate and redistribute valuables within a community. This can be considered a form of reciprocal altruism. Sometimes there is an implicit expectation of the return of comparable goods and services, or the gift being later passed on to a third-party. The concept of a gift economy stands in contrast to a planned economy or a market or barter economy. In a planned economy, goods and services are distributed by explicit command and control rather than informal custom; in barter or market economies, an explicit quid pro quo — an exchange of money or some other commodity — is established before the social transaction takes place. In practice, most human societies blend elements of all of these, in varying degrees.

In his brilliant book The Gift: The Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde points to two types of economies. In a commodity (or exchange) economy, status is accorded to those who have the most. In a gift economy, status is accorded to those who give the most to others. Lest we think that the principles of a gift economy will only work for simple, primitive or small enterprises, Hyde points out that the community of scientists follows the rules of a gift economy. The scientists with highest status are not those who possesses the most knowledge; they are the ones who have contributed the most to their fields. A scientist of great knowledge, but only minor contributions is almost pitied – his or her career is seen as a waste of talent. At a symposium a scientist gives a paper. Selfish scientists do not hope others give better papers so they can come away with more knowledge than they had to offer in exchange. Quite the reverse. Each scientist hopes his or her paper will provide a large and lasting value. By the rules of an exchange economy, the scientist hopes to come away a “loser,” because that is precisely how one wins in science.

However, back to the Lockean Proviso: I think the proviso is an excellent way to adjudicate how communism could work and since my view of anarchism is a participatory direct democracy, I think that the proviso creates a situation where everyone is always working to compensate others through mutual aid and solidarity, and this would be consistent with anarchist principles.  Thusly, my interpretation of the Lockean Proviso is one that is very unorthodox, and the current system violates it. Through effort the workers should have control of the means of production, they are being exploited and stolen from from the rich bourgeois who have made unethical claims to property. They don’t exert effort, they subjugate the poor, and they restrict other’s liberty. Locke, might have nominally have been a capitalist, but he was a believer in liberty and justice, and I think he would agree that the bourgeois is a shining exampleo feverything that he disagreed with. Perhaps there was a time when Locke’s classical liberal solutions were just and correct, and yet the time is for us to progress. Locke said many things about justice, liberty, and influences much of political philosophy, it’s time that we work for justice and peace.

As John Locke said:

The people cannot delegate to government the power to do anything which would be unlawful for them to do themselves. … whenever the Legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience, and are left to the common Refuge, which God hath provided for all Men, against Force and Violence. Whensoever therefore the Legislative shall transgress this fundamental Rule of Society, and either by Ambition, Fear, Folly or Corruption, endeavor to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other an Absolute Power over the Lives, Liberties, and Estates of the People; By this breach of Trust they forfeit the Power the People had put into their hands, for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the People, who have a Right to resume their original Liberty.

I rest my case.

Understanding the Seven Sermons to the Dead pt 2

•October 5, 2011 • 1 Comment

The second sermon expands on the themes explored in the first sermon about individuality and yet, it also discusses God as a concept. God and devil as a greater whole to the pleroma. Consider this paragraph:

God is not dead. Now, as ever, he liveth. God is creatura, for he is something definite, and therefore distinct from the pleroma. God is quality of the pleroma, and everything which I said of creatura also is true concerning him.

He is distinguished, however, from created beings through this, that he is more indefinite and indeterminable than they. He is less distinct than created beings, since the ground of his being is effective fullness. Only in so far as he is definite and distinct is he creatura, and in like measure is he the manifestation of the effective fullness of the pleroma.

One of the things that I mentioned in my previous discussion of the Seven Sermons was that individuality is an important part of spiritual meaning and yet we are a social species designed to make snap judgement based on our previous experiences. If my experiences with someone have been bad, I am more apt to to treat others in a similar way. God and religion is much the same way. My experiences with religious people have mostly been positive and I am apt to treat their beliefs with respect and let them be.

With critical realism,  I have struggled for years with Lonergan’s first class attempts to find definitional characteristics of God by looking at man and his insight; that is, God is the unknown, uncaused. I might tip my hat to St. Augustine who went barely any further, and to Aquinas who tried manfully to use logic to determine the necessary conditions and features of God – without exhausting what could possibly be known ; something that even influences my Gnosticism today.

When I talk about God however, I am not talking about God, but rather another force which I have discussed before, called Wyrd, the Implicate, the Pleroma, and so forth; the groundwork of my personal spirituality and religious faith.

That god may be distinguished from it, we name god Helios or Sun. Abraxas is effect. Nothing standeth opposed to it but the ineffective; hence its effective nature freely unfoldeth itself. The ineffective is not, therefore resisteth not. Abraxas standeth above the sun and above the devil. It is improbable probability, unreal reality. Had the pleroma a being, Abraxas would be its manifestation. It is the effective itself, not any particular effect, but effect in general.

I will leave you with this thought as you contemplate this part of the second sermon. Abraxas is effect. Abraxis is the Uncaused Cause and other oxymorons, all things are of the pleroma: gods, goddesses, and even living beings. We are Abraxas, or rather we are parts of the pleroma as manifestations of the Divine. As an anarchist I have already mentioned a striking similarity with wyrd-shapers and anarchists in one of my earlier posts and recognizing our sacred connection in the Implicate we cause effect.

Creating solidarity and working for positive change through any means possible can only be seen as a form of spirituality even if we refuse to see the spirutual underpinnings of our work. Through social justice work to fighting for our freedom we create distinctions and fight those who would oppress us and as the sermon mentions:

Everything that discrimination taketh out of the pleroma is a pair of opposites. To god, therefore, always belongeth the devil.

We recognize that devil as capitalism, statism, and even other authoritarian hierarchies we distinguish against it we recognize it, and we fight against it. We desire to work and cause effect. We are Abraxas.

What you resist persists – Carl Jung

•October 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Understanding The Seven Sermons to the Dead pt 1

•October 4, 2011 • 2 Comments

In a eight part part series, I am going to examine the Seven Sermons to the Dead from a Heathen and anarchist viewpoint; I have the entire text here on a separate page. This series is going to examine the spiritual roots of the work, potential applications for the sermons in anarchist philosophy, and bridge the gap between all three of my disparate labels of anarchist, Gnostic, and Heathen.

The first sermon talks about discrimination, the nature of reality and the nature of created beings.

Distinctiveness is creatura. It is distinct. Distinctiveness is its essence, and therefore it distinguisheth. Therefore man discriminateth because his nature is distinctiveness. Wherefore also he distinguisheth qualities of the pleroma which are not. He distinguisheth them out of his own nature. Therefore must he speak of qualities of the pleroma which are not.

Interestingly this talks about the roots of discrimination. Both positive and negative our differences can be the cause of discrimination be it religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, or even gender. When we distinguish something we discriminate it from everything else. Discrimination however is not a dirty word, discrimination is a higher mind function, we all discriminate against others for either positive or negative reasons.

What is the harm, ye ask, in not distinguishing oneself? If we do not distinguish, we get beyond our own nature, away from creatura. We fall into indistinctiveness, which is the other quality of the pleroma. We fall into the pleroma itself and cease to be creatures. We are given over to dissolution in the nothingness. This is the death of the creature. Therefore we die in such measure as we do not distinguish. Hence the natural striving of the creature goeth towards distinctiveness, fighteth against primeval, perilous sameness. This is called the principium individuationis. This principle is the essence of the creature. From this you can see why indistinctiveness and non-distinction are a great danger for the creature.

The sermon goes on to talking about the dangers of not distinguishing oneself, or rather not being an individual it talks about “death” or as it is apparent the social death of an individual, the death of individuality. In our economic system and in other oppressive ideologies that destroy individuality and generate exploitative systems that are inhuman. Historically, it is a fact that individuality has been the root of oppression, but on the same token we are seeking individuation and freedom as anarchists which is part of what is being suggested in this sermon.

We must, therefore, distinguish the qualities of the pleroma. The qualities are pairs of opposites, such as—

The Effective and the Ineffective.
Fullness and Emptiness.
Living and Dead.
Difference and Sameness.
Light and Darkness.
The Hot and the Cold.
Force and Matter.
Time and Space.
Good and Evil.
Beauty and Ugliness.
The One and the Many. etc.

The pairs of opposites are qualities of the pleroma which are not, because each balanceth each. As we are the pleroma itself, we also have all these qualities in us. Because the very ground of our nature is distinctiveness, therefore we have these qualities in the name and sign of distinctiveness, which meaneth—

1. These qualities are distinct and separate in us one from the other; therefore they are not balanced and void, but are effective. Thus are we the victims of the pairs of opposites. The pleroma is rent in us.

Upon further examination, the sermon suggests that we have all of the qualities of the pleroma within us. To me this seems to suggest that because of this we seek to find the aspects that we don’t think we have onto others. I can find people that I think are more moral than me for example. This has been apparent even to my ancestors who had a tendency to other others

In approaching a worldview of Viking-age culture (say 7th century to 11th), it is not illogical, nor too cautious a step, to assume that men and women in those times occupied spheres of influence and roles that were perceived very differently than they would be perceived in the modern times by modern minds. Instead of systematized formal definitions, concepts were perceived as more organic, part of a greater natural whole rather than abstractions of the mind. I’m sure that people in those times did not think in terms of gender (even some modern languages, like Russian, do not even have a word for “gender”, yet people who speak these languages live their lives without missing that word, leading me to wonder whether it is an English-speaking postmodern invention).. but I digress.

We can see the romanticized concept of shield-maidens already appearing in 10th century, in connection to the valkyrjur. Eyvindr skáldaspillir in his Hákonarmál presents the valkyrjur as ideal, idyllic beings seated on their horses in full armor, leading the newly fallen hero and his band to the hall of the slain. Völsunga saga, often thought to be written down in 13th century though orally of course quite of ancient sources, makes a reference of ” ósk-mær “, commonly translated as ´wish-maiden´, again a valkyrie term of rather late origin. Perhaps a description based on the valkyrie´s function to choose the slain, thus an extension of Óðinn´s wish, or perhaps referring to valkyrjur being desired by the heroes who at times are portrayed having romantic ties with them (Helgi and Sigrún, Völundr and Hervör, Sigurðr and of course Brynhildr), or even desired by the slain fellas in Valhöll in their evergoing party.

I would like to bring up a book called ‘The Viking Way’ by Neil Price, archaeologist from Aberdeen. (The book is called so because it is an attempt to approach the Old Norse literary and material sources as being keys to comprehending the entire worldview of that culture, and of course it is much more than religion – it is a way of life, thus, the way). This book is virtually impossible to find now having gone out of print a few months after publication in 2002 (it was his doctoral dissertation on the archaeology of seiðr). (I do believe a second edition came out I’m not sure)

The reason I bring this up is that in his book, he surveys all the known names of valkyrjur, about 51 in total. When presented in a list, a few patterns emerge… the most obvious one is that a great majority of the names have to do with war and battle. On a closer look, still a great majority have meanings that have to do with not simply war and battle, but more specifically the aural aspects of that battle, the terrible sounds of war and violence that these names evoke… names such as Hjálmþrimul (helm-clatter), Randgniðr (shield-grinder or shield-scraper) – you can just hear the sounds of battle echoing in such names. Great many names occur in skaldic poetry and old Eddic sources that are better preserved than prose works, on account of their poetic rigid structures that keep the content intact against the tide of time.. even many sagas, though still very oral and old in origin, still remain glimpses into the post-genderized minds of the authors who wrote them down in medieval Iceland. It may be argued that poetic sources are more intact in their original form.

But back to the names of valkyrjur, names that suggest harrowing sounds of battle, the noises of war. Names that occur in sources that are much older than concepts of ‘shield maidens’ and ‘wish maidens’. Price suggests that originally, the image of the valkyrja used to be something quite different from the romantic ideal abstractions of maidenlike riders… originally, the image of the valkyrja was something much more terrifying and primordial – something like a female demon of battle and violence, riding the winds of war…

There is that chilly ‘otherness’ that this image evokes – it is less familiar to us, less domesticated, more feral and more unbound by modern conventions… yet war and battle was such an integral part of the Old Norse reality, and many supernatural creatures inhabited these realms of violence and bloodshed, no less than realms of peace and frith. There was a certain awe with which men regarded the primordial terrifying ‘other’. Consider the Nornir, spinners of the very Wyrd of all, consider the dísir and the fylgja who are always female… consider the valkyrjur, the helm-wights of terror who rode the skies of battle and could turn the tide of war as they wished… and now, consider even the one-eyed master of the mysteries himself, who is so strong in the magic of seiðr which has been often associated with female realm – whom Loki accuses or ergi behavior on Samsö. Rather than seeing it as a simple genderbender slur, is this not rather a hint of something much more deeper and profound? An allusion to that terrifying ‘otherness’ of Óðinn, to his being outside the perceived everyday norms, to his belonging to a much more different, much more ‘other’ Reality and dimension of existence? It brings up a connotation of liminality, and this I think is a more enriching interpretation of Loki´s remark, there is a greater and more terrible truth to it than simple ergi slur. It suggests some kind of taboo, something beyond the reach of everyday, and hence something terrifying in its ´otherness´.

The valkyrjur, those helm-wights, are liminal as well… Female yet warlike, female yet engaged in violence and bloodshed – it is their realm. Remember the Darraðarljóð in chapter 157 of Njála, female weavers of the web of the spear, on a loom of human body parts that drips with blood and gore. Far from a romanticized female weaving at her loom… Rather, a glimpse of an entirely different reality, where war and violence and magic were intertwined into one worldview… where apparitions ride the sky, brandishing fire-brands and heralding terrible doomful portents to come (as also we see in Njáls saga), where the Wild Hunt likewise haunts the skies, and where, during battles, supernatural beings ride the war winds and meddle with men´s affairs. This is that primordial, terrifying ´other´ aspect of valkyrjur that I identify with. As helm-wights, to behold the likes of whom in battle was like to gaze into the flames – as Völsunga saga puts it. A mindset and state of being inhabiting a liminal space and reality far beyond the familiar comfortable everyday.

Ye must not forget that the pleroma hath no qualities. We create them through thinking. If, therefore, ye strive after difference or sameness, or any qualities whatsoever, ye pursue thoughts which flow to you out of the pleroma; thoughts, namely, concerning non-existing qualities of the pleroma. Inasmuch as ye run after these thoughts, ye fall again into the pleroma, and reach difference and sameness at the same time. Not your thinking, but your being, is distinctiveness. Therefore not after difference, as ye think it, must ye strive; but after your own being. At bottom, therefore, there is only one striving, namely, the striving after your own being. If ye had this striving ye would not need to know anything about the pleroma and its qualities, and yet would ye come to your right goal by virtue of your own being. Since, however, thought estrangeth from being, that knowledge must I teach you wherewith ye may be able to hold your thought in leash.

The sermon concludes with this. The plelorma isn’t anything, we create differences through thinking about them. If you wanted my opinion Plotinus says it best:

“Being is desirable because it is identical with Beauty, and Beauty is loved because it is Being. We ourselves possess Beauty when we are true to our own being; ugliness is in going over to another order; knowing ourselves, we are beautiful; in self-ignorance, we are ugly.”

Being an individual is beauty and more spiritually fulfilling than belonging to some soul crushing sameness promoted by authoritarians or some other person. The moment we deny our individuality for sameness is the moment we mutilate and kill ourselves socially. Heathenry and anarchism are the ultimate bridges between and individual and community and to deny our social roots is also social suicide, getting it done right is the important part.