I want you to insult me as hard as you can…
For a whole bunch of reasons, I ended up looking up what the heck a proper “flyting” was. The term was used to describe a somewhat archaic form of poetic back and forth that consisted of insults and criticism, but further description was never at hand. We have a few examples of them in the lore are some pretty damn good pieces as far as I can judge (the Lokesenna and the Lay of Harbarthr), but how one creates a flyting of any sort is hard to determine. Like most children of the internet, I loaded up Wikipedia, looked some stuff up, and started branching out.
It was interesting stuff, let me tell you. For starters, the term seems to broadly cover any form of poetic verse that is somewhat focused around a volly of insults; there is very little in the way of a standardized format. Shakespeare used the in some of his plays and they were also done as public, improvised battles of wit and composure. So, apparently Scots and Vikings had rap battles. Kooky! I now presume this to be the reason Flava Flav has worn a Viking helmet this entire damn time.
In either case, flyting has something I believe Heathenry needs more of; honest humility. A lot of the Heathens I know are pretty proud folk, and a lot of them have every right to be. I know some kick ass people because of the community, and I have created bonds that I hope will last a life time. They are talented and educated, and seem to push themselves to refine their skill sets by any means available.
We’re not perfect however. The things is no one seems to acknowledge that. We acknowledge that our gods have human flaws, but that subject line seems to be missed from many of our self-descriptions. I think we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that yes….our shit stinks. Hey, and while we’re on the subject? Fun Fact! The earliest recorded use of the word shit as an insult occurred in a flyting! Thank you, Scops aand Skalds, for giving me such a proud and worthy tool in my cussing weaponry!
On a more serious note, I can hear some discontent already with my opinion. Humility seems to be a bit of a bad word in a lot of pan-Pagan circles I know of, and just about all of the Heathen circles I’ve encountered. It tends to go in that box with things like proselytizing and a dedicated clergy that make people nervous. It’s something, I am occasionally told, that we need to get “over”.
Balls to that. We’re too damn proud. We often praise our ancestors for being honest, hard-working, industrious, and uncomplicated people, and we say how we want to mimic their resolve. Then when it comes time to make an honest reflection of ourselves, we delude ourselves into thinking that any trace of humility is just wrong. Our ancestors made a GAME of humbling each other, and for some reason we act like it’s frithful, honorable, and honest to only bring up our successes. Does that make sense? It certainly doesn’t to me.
The Heathen community seems to have too many innocents, and not enough confessions. We’re really good at justifying our actions and explaining how flawless they are. We stumble, it would seem, when it comes time to assess our own contributions to the issue. I keep seeing holding patterns established over stuff that ceased to be any sort of practical issue long ago, but is now an issue of ego and self image. That’s just as much of a wound to our wyrd and frith as excessive humility, I think.
It doesn’t need to be just self-flagellation over our faults either; want to celebrate your accomplishments? Hey, name the time and place and I will raise a horn/chalice/travel mug/stein/red solo cup/foam dome or whatever you have and celebrate along side of you. However, the reason those accomplishments matter is just as much BECAUSE of our failings as in spite of them. We need to start being just as prone to announce what we need to overcome as we are to announce that we overcame it.
Hence, the thoughts of a performing some form of “self-flyting”; if I’m going to go out here and grab a soap box of some sort and act like I have something worthwhile to say about our collective hubris? Well, then I need to be damn sure I can talk the talk that I’m saying everyone else needs to.
In closing, one of the nine truths says that “joy is better then guilt; let us be joyful!”. Guilt does not automatically equate to humility, and joy need not be prideful. We can be proud heirs to the legacies left by ancestors both recent and far removed, knowing the balance between our best and our worst.