Regarding Loki, Part 3 – Flyte of the Concord

In Part 2, I strongly implied that I was going to be comparing Loki against the other gods of the Norse pantheon.  It was my intent to reveal the hypocrisy in certain sects within Heathenry by simply demonstrating how we could use a similar bias and cast any of our gods in a negative light.  It was intended to be a flyting of conservative delusions; a field guide to the pretensions and hubris of those who use poor research to justify what they already wish to believe.

My intentions were good, but I recently realized that I was being an asshole.

To castigate the divine as a means to prove mundane stupidity is, no matter the intention, stupidity itself.  It was a self-serving, self-righteous, and selfish act…and when that realization hit home?  It proved the mother of an even more upsetting epiphany.

I was setting myself up to act exactly like the people I was trying to fight.  All the faux scholars?  All of the wannabe Klingon/Samurai Thorsman?  All of the “intellectuals” who don’t know how to read old Norse, but insist that everyone else needs to in order to make commentary on anything of import?  All of the overly folkish sorts who don’t want any voice in the crowd except the ones that agree with their own opinions?  In my attempt to counter that dross, I was about to take a plunge into the very same stagnation.  I would have hurt the very religious tolerance and equilibrium I was trying to defend and maintain, and my article would have ended up as the same sort of pretentious tripe that I am so staunchly against.

How do any of you manage these opinions?  These attacks?  This hate?  I just existed on the outskirts of it for a moment, and I found it exhausting; I have no idea where you people find the energy.

So let us shift our course, and allow me to be plain here; when you violently deny Loki?  You slander both him and those who worship him without thought. Not only that, you insult Thor (his frequent companion in adventures), Odin (oath-brother and also a companion in various adventures), Slepnir (Odin’s horse), Mjolnir and Gungnir(the greatest weapons of the gods, who he was the patron of),  Freya (he saved her from being married to a Giant), the moon and sun (whom he saved from being the possession of giants), and Skathi (who was pacified by Loki; her father’s murderer).  Even worse, I see that many pronounce these statements with a purposeful exclusions of lore and history as it suits the speaker.

So that is our gods, our folk, and our lore; all battered and badgered with a single stroke.  Is this really what you want?  Is this the truth that you seek?  The religion that your viewpoint creates, in isolation, is one where speculative spirituality must be reigned in by scholarly zealotry…and in history, we see zealotry turns from harsh words to closed fists quite quickly.  Do you want a faith where if the concept isn’t a hundred years old, it must take a majority of it’s material from an equally venerable stance to even be considered relevant?  Where the very notions of personal interpretation and change are seen as attacks, instead of a natural part of religious and social growth?

The Wotanists are often called the Westboro Baptists of our faith; the metaphor has a pretty well worn history.  I’m not sure how much I like the practice of metaphoring ourselves in parody of the Christian faiths.  Yet, here we are, where the obvious correlation is to call these peudo-intellectuals a metaphorical version of Catholicism.  To draw the correlation between parallal lines of semantically obsessed old men, who have more concerns for the letter of our faith then the spirit of it.

Even that comparison is too complementary; at least the Catholics have enough material to work from.  They have entire libraries of scripture, commentary, and philosophy that speaks of their faith.  They have enough material from which to build a “solo scriptorum” framework…and while it’s not for me?  If that speaks to the inner soul, then I welcome them to it.

What we have, however, is a handful of worn documents, transcribed by monks with moralistic conceits and beliefs that cast a stark contract from those of the culture they were writing about.  Is that something we all grasp, or are you only allowed to remind people of that I you can read Norwegian?

I hear a lot of people dismissing the ideas and writing of others; the standard insult is accusing people of trying to be the first “Asa-Pope”.  Come on, be honest; you’re only envious that someone is paying attention to their point of view and not yours.  When I hear the accusation of someone trying to be the chosen leader, I don’t usually hear concern or irritation; I hear envy.

So, instead of saying something worthy of paying attention to?  You build strawmen out of ad hominems, and attack them like any “true” Scotsman would.  It’s all bluff and bluster, because I don’t think you even care about being right anymore; you’re just want people who disagree with you to be wrong.  It seems that some of you no longer care about strong research, backing well written points; it’s about a binary lynch mob, directed toward any opinion that is disliked or said by someone disliked.

I haven’t been blessed with hate-mail of my own yet, but I’ve seen some of the stuff that is out there.  Let me be frank, for one moment, and say that such childish bickering weakens us all.  That is no statement made for a flyte; every one of us ends up looking like children.  Gods, wasn’t this the reason so many of you have said you left Christiandom?  To be rid of pointless egotism and infighting?  Please tell me you didn’t leave all that self-serving braggadocio you complained about, simply on the merit that it wasn’t the stuff that you had personally created/

When I offered a close friend a look at this article in an early state, their advice was to end on a positive note.  At first, I wasn’t sure of how I might achieve this; I felt spitefully sour, angrily acidic, and terribly tired.  However, I recalled reading Gronbech, and feeling moved.  Thusly, I turned to The Culture of Teutons, looking for some solace.  I was not disappointed.

Frith is the state of things which exists between friends. And it means, first and foremost, reciprocal inviolability. However individual wills may clash in a conflict of kin against kin, however stubbornly individual heads may seek their own way according to their quota of wisdom, there can never be question of conflict save in the sense of thoughts and feelings working their way toward an equipoise in unity. We need have no doubt but that good kinsmen could disagree with fervour, but however the matter might stand, there could – should, must inevitably – be but one ending to it all; a settlement peaceable and making for peace – frith.  A quarrel had no lethal point.  Two kinsmen could not lift a hand one against the other. The moment a man scented kinship, he lowered his arms.

– Vilhelm Gronbech, The Culture of the Teutons

We don’t need to agree.  We simply need to get along; nothing more.  I couldn’t care less what any of you think of Loki in the privacy of your own home, at the sacred space of your own altar.  Perhaps it’s time that, some of you, afforded the same respect to the rest of the mead hall.Mead Hall

Sit by me.  Hail the gods with me.  Accept everyone at the table, so long as they accept you.  Share wisdom.  Share respect.  Share frith.  Be Heathen.  Truly Heathen.  Our gods, no matter their name, have the right to expect that much from us.  All of us.

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Flyte Club

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.

flavaflav-1

Why does Flava Flav look like one of the goblins from Diablo? I can’t be the only one who sees that, right?  Between the grin and that helmet…

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”.

keeping-flyting-e

For the curious, alternate titles to this post were “Street Flyter Alpha”, “Saturday’s Alright for Flyting”, “Flyte of the Bumblebee”, and “Flyte of the Navigator”.

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.

robert-wilkinson

Where will you be when your laxative starts working?

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.