Heathenry and Patriotism

Well, I haven’t been posting for awhile. I am self employed, which means there are times when I have to put in a lot of overtime. But during these past few weeks, I kept running across an interesting term in the media. After thinking about it for a while I decided that I had to write about it from the heathen perspective. This term is “American exceptionalism.”

This seems to be a term used by the Fox News crowd as one of the core beliefs that all true conservatives are supposed to hold. This is the belief that America is an exceptional country, and that Americans are all exceptional people, by virtue of being Americans. Signs of this belief include never condemning any action that America has ever taken, affirming that America’s accomplishments are superior to the accomplishments of all other nations, and always assuming that Americans are better than other people.

This is not a very heathen idea. The nine noble virtues counsel against it. Remember the virtue of Truth? Well, that virtue means that real heathens should always speak the truth. In truth, America has accomplished some truly great things, including creating a society that values individual rights more than most societies have managed. However, she has also failed to live up to her own ideals, far too many times. The genocidal campaigns against the First Nations, the enslavement of people of African descent, the horrors of Company Towns, laws outlawing the practice of minority religions and alternate sexual orientations, and a system that has often regarded women as property and that was designed to keep the poor poor while the rich grow fat off of their labors. The truth is, America’s past is not pretty. Much of it is brutal. Some of it is downright evil.

Other nations have accomplishments of their own that outstrip many of America’s. Iceland has maintained a near one hundred percent literacy rate. They also pioneered a much purer form of democracy than we use, much earlier than we did. China invented many of the devices that allowed us to gain the upper hand over the rest of the world, militarily. A large amount of modern science was pioneered by Germans, not Americans. Many countries have much lower rates of violence than we do. Many Asian, African, and South American peoples have pioneered psychological and physiological science that Americans are mostly still ignorant of. We have accomplished much. But so have other people.

It takes courage to speak unpleasant truths, or even admit them to yourself. Especially when those truths maybe mean that you have a responsibility or two that you otherwise wouldn’t. Courage is another of the nine noble virtues. Heathens should therefore have the courage to speak the truth, both to themselves and to others. This means speaking well of America and Americans when they deserve it. It also means speaking poorly of America and Americans when they deserve it. To not dare to speak the truth is cowardly.

Fidelity and discipline are also important amongst the nine noble virtues. Fidelity means loyalty. Loyalty to America, in this case. Loyalty does not, however, mean blind support no matter what. That isn’t loyalty. That’s enabling. Loyalty means providing true support. Showing fidelity to America means doing your best to keep America strong. To be strong, America needs to know herself. To be honest with herself. A strong house cannot be built on a weak foundation. Discipline means doing what needs doing, even if it’s difficult. We can only figure out where we need to go as a country, and how to get there, by knowing where we’ve been. That is, where we have actually been, not where some Fox News revisionist fantasy would place us.

Have you ever known somebody who thought that they were the greatest thing since bottled mead? Somebody who could somehow never admit when they were wrong? Not only are jackasses like this really unpleasant to be around, they’re also incredibly stupid and incompetent. They have never really learned how to do anything, because they are convinced that they are great already, without making any effort.

This is what the modern conservative movement, or at least the Fox Brigade, wants to make us into, the kind of loser described above. That is patriotism? Desiring to make the national character into a hyper-annoying boorish loudmouthed loser? Bullshit. That isn’t patriotism. Those who refuse to speak the truth, even in the name of national unity, patriotism, or anything else, are liars. Those who lack the courage to look at the truth without flinching, who lack the courage to speak that truth to themselves and others, are cowards. Those who boost any action that America takes show no fidelity. They are faithless, and the very worst kind of faithless too: the kind who hide under the disguise of fidelity. Those who do not do what needs doing to make America truly strong are undisciplined. They are children. Those who believe that it is always more important to feel joy than guilt are weaklings and cowards. Guilt has a place. It is a useful tool, and it leads to the more true, enduring form of joy.

The plain truth is, the rabid mania about American exceptionalism is just another kind of philosophical drug. It appeals to losers who know they are losers, deep down inside. It allows them to feel special, just for belonging to a group, without having to do any work at all to earn that feeling. That is a profoundly non-heathen thing to do. This is the same sort of thing that makes people become racists, xenophobes, misogynists, and homophobes.

I am a true patriot. I love this country, and want her to be strong. I want her to live up to the incredible promise that she has. I will show my loyalty by helping her become truly strong. This is heathen patriotism. This is heathen pride.

New Folkie Code

My attention was recently brought to some complaints Folkies have been making about my work in public forums. Now, this is nothing new: my firmly anti-racist heathen writings have earned me the hatred of that crowd for many years now. Every couple of months, I receive some foaming at the mouth rant from one of them.

Apparently, they lack the courage of their convictions when speaking in a public place, however. Not daring to expose their true beliefs to others not like themselves, they have developed a code that allows them to criticize beliefs like mine in public without exposing themselves to ridicule. The new Folkie code for anti-racist writing is “getting political.” As in “Wayland Skallagrimsson’s new book really disappointed me, because he ‘got political’ instead of sticking to heathen issues.”

Well, I have two things to say about that. One is that is an especially weaselly, cowardly way to make a complaint. If you actually believed you were in the right, you’d act like a REAL heathen and speak up publicly and honestly. Our people believe in courage and honesty. The other is: the race issue and Folkism ARE heathen issues. You chowderheads made them into heathen issues by hijacking our religion and bending it to suit your purely social, political, racist issues. You are the ones who are trying to steal our religion and make it out to be all about race. You are a bunch of cowardly social engineers who have decided, like many social engineers before you, to use religion to manipulate people. I, as an actual priest of that religion, am now forced to correct the lies you have spewed out about us.

And seriously: why are you even reading my work? I have made it clear to you from the beginning that I despise Folkism, Folkies, and all your works. Folkism is not heathenry. Racial beliefs are not now and never were heathen beliefs. In other words, my work is not for you. I am writing for actual heathens.

It is, though, a hopeful sign that these cravens feel the need to disguise themselves and their real issues. The world is not what it was. A generation ago these losers could freely and openly speak in public without fear of censure. The times they are a changing. If all of us true folk work hard and do not back down from this fight, we can drive the Folkie scourge into the pages of history, where it belongs.

Morality and the Gods

One of the greatest strengths of the heathen religion, I think, is our concept of morality. It is unlike the way that morality is viewed in many other religions. We did not get our moral code engraved on stone tablets by a burning bush, or anything else of the sort. Our morals are not given to us by the gods. Instead, the heathen view of morality has always been far more pragmatic.

We do not waste time on rarified and abstract concepts like good and evil. We do not attempt to interpret the divine will in order to find out how we should be living our lives. Instead, we ask ourselves one simple question: “What harm or help does will be the result?” A deceptively simple question, this is a much firmer basis for morality than wondering about divine will or the nature of good and evil. We simply try to do as little harm and as much help as possible. It is not as easy to wiggle out from under the constraints of this standard as it is to ignore morality handed down from above.

You see, worrying about what the divine will is, or what the nature of good and evil are, is too far removed from the real world and its consequences. Need proof? Just look at the Big Three religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Their history is rife with committing murder, even genocide, in the name of a god that explicitly forbids killing. Abstract theories are easy to pervert from their original intentions. Codes of morality that are divorced from real world considerations such as harm and help too easily lead to incredibly immoral actions.

To the heathen mind, morality is not given by the gods, it simply is. The gods are as bound by it as we. And that’s the way it should be.

Some Thoughts on Odin’s Path and the Modern World

Today is the anniversary of my berserker initiation. Fourteen years ago I stood in the ancient ruins of Dogtown, abandoned centuries ago and considered haunted ever since, and faced the ritual fire. In the years since that night, I have been asked why many times. I have answered that question several times, in other places. On reflecting on the experience today, I was moved instead of why to talk about the reason why the question gets asked at all.

The simple reason why people ask me this question is that today’s world is seriously lacking some of the Odinic values. Many people, even many heathens, do not believe that Odin has anything to offer today’s world. But it’s not as simple as that. You see, this is only one side of the issue. The other side is the other question I get asked by a very different bunch of people: why don’t I rely on the aggression of the berserkergang and the Odinic path more than I do? There are, broadly and stereotypically speaking, two kinds of modern heathens. Both of them tend to miss the true Odinic path in some ways, I think.

To understand the context of these questions, I have to share a little bit about my past. I was born in “The Armpit of the Nation,” that area of Massachusetts comprising the cities of Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, and Lovell. It was an economically depressed area, all dying mill towns and gangs. My childhood was rather violent. I was shot before I hit my teens. It gave me a rather skewed understanding of the world, perhaps, but it also gave me a high tolerance for hardship and danger. It is a big part of what made me an Odinist. I needed power, and the ability to fight, and he offered me both. It also helped lead me to live the kind of life that I have lived since growing up.

I am, as I discussed in my last post, primarily a scientist. My life has largely been dedicated to pursuing my own scientific studies, even though there is no money in it. That is, after all, how I helped to redevelop the berserkergang as a living practice. As such, I know a lot of academic people, a lot of thoughtful philosophical types. Some of them are heathen. Many of them are atheist. Most of them are liberal. Many have been my friends. Most of them don’t get me, though. They find me scary, and violent, and they do not understand the “dark, risky” path that I have chosen to walk. They ask me why I am an Odinist. They ask me why I have become a berserk. To them, such things are insanities from a bygone era. And yes, this includes many modern heathens.

It seems that they don’t understand two things. One: the world actually is still a scary, dangerous place. Yes, they have the fortune to live in the better parts of a rich country, and can choose to pretend that such places do not exist. That does not make them go away though. A great many people aren’t as fortunate as they are. I got myself out of a bad beginning to life through the Odinic path. The things I have learned on that path have been of use to others.

Additionally, Odin is a god of much more than war. He is the god of inspiration, and also of science. (Which is just a specific form of inspiration-derived work.) Science depends on the eureka moment, the moment of insight when everything become clear and you realize how it all works. That moment can be deliberately triggered, through the practice of certain Odinic arts, and that is a skill of inestimable value to all forms of science. It is also difficult, and extremely stressful. The character development I have gone through pursuing the Odinic path’s more, er, vigorous aspects is of incalculable value in this too.

I have never much cared for the stupid little rules and popularity contests of society, so it was easy for me to make the decision to reject it all and live the way I wanted to. A big part of this has involved wandering the Earth. I live to see cool stuff. I live to discover secret things, and to set my eyes on sights never seen before. I have traveled all over the Americas and Europe, in both hemispheres. I have been privy to the secret rites of the Chanting Dervishes, and talked at length with an Isawiyaan elder, whose kind has long been thought to have vanished. I have walked through a necropolis on the other side of the world, explored caves running far beneath the surface of the Earth, been in a fortress with walls so thick they had internal highways, and seen places that look far more like alien planets than places from this world. I have partied with bikers and with crowds that contained fashion designers and Kennedies. (Bikers party WAY better.)

When you wander that far, you keep winding up in strange and even dangerous situations. I’ve had to intervene in domestic violence situations more than once. I’ve gotten involved in trying to get an idiot out of the dangerous situation with organized crime that she thought she could handle. I’ve been accosted by various street thugs and robbers. I have fought no holds barred matches against sumo-sized giants and special forces soldiers half my age, in a ring made of barbed wire. It hasn’t been a boring life.

Because of this part of my life, I have also come to know a wide variety of soldiers, professional sport fighters, thugs, borderline criminals, outright criminals, hookers with hearts of gold, lowlifes, noble hobos, vaudeville performers, and various other colorful characters. Many of these have been right wing. Many of them have been heathen. Many of them have been my friends. They don’t get me either, mostly.

I tend to end up having the same conversation with these people, too. For example, I was discussing my martial arts training with a younger fighter one day, and mentioned that my sensei had rebuked me sharply one night when I came to see him, expressing pride at winning a street fight. He told me that hand to hand combat, though a necessary skill, was a minor one, and only to be used as a last resort. He said that instead of pride I should feel shame, because I was not instantly aware of the situation well enough to manipulate it to be resolved without violence.

The kid found this puzzling. He asked for an example. So I told him about one of the more dangerous shifts I had as a social worker. I have been a security guard and a body guard, but I NEVER saw so much action as when I was a social worker. One night at the shelter for runaway teens, my kids came running in quickly, then sat down and behaved very well. This naturally made me suspicious, and I soon had the truth out of them: they had gotten into a gang fight with a gang that had proved to be more hardcore than they were, and they had fled. Upon further questioning, they revealed that they may not have lost them while fleeing the battleground.

Sure enough, the shelter was soon confronted with some 14 tough guys demanding that my boys come out and face the music. Calling the cops was no good. In that neighborhood, they never showed up in under 30 minutes, hoping things would resolve themselves first without risk to them. So I told my idiots that I was going outside and that if they didn’t stay inside, then if we all survived the confrontation, I would kill them myself. Because I had proved to them that they could trust me to look out for them AND to kick their asses if needed, they obeyed.

So, I went up to the end of the driveway and faced the other gang. Because I was alone, I had several seconds in which they would listen to me talk. After all, I obviously was not a threat. Because I have had, thanks to my sensei, extensive training as a Mentalist (read: Headologist, or Functional Amateur Psychologist) I was able to do what is known as a cold reading on several of them, particularly the leader. My single unarmed man bit bought me the time for it. So we chatted for a few minutes, while they aired their grievances and threats, and I selected a strategy. I berserked, but only a bit. Just enough to seem dangerous. And I told them, in a calm level voice, that they did indeed have the numbers and weapons to kill me. I also promised them that the first four across the line that separated us would die. I described how, in detail. And I promised them that I was not going to allow them to go after my idiots, even though, yes, they probably were the ones in the wrong.

Somehow, none of them wanted to be one of the first four. So they all held back. Once their hesitation went on long enough, I made it clear to the leader that he had lost control of the situation, and that it was time to move on. Not being a total idiot, he did.

You see, I had used a much better weapon than a gang of armed teenagers. I used Story as a weapon. I fed them a story that they would believe, that would make them choose of their own free will to behave as I wanted them to. What, a strange man confronting a gang of armed street thugs all alone, without any weapons? Talking like he has no fear at all? Well, they’ve seen that scene a hundred times, in movies and on TV. The obviously outmatched weirdo always turns out to be a vampire, or a legendary hit man, or something like that, and kills everybody. And, well, what kind of halfwit would BLUFF something like that, right? So they believed me just enough to lose their nerve.

The young fighter I was talking to asked why I took the risk I did. I am a skilled berserk, he pointed out, and could likely have simply scared them all off or actually kicked their asses (not bloody likely) rather than dissemble, bargain, and manipulate in a scheme that required me to be unarmed and alone. He thought it a foolish risk. He thought my sensei’s advice foolish. He said that I should have taken pride in my berserker nature, and my status as an Odinic priest, and taught them a lesson they would never forget.

I get questions like this from this crowd all the time. And similar ones, like why I pay heed to the moralities and beliefs of other cultures, or why I still hand out with elitist eggheads and never joined the armed forces and fought in a real war.

You see, this sort of heathen doesn’t really understand Odinic values in this modern world either. It is no longer enough to fight for the sake of fighting! That is a foolishness of the ancient world, a weakness that we would do well to leave behind. My left-wing friends are correct there. All lives are valuable, all lives should be cherished. An Odinist in today’s world SHOULD have handled that situation as I did. Odinists are expected to be heroes. Modern people are expected to have ideals. So I do not feel, as my right-wing brothers and sisters, that such sentimentality is a weakness. Indeed, I have found it a great source of strength. And because I am a hero, I will take risks to live up to those ideals. That means protecting the stupid teenagers I was responsible for from the consequences of their own actions. It ALSO meant protecting the attackers, if I possibly could manage it.

And you know what? I DID. I sent them all packing without ANYONE having to get hurt.

Particularly me.

All because I used a warrior’s BEST weapon: that 8 pound lump of grey goo in my skull. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. Since I graduated from my martial arts program, and got enough experience in the real world to have some worth as a serious fighter, you know what?

I’ve never had to fight. I have handled every situation that has arisen in the last several years by using my head and my words. And this is because I think I do understand a thing or two about Odin’s path and its relationship to today’s world.

My pacifistic, liberal brothers and sisters are wrong that only thugs and professional lawmen have need of the skills of war. Lawmen cannot be everywhere, and even privileged rich countries have many dark and bad things happening all over. Because I had the skills needed to fight for my life, I had the confidence to tackle a few of these situations. My more war-like right wing brethren are also wrong. Because I had the benefit of modern, peaceful, evolved ideals I could manage to resolve things, again and again, so that nobody had to get hurt. I survived to fight another day. My kids survived. Mission accomplished, minimum fuss, maximum efficiency. Because I could take the high road, and show that you could be a better person even in the face of danger, I could really make these kids listen when I told them that their lives could be better, even nobler, than the lives they were then living. It is because I see both Odin’s higher intellectual functions and his base warrior functions that I could do these things.

Of course, many of you dear readers are going to see this as a simple excuse to boast on my part. Somehow, whenever I have to talk about any experiences from either my scientific work or adventuring, most people leap to that conclusion. But I think that what I have to say here is important. Odin offers something unique to the modern world, something that it needs. Odin’s path allows everyone, even lay people, to receive some of the benefits of the warrior’s path, without the need to become a soldier. It encourages people to have heroic ideals. And it offers a way to uphold those ideals, without either weakness or compromise. Odinists can benefit from the perspective of both right and left wing, both liberal and conservative. Odinists can go far beyond the limits of either of these philosophies. And that understanding won’t be passed around unless people talk about something other than either the knee-jerk violence and warrior-responses of the right wing heathens or the often unworkable but still beautiful and all too necessary ideals of the left wing heathens.

I came to much of this understanding on a road that started on the night that I stood in the ruins of Dogtown, and held my hand in a fire, and understood what GOING BERSERK truly meant.

Personal Responsibility

Hello, everyone in Internet Land. Today I want to talk about the return of James Arthur Ray and the notion of personal responsibility. For those of you who don’t remember him, he was a New Age con artist who ran some pseudo-Native American “sweat lodge” ceremony at which a few people died. He went to jail and has recently been released. This has caused a lot of discussion amongst pagans.

While I normally find the doings of New Agers and con artists both to be too dull to pay attention to, some of the commentary made by members of the pagan community has really been getting on my nerves. It all started with a comment made by an unusually clear pagan thinker, that he had little sympathy for the people who died because A) their deaths were their own faults, not Mr. Ray’s, and B) their deaths occurred for really stupid reasons. The backlash his comments sparked was simply jaw-dropping, at least to this heathen.

Let me first make my own position clear. I am of very much the same opinion myself. These people, of their own free will, chose to give this obvious con artist their money. They chose of their own free will to go to his lame little sweat-lodge ceremony. They were the ones who chose to remain in the sweat lodge despite their own physical discomfort levels and health warning signs. They are the ones who chose to remain for the incredibly stupid reasons of not wanting to seem weak, or look like they weren’t team players.

Furthermore, they also chose to do no research into sweat lodge rituals themselves. They chose to do no research into health issues, and they also chose not to ask their own doctors about whether or not they were fit to take part in this ritual. They chose not to question why a supposedly Native American ceremony was being run by some sleazy white guy. They chose not to question why this guy, who was claiming to have the secret to vast financial wealth and material success, was spending his time hawking cheesy fake Native American ceremonies instead of parasailing behind his own personal yacht off the shore of his own private island.

In short, these people died due to greed, an appalling lack of common sense, a desire to look tough, a desire to fit in, and an utter lack of awareness of their own limits. In other words, this was a clear case of Darwin in action. They chose to act stupidly, and they died as the result.

Yet despite such clear evidence of epic dumbassery on the part of these unfortunate departed, most pagans responding to this opinion declared themselves shocked and outraged at such supposed “victim-blaming.” Some people even went to far as to say that such opinions were the same as blaming rape victims for being raped.

Seriously? Let me offer a heathen perspective on this matter. The relevant issue here is personal responsibility. To heathens, personal responsibility is considered a serious subject indeed, coming as it does from two of the nine noble virtues: honor and self reliance. To the heathen mind, every competent adult is fully and solely responsible for the consequences of their own actions. Adults do not depend on nannies. They do not depend on other people to look out for them, clean up their messes for them, or shield them from the real-world consequences of their behavior, as if they were children. To the heathen way of looking at the world, if there is no personal responsibility then people will become as children: foolish, incompetent, dangers to their own selves and everyone around them.

This insistence of treating these people as victims instead of fools is remarkably childish, but it is actually even more disturbing than that. It is a sign of the ever-growing victim mentality that has been spreading through modern society. It’s easy to be a victim. It doesn’t require any work, introspection, or personal responsibility. So lazy people seek out every opportunity to play the victim, to get cheap sympathy and care that they don’t really have to earn. As this becomes more common, a culture develops around it, a culture that reinforces its warped values by always offering unconditional sympathy and concern for anyone who presents themselves as a victim, and even everyone who just runs into bad luck or the consequences of their own stupid decisions.

This culture of victimhood has become widespread, especially amongst the younger generation. It has created a complete and absolute lack of personal standards. In this toxic culture nobody is assumed to have any intelligence or common sense. Nobody is assumed to be able to make mature and responsible decisions. Everyone is expected to give over all of their risk assessment and personal protection to other people, such as the government or corporate entities. This culture of failure believes that nobody is capable of taking care of themselves, and that anyone expecting people to be is engaged in the terrible crime of victim-blaming. To these sick people, being a victim is practically a badge, a prize to be won.

These people want the world to be a sandbox. They never want to have to take risks, or to do the least little bit of personal development or work. They never want to have to grow up enough to take care of themselves, so they just decide that it’s somebody else’s responsibility. They want a world where they are free to be as childish and irresponsible as they want, protected by Big Nanny, praised by other willing victims for their victimhood.

There needs to be standards. There needs to be the expectation that people are, by and large, responsible for looking out for themselves. People need to be expected to grow up, or they never will. This kind of sick victim mentality needs to be opposed at every turn, lest the rot they represent spreads any further than it already has.

And really? Comparing the simple assumption that there needs to be minimum standards of personal responsibility to blaming rape victims? That’s just wrong. And incredibly insulting to rape victims. Women do not consent to be raped. These fools consented to sit voluntarily in an unhealthy environment, completely unrestrained and uncoerced, until it killed them. Not even remotely the same thing.