There's a wonderful passage in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the poet leads us through the changing seasons. I've always been struck by the poet's evocation of the harshness of winter's chill -- no surprise at time when people still reckoned age by how many winters they'd survived.
After þe sesoun of somer wyth þe soft wyndez Quen Zeferus syflez hymself on sedez and erbez, Wela wynne is þe wort þat waxes þeroute, When þe donkande dewe dropez of þe leuez, To bide a blysful blusch of þe bryȝt sunne. Bot þen hyȝes heruest, and hardenes hym sone, Warnez hym for þe wynter to wax ful rype; He dryues wyth droȝt þe dust for to ryse, Fro þe face of þe folde to flyȝe ful hyȝe; Wroþe wynde of þe welkyn wrastelez with þe sunne, Þe leuez lancen fro þe lynde and lyȝten on þe grounde, And al grayes þe gres þat grene watz ere; Þenne al rypez and rotez þat ros vpon fyrst, And þus ȝirnez þe ȝere in ȝisterdayez mony, And wynter wyndez aȝayn, as þe worlde askez, no fage, Til Meȝelmas mone Watz cumen wyth wynter wage.
Mine is the sweet honey That is the elixir of new life.
Mine are the arms that cradle the Shell of who you have chosen to be.
Mine is the heart that calls Out to you when you have Forgotten me.
Mine is the hand that reaches Out to you when no solace can be found.
Mine is the light that guides you On the path back to me.
Mine is the truth that you desire When life ebb’s from you.
Mine is the womb of light To which you return To be reborn.
I began this blog 3 years ago which much different intentions than those where the writing has taken me. Life has interjected itself and time has passed leaving at times gaps in what I wanted to say and what I was able to write. This, all part of the “human experience” where what is accomplished and what there is “time to accomplish” are often out of sync.
While I identify as Pagan, and more specifically as Hellenistai, I also fall into the category generally defined as "devotional polytheist." For me, the Gods are at the center of my spiritual practice. I write poetry and short stories and essays in their honor, meditate and go on trance journeys, and endlessly discuss their natures and myths and influence upon the world. As such, theophanies -- manifestations of the Gods, personal encounters with them -- are of particular interest to me. I love to read of others' encounters with Gods and Goddesses and spirits of all sorts, from every tradition, new and old.
Additionally, not all theophanies are ... well ... I have found some passages in works of fiction to be as profoundly moving and insightful as any (nonfiction) work. It leads me to wonder if the authors have either coded their true encounters, changing bits here and there to include them in novels and short stories; or if the authors have some intuitive understanding of the Gods and spirits and the world beyond the mundane.
The last year was very happy one for me, and full of wonderful travels, meetings with new friends, and blessings were poured like rain. I really hope that the coming year will be also fulfilling and peaceful; and "let the God/s you honor, will send you everything you wish for, and gives their blessings to your friends, families, children and neighbors"... For my first post in 2016, I want to share some of my devotional poetry again - written in honor of Thoth-Hermes-Djehuty.
I have my soul ignited with your light…
when I whisper the words of love I feel your wings around, protecting me; when I speak your praises - it’s the only reason to know how to speak, when I live for you - it’s the only reason to remember again, how to breathe…
The Thing was the assembly to settle differences, plead suits and socialise in all kids of ways; in Iceland, the annual national gathering, the Alþingi is still the name for their governing body though the no longer meet out in the valley in tents (a few politicians have suggested that doing so would make the government work a little faster). Traditionally the law speaker recited at least a third of the laws that he had to keep memorised. Thus legal matters were decided there: as much as Icelanders pride themselves on having the longest existing democracy, the medieval version demonstrates that might (usually through having supporters, but sometimes through outright violence) made right. This verse counsels that one must make the best appearance possible. If your clothes were not the best at least make sure they are clean and mended, your shoes clean and your horse stepping out the best she can, even if she wasn't going to win any races -- or in the case of male horses, any fights. Horse fights were a brutal but popular sport.
Snapir ok gnapir,
er til sævar kemr,
örn á aldinn mar;
svá er maðr,
er með mörgum kemr
ok á formælendr fáa.
Snapping and stretching,
when it comes to the sea,
the eagle to the billowy sea;
so is the man,
who among the crowds comes
and has few supporters.
The man without sufficient supporters is like the eagle who swoops down at a fish only to see it disappear beneath the waves. Don't wait until you get to the gathering to form your alliances. Much of viking life was about gift giving and hospitality because you never knew when you would need an important ally. Feuds could break out over fairly small disagreements -- about where your land ended and your neighbour's began, or who got to use a certain path to summer pasturing.Alliances were essential.
Fregna ok segja
skal fróðra hverr,
sá er vill heitinn horskr;
né annarr skal,
þjóð veit, ef þrír ro.
Ask and reply
shall each of the wise ones,
he who wants to be called sensible;
one must know
but another shall not,
all the people know, if three do.
Wisdom is highly prized: we have seen several verses on that topic. But being able to hold your own counsel is also important, the poet tells us. You should shrink from sharing secrets with anyone at all if you can avoid it. If you tell someone and they tell a third, then the secret will not be kept and everyone shall know. If you are heading to the Thing and bringing a suit, it's best not to let the cat out of the bag until you are certain you have sufficient support.
hverr í hófi hafa;
þá hann þat finnr,
er með fræknum kemr
at engi er einna hvatastr.
should each of the wise
have in moderation;
then he finds that
when he comes among the bold
that none is keenest of all.
Power in this sense seems to be connected to the idea of anger (as the wise man said, 'Anger is an energy.') I connect it with the previous verse: just as you should not show your cards until you're ready with a firm phalanx of supporters, you should not show your anger until you read the room (or the tent). If your opponent is even more angry, he may be able to sway your supporters -- perhaps simply to not support your action, but worse, over to your opponent's side. Hold your anger in check: the sagas are full of unwise men who let their emotions lead them into rash decisions.
-- -- -- --
er maðr öðrum segir
oft hann gjöld of getr.
For those words,
which a man says to another
often he gets repayment.
In a similar vein, your angry words can be repaid by more of the same, while your measured speech may meet with likewise thoughtful responses. In the medieval world people were much more cognizant of being part of a community. Ostracism -- including outlawry and banishment -- put people in a truly vulnerable position that many could not survive. Men like the famous Grettir only survived such a fate because they were able to call upon both the friends they had made prior to being banished and were extraordinary enough to convince people to offer help despite the risks of aiding a fugitive.