Aspiration vs. Natural Disposition

I am, and will always be, a follower of Heimdall. But in Veles, I’ve found a god who is so close to my own nature that he is almost instinct to me. It’s not a conflict between two gods, rather a conflict between ways of being.

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Innes National Park, South Australia

Heimdall suits the intellectual aspects of my personality and the way I think. My work with him has been highly analytical and self-reflective. He helped me harness that for self growth and learning to understand greater mysteries. He is, in many ways, a thinking god. This isn’t to downplay the ways in which he is instinctive, but it’s more instinct through a thinking lens. Intuition, perhaps; a mind-feeling rather than a heart-feeling or body-feeling.

Veles, in my limited experience, is completely different. He is more about heart- and body-feeling and instinct. Acting rather than Analysing, Much more animal. Visceral. Being in touch with one’s sensations. Wild, perhaps.

Here’s another distinction: Heimdall is a sky god, and Veles is an earth god. I am very much an Earth person. I like being grounded, feeling structure, feeling depth. I really do not like being in bodies of water, especially the ocean. (I don’t believe in astrology, but I’m an Earth sign, for what it’s worth.) Forests strike a deep chord in me. I prefer the warm, dark places, with leaves and dirt crunching underfoot, and the wet smells of rain and decay in my nose. Veles is these things. These things are instinctive to me.

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Dandenong Ranges, Victoria

As a beast, I am drawn to these things. As a conscious being, I aspire to everything Heimdall stands for, which is nearly a polar opposite. The part of me that thinks and yearns for release is drawn to Heimdall.

So I feel this conflict between two opposing modalities, two ways of being and doing: following the animal instinct that speaks to my bones, or following the elevated, detached yearning that speaks to my spirit?

Which raises the question: should we follow our natures, or should we follow our [often intellectual] aspirations? Or is this a useless distinction, because they may point towards the same thing?

Maybe instead of seeing it as a oppositional thing, I should see it as developmental: I’m just at the stage now where I can deal with the more esoteric, abstract elements of my life and personality. Perhaps, personality-wise, Heimdall suited my teenage self, and Veles suits my adult self? (I don’t like to think of it that way, either, because as I said, Heimdall is my fulltrúi.)

The problem is that I feel the need to choose between one modality or the other. Can I use both at the same time? Perhaps. I don’t know.

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2014: II

What do You see from the Cliffs of Heaven
looking out over the nine worlds?
Do you see the turning of life
and the universe’s circularity?
Do you see the microcosm in the macrocosm
and smile at patterns large and small?
Do you breathe in the cold void
and reach out into vastness?
I look at my small self
and wonder about You.

Tyr and Heimdall: Two Gods Really Just One?

I am trying to build a relationship with Tyr. Since I’ve never been the first one to try and start a relationship where gods are concerned, this is new to me. But I think I’m on the right track.

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Tyr and Fenrir, John Bauer

I’ve been aware of Tyr for a while. I remember the first time I felt Him. I was meditating on the sky, for Heimdall, as I often do, but instead of Heimdall I felt Someone Else. Very distinctly not my fulltrúi. Somehow, I knew it was Tyr. Stern. Focused. Not quite as diffuse as The Ram.

After that, nothing for a few years. I’d always associated Tyr with the bright blue sky, similar to how I associate Heimdall with a cloudy blue sky. So when I decided to forge a connection with Tyr, the sky was where I started. It was hard to sort the feelings I had for Tyr from the feelings I have for Heimdall. I’m so used to tuning myself to Heimdall’s frequency that I had a hard time finding Tyr in the one place I knew I could find him – like having two friends who live in the same apartment building, but only knowing the apartment number of one of them, and ringing the same buzzer every time.

So I’ve branched out. I know Tyr is a god of justice, honour, right action. These things have always been foremost to me. Big surprise, Heimdall is all those things to me, too, especially honour. They resonate, a lot. Tyr seems to be more about direct action, whereas Heimdall has a focus on thought and being. Attention. Perception.

Tyr is also obviously a god of war, battle, and victory. These resonate with me much less, but I’ll talk more about these aspects of Tyr in another post.

Now, the other similarities:

  1. They are both liminal gods. Heimdall, who is descended from giants, became an Ás. His job is to guard the border between worlds. His home is on a cliff, between the land and the sky (and the sea, in my UPG). Tyr is also descended from giants, and is one of the oldest gods (that we know of), and he also became an Ás. He is part of two cultures. It could be said that he witnessed the ‘changing of the guard’ when Odin became chief god, and Tyr took a back seat.
  2. They are both sky deities. Apart from being associated with the literal daytime sky, they might be associated with space and the cosmos, as well. (Heimdall certainly is, but more of that in another post, perhaps.)
  3. They both have to do with honour and duty. It is Heimdall’s duty to stand watch, no matter how cold and bitter it gets. It was Tyr’s duty to give up his hand so that Fenrisúlfr could be contained. They do their duties silently and resignedly, and the gravity of their actions speaks for itself.
  4. They both have very strong links with the World Tree. Heimdall, who sees high and low across the universe, who has nine mothers, has been compared and even equated with the World Tree. As god of perception and awareness, his consciousness is all-encompassing, as is Yggdrasil, and his nine mothers echo the nine worlds. Tyr’s symbol, the Irminsul, is a symbol of the World Tree also, the axis of the universe. Granted, worship of the Irminsul is a more Germanic occurrence than Scandinavian, and that makes it less valid to link the two, but Tyr-as-Irminsul is a very strong link to Tyr as the World Tree.

The thought I had while researching Tyr was this: given these similarities, is it plausible that Heimdall and Tyr were once one deity, or that Heimdall developed out of an offshoot from an earlier Tyr?

Honestly: there’s not tons of evidence, but since the historical record is spotty, we have no idea. It could be true.

It’s obvious to me now why I’m drawn to Tyr, even though I have a hard time with his warlike aspects. If Heimdall and Tyr are descended from the same god, or if Heimdall is an offshoot of Tyr, that would certainly explain my attraction. I’m a sucker for liminal figures and figures of honour and duty.

I personally think they are distinct deities – they certainly were in the Viking Age and later. They have distinct presences to me, even considering the similarities. But Heimdall is not about war, and they have distinct roles within the pantheon that tells me they have long been separate beings, if they were ever once the same.

This was not what I wanted my first post about Tyr to be, but it was the thought that occurred to me while doing research. More on Tyr soon.

My Reason for Revivalism

Recently, I saw a post by answersfromvanaheim.tumblr about the differences between reconstructionism and revivalism, and I’ve realised I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other in the time I’ve been Heathen. I started out quite reconstructionist, and I’ve become more revivalist – and I think there’s a very good reason for it.

Coming into a new religion, you want lots of information, lots of context, lots of references for how you should do things and what to believe and what’s okay or not. Unfortunately, Heathenry does not have a lot of that. As someone just learning the cardinal directions, spiritually, who had never been in a religion before, I clung to all the references and context that I could – namely, the historical sources. But since then, my focus has changed, and I’ve become more comfortable with my religion and with my practice.

I now know my goals within Heathenism: namely, to practice in a way that develops me. I cater the religion to my own spiritual needs.

That’s pretty vague, but rest assured, my Heathenry is still markedly Heathenry. I wouldn’t be in this religion if it didn’t ring true down to my core. But maybe there are things that I don’t do much of (blóts, sumbel, rituals) and things that I do a lot of (meditation, introspection, offerings, rune magic). I gravitate towards the gods that resonate with me, either in general or in specific circumstances (I am a life-long friend to Heimdall, but my time with Baldr and Hödr was temporary, and my time with Tyr will be, too. Probably). I suppose my version of Heathenry is more “touchy-feely”, in that I am less focused on going out and doing things and more focused on getting my inner self straightened out. To put this into revivalist/recon-derived terms, my gods come from the historical record, but my way of dealing with them is very personal, and not necessarily historically attested.

This is not to say that reconstructionism is bad, or somehow less developed – just that there’s a different focus. I’m very much solitary. I’d probably be a hermit way back when.

We recon-derived (or post-recon, or revivalist) practitioners have a reputation for being fluffy, or not very serious. I don’t know why. But I am very, very serious about my religion. That’s precisely why my style has changed and developed the way it has. My religion changes and lives with me, because it’s a part of my life. It’s not separate to me. It’s a part of me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Patience of a God

People always say that relationships change as they go, and this happens to apply also to deity-mortal relationships.

I’ve been bad lately, as usual – not meditating enough, not doing enough reflection, giving fewer offerings than I’d like – and that’s not a terribly bad thing, but it does make whatever work is ahead of me harder.

I’ve been getting nudges and signs from Heimdall for months now. I haven’t been ignoring them, exactly, but I haven’t done anything about them. I’m not sure what He wants, or if He’s trying to tell me something, but…I know where I need to start. And I’m reluctant.

I’ve been slipping back into depressive moods and habits. I need to stay aware of that and actively fight against it. Part of my work means meditating in order to relax and to get some perspective. The other part of my work is staying in touch with the spiritual side of my life, because it nourishes me and keeps me going when I don’t see a lot of point in carrying on every day.

He is patient. Patient with me when I’ve been taking no action and paying for it. Patient with me when I try to get back into the swing of things and fail. Patient with me, knowing that this battle is mine, waiting for me to start it. He’s not holding my hand this time, and it’s not bad enough that I have to hold onto Him with all I have. This is new ground for me, devotee-wise: working under supervision, but relying on my own judgment without His input.

I’m not entirely sure what I need to do. But I know where to start.

Heimdall and Kookaburras

The Scandinavians didn’t have kookaburras, but they remind me of Heimdall anyway. They’re iconic birds.

As a Heathen who lives on the other side of the world away from most of you, I’ve been inspired (and required, to an extent) to modify my practice to the landscape and climate and wildlife of Australia. Sometimes this is intentional, like celebrating Yule in July. Sometimes it’s accidental.

I formed the association between Heimdall and kookaburras sometime in 2011. On several occasions, there was a kookaburra who perched on a pole on the path where I walked every day. I was always down, often upset – and when I looked up, there was this kookaburra, sitting there staunch and still and silent, watching over everything. They’re beautiful birds, strong-looking. I would stand there, looking up at it, and…just calm down.

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Laughing Kookaburra by JJ Harrison

I think it’s this calming effect that I associate with Heimdall, mostly, but there’s something else about kookaburras. They seem like more than just birds. There’s more to that animal than just bird.

Anyway, you can add kookaburras to the list of associations for Heimdall in the Southern Hemisphere.