From the Havamal:
ek fann beðjum á
þótti mér ekki vera
nema við þat lík at lifa
I found Billing’s daughter
asleep on her bed
and I was captivated by her beauty
and all the wealths of Jarldom
seemed like nothing to me
if I had to live without her love.
–Hávamál: Stanza 97
This was today’s segment from Heathen Hof, a wonderful site with some well written essays and more. So much so that I donate, not much, each month to the site through Patreon.
It is said in other parts of the Havamal to not mock another person’s love. For love makes the wisest of us fools. Shopenhauer wrote that it was a madness that came over one, a possession of the Will (the will to life or something like that) to move us toward procreation. What rational being would choose to enter into, at least a romantic partnership with another person, and at most a family with another person? One loses much autonomy, as many new parents can attest.
So back to the above, here we have Odin, wisest of the gods, who drank from the well of Urd, who knows the ways of magic, of war, of Seidr, who knows the secrets of the runes, still captivated by the beauty of a woman. He loses himself to a small madness, forgetting the glories of jarldom, in admiration of her beauty.
For months now I’ve pondered one question above all. How can my philosophy be so good if it was wrecked, tossed aside, by love of another person? Yet here we see the All-Father, while not as lost/blind as I was, yet still a little beguiled. If Odin himself can be captivated by the beauty of another, surely a mortal such as I cannot be expected to be perfect.
This is a strength of our pagan ways, our humanlike gods and goddesses. They are not perfect. This makes them approachable. This has been helpful for me as one of the biggest roadblocks that I’ve had has been self forgiving of my shortcomings and failures. But if the gods themselves dust off their failures and move forward, perhaps I can also.
In working with veterans for the past ten years I’ve heard nearly every one of them lament to me that they thought they were the only one that felt as they did. Depression, and other maladies, have an interesting effect in that they create a sense of isolation within us. This can be helpful in that we get our bearings, fall back upon our essential truths about ourselves, lick our wounds, regroup, and gather our resources. But if we add to this mistaken narratives about who we are at our essential essence (redundant, but you get my drift), what was a positive becomes a negative. We get stuck in our despair. Our temporary session alone to lick our wounds and regroup turns into a permanent swamp that we cannot get out of. The chains that bind us are our own choosing.
Þat ek þá reynda
er ek í reyri sat
ok vættak míns munar
hold ok hjarta
var mér in horska mær
þeygi ek hana at heldr hefik
I concealed myself in the bushes,
hoping my love would notice me.
For I loved her, both body and soul,
yet so concealed, I never earned her love.
–Hávamál: Stanza 96
This is another section that gives me strength. After two of the worst relationships I’ve ever had, with two people that really, truly wrung my heart through a meat grinder, I am still alive. I’m not dead. I’m worse off in a few domains than I was, but I’m able to lick my wounds and then move forward. My essential self is not changed. I’ve learned from this. Not sure what yet, but something is there. And above it all I still believe in the good in people. I still trust. I still love. I have friends that I feel much love for and great connection with.
And recently something surprising happened. An attractive woman came near me, we talked, and we were both attracted to each other. I felt it. Attraction. When she told a third party she liked me, who told me, I went to her and gave her my number and asked for hers. Inside I felt the zing of life.
I’m not dead.