The past couple of days has been a flurry of introspection. Daily tarot reads, the year ahead spread, full moon tarot, and a walk out into the forest and drawing runes. The year ahead spread has some really interesting patterns to it. It is really balanced. Each card around the circle is a theme in that month (January at the top) with the overall yearly theme in the middle. With so much balance in the deck, it is interesting that the overall theme is ‘sudden change’. In looking at the deck I am reminded of Aikido. I would be standing there, hopefully in harmony with the world around me, standing there as nage, receiving uke’s energy and moving it someplace else. There was one time when a nage entered into my circle, I connected his body to my body, which was in contact with the earth, and we spun around. It felt effortless, and even though it was moving, it felt still. Until I reached a point of my choosing and I used two fingers to change the direction of uke, who went flying several feet away. My partner and I had tried this several times, and the 1 out of 20 success, our eyes were wide open with excitement at what we had just felt. Looking at the wheel of the year in the tarot, I wonder if perhaps it is warning me that little change can have a similarly big impact. This will be a point of thought as the months come.
The elements of the 13 card draw are:
– 3 Earth
– 3 Water
– 3 Air
– 3 Fire
– 1 Major Arcana
– Two 5’s
– Two 8’s
– Two 4’s
– Two 10’s
– Two Court cards
– 1 Ace
– 1 Major Arcana
– One 6
It is late, and I celebrated the Full Moon by drinking a porter and having cake with the goddess Frigga tonight. The goddesses that I’ve talked to the most, that I give homage to, are the dark goddesses. The Morrigan, Hecate, both loom large. They are ancient, believed to be older than the systems they are found in (Hecate older than the Greek pantheon, the Morrigan older than the Irish one). They are powerful. Non-forgiving. Raw nature of existence.
Yet I honored Frigga tonight. One reason is that I’ve noticed that I hardly ever venerate this aspect of the Goddess. I’ve wondered why about this. When the Goddess did speak to me, back in the 90’s, it was a voice that is more aligned with someone like Frigga. Perhaps. Perhaps another goddess (I venerated Rhiannon for a few years, though the myth seemed woefully incomplete to me). I’ve had a growing feeling that Frigga and Freya are the same. Odin is highly complex, why shouldn’t his consort be equally complex?
But this isn’t why I am writing now. I need to flesh some things out of my mind if I have any hope of getting to sleep tonight. I took a walk in the forest and drew some runes several times, including a three rune draw. The first was a rune as I crossed the bridge into the wood, feeling like I was crossing from one terrain to another. The second rune was to gain insight into ideas around logging practices and how technology in such has changed our relationship with the land, for worse, and what might help us regain this connection. The last question I had was when I was crossing another bridge inside the forest. It is a bridge I’ve crossed dozens and dozens of times, in the morning, night, summer, winter, rain and heat. A low little bridge over a dancing stream. A few times on my walk I would stop and stand still, staring at the sky, trees, mud, everything around me. This was no exception. I stood still on the bridge. Watched as the water flowed underneath me. Watched as some of the water was fast, other parts were slow. I watched the formation of eddies, currents, and calm backwater.
Several times I’ve walked over this bridge and have thought it was a good place for a troll. Unlike the other bridge I crossed, this one was a great spot for a troll. It was low, dark underneath, was flat and had ample room for one to move about unseen. I recalled fondly a time when I was walking with my dad, (step) mom, and nephew when he was a little kid. We crossed a bridge near home and my dad told the kid to be careful or the troll under the bridge will come up and get him. It was fun. I recalled the story of the 3 billy goats Gruff. I recalled the wonderful art exhibit just outside the children’s section of the Eugene Public Library called “Leif’s Dream”. I lived a handful of blocks away when they opened the new building and I was in love with it. I had even written a short story some years ago about a troll that lived under a bridge in Central Park, who was the life of someone that committed suicide and was freed when the next person came along and was transformed into the dark, hidden beast. I should see if I can find that. One of my favorite chapters of a 90,000-word story I’d written had some heroes going into a cave and fighting trolls. Trolls make for a good bogeyman.
So I stood there, thinking of all these things at once, and more. What was the energy here? Why am I thinking of trolls? Why did some trolls live under bridges? Was there a connection? And one doesn’t have to think too hard without making the connection to Grendel in the epic Beowulf. (I should re-read that, it’s been a decade at least). I’ve come to the understanding that the prejudice that many Ásatrú shows toward the Jöunn are simplicity. It is fear. It is a lacking. Odin, who resonates quite strongly with me, walked the roads often. Those roads were across the worlds, including Jötunheim. Many times the gods of the Aesir and Vanir feasted with the Jötunar. Thor killed many but made it a point to not kill all of them (though I wonder if he truly could. Doubtful, but don’t tell him I said so). Thor’s mother was a giantess. Freya’s father was a giant. To merely chalk up the Jötunar as ‘evil’ is stupid, careless, or dishonest. I’m tired and don’t care to name the right term for someone unwilling to think. Many people are running around, drinking out of horns, calling themselves Viking, claiming oaths to their immediate friends, and growing beards. It is why I cannot follow most of the Ásatrú groups online. There is more to life than axes, beards, and ale. Seriously. For fuck’s sake. You’re as shallow as a pothole.
Again, I’m tired and this isn’t a rant but me getting things out of my head so I can go to sleep soon. It is after midnight.
I stood there wondering what I was missing about trolls (specifically) and Jötunar in general. So I drew a single rune. Single rune draws, for me, are best for complex questions because it allows more freedom, more openings, more laterals. The more runes I draw, the narrower the focus. If I am seeking to see a different side to elemental forces, I wanted a different side of the mirror.
I drew the rune Pertho. Reading tonight, the meanings of this rune are open to a lot of speculation. Yeah, the easy answer is dice cup. Or perhaps cup/cauldron. But to limit a rune to that small of a meaning is really missing out on the wealth of meaning in a rune. A rune-like Sowilo (which I have tattooed on my right forearm) gains a lot of complexity in interpretation, but we are so quick to limit Pertho as just a dice cup?
I stood on the bridge and watched the water. It flowed. Water goes where it goes. It cannot help itself. It cannot change. It is like our fate. We cannot help but flow toward our fate. It is looming on the horizon for me. I know not how I might die. Perhaps driving off of a cliff. Or from a heart attack after sex with a bikini model when I’m 70 years old. Or perhaps covering a kid from random gunfire in a marketplace. Or a plane crash. Or a disease. Who knows. One exercise I could do more of is the Stoic exercise of daily meditating upon my death. (write that down in my task manager). But back to water. It follows gravity. It flows because of the laws of physics. It is often said that the Jötunar represent the forces of chaos and the gods in Asgard are the forces of order. But I’m not sure about this. At least I’m not sure about it as being the final answer or complete picture. Let’s take a look at the Stoics. They taught there was an order to the universe. It was the Logos. The sage sought to move past their own emotional bullshit and poor thinking, to see clearly what the Logos was, and to live in harmony with it. As Aurelius said “There are brambles in your path? Then go around. That’s all you need to know.” The Chinese taught to live in accordance with the Tao. We are told, in nearly every pagan book on the shelf, that people lived within the cycles of the world around them. We lament often that we are not in touch with our world as they were. Thinking of the thousands of years of pre-human history, of watching, observing, living with the cycles around them, speaks to me of anything but chaos.
Why did the heroic societies gamble so much? Why did they trust to luck? Whey did they divine with runes, Ogham, and omens? I’m reminded of the belief of some of the fighters against us in Iraq who shot their weapons with poor discipline. A common belief by some of us was that they did this because of Inshallah, or “If god wills it” (No, I do not capitalize any monotheist god as being THE god).) While this may have had a ring of truth to it, it isn’t completely the case. Most of their poor shooting I’d chalk up to crappy BRM, just as most people in the Army can’t seem to shoot for shit (as the Army doesn’t teach BRM well to the majority of the force).
Back to the point. Nature has rules. Water flows downhill. Trolls are nature. The Jötunar can be benevolent or malevolent or neither. They operate on their own terms, own whims. A river doesn’t drown the people that drank too much and drove their boat at excessive speeds. A river just is. A stretch of river with rapids is often called ‘dangerous’ but it isn’t. It is just is a river. Dangerous doesn’t describe the stretch of river but describes our ability to handle it, our weakness. A so-called dangerous man walks into a store intent on causing trouble. Now add a platoon of U.S. Marines itching for a fight in that same place. The man hasn’t changed any, but I wouldn’t call him dangerous.
There are often stories in the news of a lost hiker. Sometimes the story is tragic, how they fell off a cliff. I remember walking along the top of a cliff overlooking the Sandy River near Mt Hood (when I walked around Mt Hood in 2017) and the patch was very unstable. Crumbly. I chose to walk that portion instead of doubling back for another path. The path wasn’t dangerous so much as my calculation of the danger and risk allowed me to go forward. Had I fallen to my death, I’m sure I would’ve liked a second chance at my risk assessment as I fell to the rocks below. Some of the trails where people have been lost at are really easy trails. In fact today I came upon a couple that started hiking in the last hour of daylight, right after me. I had intended to hike past sunset, and I doubted they did. They wouldn’t be the first that I’d seen lost in the wood at night in this forest. They asked me for directions back, I gave them a visual of the area, told them to take rights and they’ll be back. They chose to go back the way they came, unsure of my directions of the big circle. Smart choice, though my directions were simple and would get them out before dark. Still, it amazes me how many people have little to no understanding of the rawness of nature just outside their car doors. Nature has tasty berries. Or you may freeze to death. Nature just is.
No, I don’t think the dichotomy, if there is one truly, between Asgard and Útgarðar is one of control versus no control. Today we’ve pushed the boundaries of Asgard further and further. Eventually, the wall will collapse and the Jötunar will cross the wall. You can only push back the elemental forces so much until there is nowhere else to go.
I’m reminded, just now, of an essay I read in the 90’s called “The Ecology of Magic” which I have the urge to re-read now. But it’s late and I need sleep. But what if we didn’t hunt down all the trolls to kill? What if we left some of them alive? It’s like the wolves. Some people demonize the wolves as killers of everything. But this is mostly plain ignorance. Wolves, predators, are a needed part of an ecosystem. Does it make it more dangerous for hikers that there are bears in a wood? Yup. Should this change how we interact with the world around us? Yup. Is it for the better? Seeing how we’ve done so far, I’d say it is a needed change. We need more wolves and bears in our forest. We need more trolls.
A couple of weeks later…
I am reminded again of Thor as he ventured around, fighting giants. He was quick to fight, sometimes rash. He worked with his hands. The hurler of lightning bolts was not subtle. The hammer is not a subtle weapon. Watching football on television, I enjoyed listening to John Madden’s commentary. Some would bemoan his obvious statements, but he was right. If you don’t have points on the board, you’ll lose. And sometimes it was a matter of smash mouth football. Two lines, facing each other, big men against big men, and let’s see who pushes the line. On a 4th and goal line, sometimes it was just this… who wanted it more? There is no subtlety here. This is the hammer. This is Thor. Strength and grit and nose down perseverance. Thor is the tactical level. Should we do a mechanical breach? Use a charge? Should we employ machine guns and flank left? Or just pull back and call in an air strike? Win or lose in this moment. This, to me, is why Thor was beloved by the regular people. They lived in the day to day. They lived in this moment. This battle. When I go and spend time with my platoon and I want to train them in the field (I am a Platoon Sergeant) I will wear Mjölnir around my neck.
I am also reminded of Odin. Odin is a war god as well. He can bring ecstasy to the fight (as can Thor. If you’ve enjoyed a bar fight, you’ve met Thor), but Odin is also hidden. He sees far. He will grant victory or ensure a defeat. The ends justifies the means, and the ends are beyond today’s setting of the sun. It is speculated by some that General Houston deliberately dragged his feet so as to be unable to respond to calls for help at The Alamo. The massacre of the Texians could have been a source of fuel when the Texians quickly defeated the larger, professional army of Santa Ana at the battle of San Jacinto. General Houston was either an extremely lucky buffoon and coward, or he was a brilliant manipulator that played the strengths of his army to their advantage. Odin is strategy.
In thinking back on trolls and giants, Thor is less forethought than immediacy. He is a warrior that is also a hedonist. Sleep when you wish. Sex when you want. Feast when you want. To go in search of every giant would be an imbalanced life. A life without sleep, sex, or feast. Odin, on the other hand, seeks out giants for games of riddles, or mead of poetry, or more knowledge. Odin is playing the long game and the suffering of the moment is just fine for the gain in the future.
And again, I’m back to trolls. They call, quietly, in the dark. They swim in the water and climb up the rails of old bridges under a crescent moon. They wait for a careless passerby, not paying attention, that they might snatch with their clawed hands and drag into the black waters below.
How many pedestrians are struck by vehicles, either the walker or driver fiddling with a distraction?