I don’t like Westerns in general, so I was dubious about this one but I’m really glad we decided to watch it last night. It’s a really good movie with an excellent cast. It’s a rather traditional vengeance tale handled in a rather clever way. I highly recommend it. Now I’m going to do a breakdown of some of my favorite parts, so there will be spoilers. On the surface, this has nothing to do with Heathenry, save that vengeance is sometimes a sacred obligation within our tradition. When you really examine it though, it goes well beyond just vengeance. It is a deeply Heathen story, and encapsulates our values and expresses them in the new world, in that idiom, and in ways that resonate with our experiences here.
I like the title, was initially put off that it was a Western, and then watched it and ended up pre-ordering the dvd.
Firstly, I really like that it was a Father-Daughter story. Had it been a Father-Son story, I think it would have lacked the charge. It would have been just another typical coming-of-age story. I often dislike stories where women or girls are shoehorned in because “muh feminism.” It usually makes for an irritating female character and a poorly written story. I much prefer that good stories be told, regardless of who is involved. Here, the story was written in minimalist strokes, but all the characters were fleshed out beautifully. We knew all we needed to know about the dynamics between them, and both the female characters were written very well. They weren’t shoved in to meet some requirement to have a woman in the story, but were integral characters.
The movie opens with a flash back to when the main character, Colton Briggs (Cage), was still a gunslinger. He kills a man in front of that man’s son. I immediately turned to my husband and said, “He needs to kill that kid.” I’ve read my sagas. I know that leaving someone alive like that leads to bad things happening years later. I was right. After this opening, we see the same gunslinger as a shopkeeper, with a wife and daughter and it’s clear that he’s besotted with his wife. His daughter is painted as neuro-divergent (that language isn’t used but given the jellybean scene, she reads as autistic or – we find out later – possibly borderline sociopathic. I’m not equating the two, but there’s something non-neurotypical with the girl, and the movie implies,with her father too and it’s unclear if it’s both conditions or just one. It’s not really relevant save that we see they don’t fit in. There’s a great scene where he tells her that she needs to learn to pretend and behave like others if she can’t feel it, or she’s going to be shunned–so learn to play the game. Then she has to distract a US Marshal by fake crying and it’s creepy as fuck).
Anyway, the girl Brooke and her father return from his store and find that the mother has been, at the very least, brutally murdered. The woman dies having laughed in the faces of her murderers, knowing she will be well and properly avenged. While the Marshals try to prevent the vengeance, Colton Briggs is mindful of his obligation and sets off with his daughter to track down the men who slaughtered his wife. He teaches his daughter how to shoot at her request, and tells her that until he met her mother, he never knew fear. She is her father’s daughter and handles every challenge with unemotional aplomb.
Things proceed as expected – it is a vengeance western after all. The plot line is pretty narrow and predictable but that’s ok. The power of this story is in how you get to that point and in the deepening dynamic between father and daughter. Her emotionless façade cracks at the end, and she is the one to avenge her mother…and her father. She’s smart, really smart, and observant throughout the movie and let’s just say, gets away with some serious loot.
I won’t say more than that. If you like Yellowstone and its iterations, you’ll like this story. If you think modern law is just, you probably won’t. If you have an issue with actual masculinity, you won’t like this at all because in the end, it’s about a father and daughter restoring frith, the old way.
Prayer to Odin
(begin by lighting a candle and pouring out an offering if you’re able – water is ok. It’s always a good and acceptable offering).
Hail to You, Odin: Wizard, Shaman, and King. You breathed into us the gift of our souls and You fill Your followers with burning frenzy. You create; You destroy; You hunger. You took the raw matter of primordial Being and with the help of Your Brothers, forged it into nine mighty worlds. Yours is ever the keenness of a forward thinking, knife-like mind. Yours is ever the restless fury of a heart never sated in its quest for more. Knowledge and the power it bestows to weave one’s will, to shape one’s world, to sustain one’s creative endeavors, to endure is Your ambrosia. From You, devotees learn to hone their minds, to hunt for knowledge and experiences fearlessly, to know that learning (and teaching!) are sacred endeavors and through them, we imitate You. Through learning and exploring our world, we engage in something sacred, and we bring ourselves that much closer to our Gods when we allow ourselves the privilege. This then, is my prayer for today: may my thought-world never be small. May I never curb the hungry curiosity of my mind. May I never fear experience, may I never fear failure. Grant me courage, oh God of war, that in the war to tame and hone myself, I might be victorious. Hail to You, Odin, God of many names. For everything, I thank You.
“Odin” by W. McMillan
Quote of the Day
“Power is not revealed by striking hard or striking often, but by striking true.
–Honore de Balzac
“The World Tree,” my photo.
Why do we have all these heiti for our Gods? Each of our Holy Powers has numerous epithets or by-names. Many of these are contradictory. Some are relational or regional. Some are iterations of that Power’s primary areas of interest, Their particular skills, expressions of Their unique and very individual power. When a particular by-name is used, it provides a window through which the God may act. It becomes one way out of oh so many that the God can reveal Him or Herself. Sometimes, when we feel blocked devotionally praying to one of our Gods under a well-known or well-loved epithet, switching it up and meditating upon a different by-name can be productive. Moreover, I think sometimes our normal, well-trod devotional paths to our Gods have to be blocked specifically to force us down different, more obscure paths. Why? Because each heiti is a way to know a God differently, more deeply. Every by-name, every epithet is a mystery. It’s a word of power. It’s a doorway into a very specific face of a God. It’s multi-faceted and complex, and each and every one has a life of its own. Consider your favorite names for Odin. Where do they take you? What do they bring to mind? How do they tie into our cosmology? How did you first come to know this God? What by-names would you like to explore? Which ones scare you? Which ones intrigue you? Consider diving deeply into a new heiti and seeing where it leads.
Neil Price, The Viking Way. This book is an exploration of Old Norse magic, shamanism, and sorcery of the late Viking Age through the lens of archaeology and history. It touches on so many things: Sami influence on Norse magical practices, the use of battle magic, women’s magic – and sorcery specifically as women’s magic, Gods, ancestors, gender expectations, transgression and more. If I could choose one academic book on this particular topic, this would be the book and it’s written by a very generous scholar who was kind enough to answer a few philological questions from this Heathen on terminology for our modern tools, and to do so at finals time no less! This is one of four academic texts that I strongly suggest to my students that they own. It’s really quite invaluable.
Daily passage for Meditation and Lectio Divina: Gylfaginning 20-21 passim
Hann heitir ok Hangaguð ok Haftaguð, Farmaguð, ok enn hefir hann nefnzt á fleiri vega, þá er hann var kominn til Geirröðar konungs: Hétumk Grímr ok Gangleri, Herjann, Hjalmberi, Þekkr, Þriði, Þuðr, Uðr, Helblindi, Hárr, Saðr, Svipall, Sanngetall, Herteitr, Hnikarr, Bileygr, Báleygr, Bölverkr, Fjölnir, Grímnir, Glapsviðr, Fjölsviðr, Síðhöttr, Síðskeggr, Sigföðr, Hnikuðr, Alföðr, Atríðr, Farmatýr, Óski, Ómi, Jafnhárr, Biflindi, Göndlir, Hárbarðr, Sviðurr, Sviðrir, Jalkr, Kjalarr, Viðurr, Þrór, Yggr, Þundr, Vakr, Skilfingr, Váfuðr, Hroftatýr, Gautr, Veratýr." He is also called God of the Hanged, God of Gods, God of Cargoes; and he has also been named in many more ways, after he had come to King Geirrödr: We were called the Masked One | and Wanderer, Warrior, Helm-bearer; Welcome One, Third, | Lean (or Pale) One, Beloved, Hel Blinder, High. Truthful, Changing One, | Finder of Truth, Glad of War, Thruster; Flashing Eye, Flaming Eye, | Bale-Worker, Concealer, Hooded One, Swift in Deceit (or Wise in Magical spells, or Maddener), Very Wise. Broad Hat, Long Beard, | Victory Father, Overthrower, All Father, Attacking Rider, God of Burdens; God of Wishes, Resounding One, | Just as High, Spear (or Shield) Shaker, Wand-Wielder, Grey Beard. Wise One, Calmer, | Gelded One, Nourisher, Killer, Burgeoning One, Terrible One, Thunderer; Wakeful One (or Awakener), Shaking One(1), | Swinger of Gungnir, Sage, Ancestral Power (2), God of Being (or God of humanity)." (text and translation from this site, though the actual translation of the individual names is mine)
Hero or Heroine of the Day:
I thought long and hard about this, because very little of my hero cultus is given to Saga heroes. Driving home from an appointment today, however, I found myself thinking about Starkadr. There were actually two of them. The first is the Starkadr who kidnapped a woman while she was performing religious sacrifice. He’s hardly a model of piety and eventually, at the bequest of the woman’s father, Thor kills him. The second is his grandson. Gautreks Saga tells how he was a great warrior, favored by Odin.
In this Saga, Starkadr aligned himself with a King named Vikar and went about engaging in battle and raiding for this king. All debts eventually have to come due though and so it was with Starkadr and the King. While traveling with his warband and King Vikar, it was revealed through divination (done by Odin in disguise) that Odin required a sacrifice to ensure their survival and fortune. As was the custom, the warband drew lots to determine whom the sacrifice might be. Every time the band drew lots, however, Vikar came up as the chosen sacrifice. This makes sense, since Odin is a God of kings and also had allowed Starkardr to serve Vikar as a great warrior AND had given Starkadr many, many blessings, which were put in service to the king. TANSTAAFL. Of course, while Odin may have favored Starkadr, Thor didn’t due to his ancestry. Throughout multiple lifetimes, Thor prevented Starkadr from having children, and in every lifetime the warrior carried a particular blood-line curse courtesy of Thor: he would commit a crime, he would never be satisfied with the amount of property and wealth accrued, he’d always take terrible wounds in battle, he’d be hated by the common folk, etc. For every curse Thor laid on this man, Odin countered with a blessing.
So, once Odin tells the warband that a sacrifice must be given, and repeated drawing of lots show that Vikar is intended to be that sacrifice, things get a bit strange. Starkadr encourages Vikar to perform a mock sacrifice, setting things up so that the king won’t really die. The plan is that they’ll go through all the symbolic motions, but the king will walk away alive. It will all be a performance. Odin is not fooled, and some of the sources indicate that Odin arranged things with Starkadr, to ensure that Vikar would put himself in the proper place and position for sacrifice. The God gave Starkadr a spear that appeared to everyone else to be a simple reed-stalk. The king was hung with calf guts, which should not have born his weight. When the moment of death came, which everyone expected to be fake, the guts turned into real rope and the reed into a mighty spear and Vikar was sacrificed for real in the Odinic manner. (I vaguely remember reading at least one source where Starkadr did not know the reed was a spear and honestly intended to spare the king by cheating Odin. So, either Odin arranged the trickery of the king with Starkadr, or Starkadr tried to trick Odin on his own…the results were the same). After this event, Starkadr has to flee to the protection of a neighboring king.
The story is told in several sagas, and it gets chronologically complicated, but this is your basic story. I think there’s a lot about not trying to cheat the Gods, about meeting one’s fate with integrity and valor, about not pissing off Gods by committing hubris, and about the sometimes heavy negotiations required in being chosen or favored by a God. We can take Starkadr as a negative example rather than a hero (if he tried to trick Odin) or a hero but a tragic one (if he worked with Odin to trick Vikar). Either way, it’s complicated as devotional things usually are. Also, Starkadr is working with very problematic ancestral curses and it’s important to note that Thor has the lawful right to curse Odin’s favorite and while Odin blesses in equal measure, neither God undoes the curse or blessing of the Other. That’s important.
All these things and more are good food for contemplation.
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- I wonder if this refers to the frenzy of Seiðr.
- My translation/interpretation.
This morning Sannion wrote a beautiful and powerful breakdown of some of the devotional prayers he’s been writing of late. One of those prayers was to our God of sacred vengeance Váli. I’ll share my comment about all of that here. I’ve written before about Odin and Rindr, but I”d never really considered how Their son fits into things. As I said on his blog, I love his breakdown of the prayers he’s written. wow. Re. Váli’s hymn…I am glad it exists. I think it is an incredibly potent and powerful piece and…I cannot ever honor this God. I want to see Him honored absolutely, but I myself stand with Sigyn and Loki and the slaughter of Their children was something beyond the pale for me. There’s a particular brutality there (though going back to our creation narrative, (I firmly believe that moment of creation is reified again and throughout out mythic cycle.) I can’t help but consider that again, on a theological level, as with Odin and Rindr, there is a reification of the violence and brutality of two opposing forces grinding together to create something new) and…I think this will be one God where I nod in respect …from a distance. Some people see both Váli’s as the same God, but I don’t think that is supported in any extant lore.
Brutality and Violence serve a creative purpose in our tradition. The act of creating is an act of destruction, of transformation and maybe that’s why Váli’s story also involves a God, Loki, Whom we sometimes call the World Breaker. Making and Breaking and Making again is embedded in our sacred stories. What can we learn from this?
For Karl. To Forseti Hail to you clear-eyed Forseti, wise son of Baldrthe beloved and faithful Nanna, with a voicethat puts to sleep quarrels and a mind like a whirling stream,able to solve the hardest of puzzles and settle any disputebrought before you, no matter how tangled,O you who preside over the law-court of the […]To Forseti — The House of Vines
Hail to one of our most pious of heroes –a beautiful prayer of praise by Sannion over at House of Vines. Read the full prayer here:
I call to you Óttar, Instein’s son, forever young, vanquisher of Angantyr, ferocious warrior who knows the frenzy of the boar, you who won your kingdom through cleverness and valor, and governed your people with equanimity and just laws, maintaining the peace of the Gods which causes the flocks and fields to flourish. Óttar, favorite […]To Óttar — The House of Vines
Hail brave Höðr stout in war, slayer of multitudes,driver of Óðinn’s battle-chariot, excellent archerwho always strikes true, strong enough to draga many-oared ship ashore by yourself, saviorto those who fight under your banner and a terrorto your luckless enemies, you who have never seena foe capable of placing fear in your own heroic heart;Höðr whose […]To Höðr — The House of Vines
Prayer To Tyr
(light a candle or pour a bit of water out for Him if you can)
I call upon You, God of justice and honor to guide my thoughts and deeds today. May I walk with integrity. May I walk in devotion. May I order the space of my head and heart properly according to what my Gods and ancestors would have me do. May I carry that sense of purpose to everyone I meet today. Let me never have cause for shame before the Holy Ones. Hail to You Tyr, Great God of the sword, of making the hard decisions, and of necessity.
Quote of the Day
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The quote above by C. S. Lewis is one that I return to a lot. What is courage? How do we cultivate it? When have I shown it and when have I fallen short? I can’t always answer those questions and I don’t think we always need to have answers to the spiritual questions that arise for us. The answers will come if we’re willing to face ourselves and ask the questions we least want to ask. I do know this: courage is always hand in hand with fear. It cannot exist without fear, insecurity, “imposter syndrome,” including the fear of being a bad polytheist, the fear of failing our Gods, the fear of not measuring up. There are days where we are or do all of those things and such failures are a gift – inevitable but also a blessing. They give us the opportunity to re-evaluate, to reset ourselves, to consider why we failed, and what we need to do more diligently or better. We can try again and again and that is the way a strong faith and strong devotion happens: tiny step by tiny step, stumble by stumble, failure and perseverance over and over again. We have tremendous power in our own formation: we can choose to persevere, we can choose to try again and again, even when it hurts, even when our hearts feel like murky swamps, and even when we are beset by fear. That’s courage and it it truly is the beginning of all virtues. May Tyr guide us in its cultivation.
Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad by Alice Oswald
This is a phenomenal text, a simple list of everyone who died in the Iliad. It reminds us of the cost of war, of the price of courage, of the duty of remembrance, and that everyone, every single one of us deserves to have his or her story told. We spend our lives writing our story one way or another. May our names shine like stars in the memory of those we leave behind, and the deeds we have done as beacons on our way forward in life and finally in the sometimes-winding road to the land of the dead. As we honor our dead, we are called to consider what kind of ancestor we will be to those who come after us, and what might be the legacy we leave behind.
Daily Passage for Meditation and Lectio Divina: Verse 6 of Sigdrifumal
6. Sigrúnar skaltu kunna, ef þú vilt sigr hafa,
ok rísta á hjalti hjörs, sumar á véttrimum,
sumar á valböstum, ok nefna tysvar Tý.
'You must know victory-runes if you want to know victory. Carve them into your sword's hilt, on the blade guards and the blades, invoking Tyr's name twice.'
(Jeremy Dodds translation, (2014), The Poetic Edda, Coach House Books)
(My interpretation: we are the sword, graving the rune the work we do, our deeds, our choices day by day, and the mention of Tyr an exhortation to calling upon Him in prayer).
Hero or Heroine of the day: Guðríður víðförla Þorbjarnardóttir — Gudrid the Far-Traveled
Read about her here.
Yes, she was Christian, but she’s also the woman who sang the varðlokkur for the Seeress in Erik the Red’s Saga and her courage and boldness are, for the time, extraordinary.
How do you, my readers, honor Tyr and what are your thoughts on courage? Feel free to post in the comments below.
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Sunday belongs to the Goddess of the Sun: Sol or Sunna (both names occur in our lore). She is a force, a Power and on a very frenetic and frustrating day, it occurs to me that one of Her lessons, one of Her gifts is that no matter how bad a day may be, the sun will alway rise again thereby giving us the chance to regroup, reconsider, re-prioritize, and begin again anew. No day, however poorly it has gone needs to be the determiner of all to follow unless we allow it to be so. That is a powerful lesson, one of resilience, perseverance, personal responsibility, and the cultivation of power.
Hail Sunna in Her glory. Hail Her in Her power. Most of all, hail Her in Her kindness and benevolence.
It is a privilege to praise Her.
I’ll share some of the prayers that we usually do on Saturday for basic “God of the week” devotion on some future week — we give this day to Loki and Sigyn. Usually, we use Saturday not just to make offerings to these two Deities, but we also clean ritual tools and shrines. The Old Norse word for “Saturday” was Laugardagr, which means “bath day” (or one could call it Sunnunótt (Sunna[day] Eve). Bath = cleaning so we often use this day to clean sacred things. Also, my devotion to Sigyn deepened intensely once my adopted mom Fuensanta took me in hand. She was a very devout woman (venerated as a saint in at least three traditions), specifically devoted to Loki and Sigyn. She would honor Sigyn by cleaning extensively *every day*, by bringing order to chaos. She was what in German is called a putzteufel, a cleaning devil – a label she wore with pride. For her, cleaning was sacred (and she would pray as she cleaned so that in cleaning her home, she was cleaning for Sigyn). I don’t have this gift. I use this day instead to tidy shrines and garb, gear, divination kit, travel kit, and other sacred things that need ongoing tending (as all things being used regularly do).
ANYWAY, today, I put together my candle shrine for the setting of lights practice that I shall start right after midnight tonight. If anyone is interested, in ordering a candle, contact me before 9pm EST tonight at krasskova at gmail.com. Every week, I’ll be doing this, so that’s the cut off week-by-week. I”m happy to do memorial candles too, which I don’t think I added to my initial list. So here is what it looks like for this week.
I’ll be lighting the seven candles that folks ordered after midnight today — Sunna’s Day is a particularly auspicious day to initiate this type of prayer or magic. If I am praying to a particular Deity or if someone requested that I do so, and if I have a statue or icon of some sort for that Deity, it will go on the shrine for the week too and each night I’ll add my own prayers.
Have a good Saturday, folks.
Edit: here’s a pic of the shrine after it was lit a little later 9pm:
And if you’re feeling particularly generous: check out my Buymeacoffee. Here’s a tidbit about myself that I don’t think I’ve shared before. When I was small, like 2 1/2, 3, 4, my grandmother would babysit me all day. For breakfast, she would often give me a bowl of Special K cereal (it’s sort of like cornflakes) with a bit of sugar sprinkled on it and…coffee instead of milk. Yes, my friends, it likely explains so very much LOL. Even today, it remains one of my “comfort” foods. ^____^ What are your comfort foods? Cooking and food in general is such a tremendously powerful way to connect to one’s ancestors. What foods evoke the best memories for each of you? Feel free to share in the comments.
(I meant to post this yesterday but fell asleep! Lol I’ll post for Saturday a little later on today.)
Friday is Frigga’s and Freya’s Day. Frigga is the All-Mother, Lady of Asgard’s Hall, clever, cunning, and Power-broker extraordinaire. Freya is the Vanic Goddess of love, war, and witchcraft, friend of women and bringer of abundance. These are, of course, incredibly simplistic descriptions of two very mighty Powers, but they’re starting points to give the reader just a bit of a sense of what these Deities are like. Friday is Frigga’s Day, but many, many Heathens give it to Freya too and that’s in part because the etymology of both names (“Freya” is really a title, not a name per se) means “beloved.” They are both enormously beloved by Their devotees so I solve the question of Whom to honor on this day by honoring Them both.
In addition to making offerings (I bought a new icon for each of Their respective shrines which I gave, along with libations, today), it’s a good day to tell those in your life who are important to you that you love them. Do some unexpected act of kindness for someone. Give a small gift to someone you care for. Write a prayer to Frigga or Freya. Adopt a cat (cats are associated with Freya but were also common marriage gifts, and Frigg is the Goddess overseeing marriage in our tradition). There are a thousand, no, thousands of things one might do – keeping in mind that the root word and gift of the day, held by both Goddesses, is “(be)loved.” Approach the day and these Deities with gratitude for that in mind and you’ll be ok.