Thursday, August 16, 2012

Richtiges Handeln

übersetzt von Erin Banks
 
Eine der am meist gestelltesten Fragen, die an germanische Heiden und Anhänger anderer heidnischer Traditionen gestellt werden, wenn wir anfangs unseren Glauben anderen erklären, ist meist häufig so etwas wie, “Also, Du glaubst wirklich an diese Götter?“ Die dieser Frage zugrunde legende Annahme ist, daß der springende Punkt von Religion und Spiritualität die Anbetung des Göttlichen ist. Sofern die Götter, an die eine Person glaubt, nicht existieren, würde das logischerweise bedeuten, daß die Glaubenssätze bezüglich dieser Götter ähnlich ungültig sind. Für den modernen Polytheisten geht es weniger darum, welchen Glauben Du hast, sondern was Du damit anfängst. 
 
Auf den ersten Blick scheint dies im Gegensatz zu Religion allgemein zu stehen. Dies darum, da die Auffassungen in unserer Gesellschaft stark von der Übermächtigkeit des Christentums geprägt werden. Seit über eintausend Jahren wurde das intellektuelle, kulturelle und philosophische Leben im Wesen durch den christlich monotheistischen Dualismus geprägt. Als Ergebnis wurden Glauben und Glaubensvorstellungen durch Othodoxie definiert, richtiges Denken, und Heterodoxie, anderes Denken. Nicht erwünschte Gedanken zu haben ist genauso gefährlich wie sündige Taten zu begehen.

Die polytheistische Praxis definiert sich jedoch anders. Die Hauptidee ist Orthopraxie, richtiges Handeln. Die Betonung auf Ethik und Praxis ist wie jemand redet und handelt, nicht wie jemand denkt oder fühlt. Orthopraxie meint, daß Rede und Handeln die beste Art sei, um den Charakter einer Person zu beurteilen.Taten sind der beste Ausdruck für die Absichten einer Person. Im Gegensatz zu Gedanken sind Rede und Taten beständig. Denken und Fühlen, die nicht ausgedrückt werden, können neu überlegt oder angepaßt werden. Taten und Rede, die vollübt wurden, können nicht zurückgenommen werden. Der Einfluß auf Menschen, die Gesellschaft und die Welt ist ein bleibender, mit bleibenden Konsequenzen, die über die Aeonen hinaus anhalten können.

Die Überordnung von der Richtigkeit des Handelns im Gegensatz zur Richtigkeit der Gedanken bedeutet, daß es eine viel größere Vielfalt in der spirituellen Orthopraxie gibt. In der Orthopraxie besteht nicht die Notwendigkeit, Menschen zu einer bestimmten Art von Ideen und Gedanken zu zwingen. Das Hauptangliegen ist, daß die eigenen Taten für das Leben des Einzelnen nützlich für ihn selbst sind, ihre Familien und die Gemeinschaft.

Im germanischen Heidentum wird dies in dem berühmten Zitat der Havamal eloquent verdeutlicht:
Vieh stirbt,
Freunde sterben,
genauso stirbt man selbst.
Aber ich weiß eines,
das niemals stirbt:
Wie das Urteil über jeden Toten lautet.

Das Harbardsljoth bietet ein ausgezeichnetes Beispiel für die Absicht des Handelns in diesem Spruch. Im Gedicht Thor und Wotan, wobei letzterer sich als Sterblicher Harbard verkleidet, üben beide sich darin, einander laut und ausdrucksvoll zu beschimpfen. Die Verse 32-39 sind hierbei das beste Beispiel für die Flut an Verwünschungen.

Am Anfang dieses Abschnitts beteuert Harbard, daß Thors Wort nichts wert ist, indem er ein Ereignis zitiert, bei dem Thor seine Hilfe zusicherte und dann letztendlich doch nicht zur Stelle war, als es darauf ankam. Thor antwortet, daß er geholfen hätte, aber daß er damit beschäftigt war, in der Schlacht auf der Insel Hlesy zu kämpfen. Harbard verhöhnt ihn dadurch, daß er sagt, daß die meisten Leute, die er getötet hätte, Frauen gewesen wären. Thor weist dies zurück, indem er angibt, “Weibliche Wölfe waren sie, und Frauen waren nur wenige zugegen.“ 
 
Dieser Abschnitt des Gedichtes veranschaulicht verschiedene Dinge. Thor und Harbards mentaler Kampf zentriert sich auf die Grundsätze ethischer Werte und Verurteilung. Harbards Anschuldigung ist ganz klar eine Anfeindung gegenüber Thors Charakter. Er argumentiert, daß Thors Wort wertlos ist, da er nicht zugegen war, als Harbard Hilfe benötigte. Thor rechtfertigt sich, indem er angibt, zu der Zeit auf Hlesy gekämpft zu haben. Sogar die sexistischen Bemerkungen bezüglich der Frauen der Berserker sagen viel aus; als Harbard forfährt, daß die Schlacht schämlich war, da Thors Gegner Frauen waren, kontert Thor, daß sie so teuflisch kämpften, als wären sie weibliche Wölfe. Seine Rechtfertigung, ähnlich der Anschuldigung Harbards, basiert auf den chauvinistischen Erwartungen und Einstellungen der damaligen Zeit.

Die gleiche Art findet sich in der Geschichte des Beowulf. Als Beowulf in Heorot eintrifft, beginnt ihr Zusammentreffen mit einem Austausch von Geschichten und Angebereien. Während dieses Austauschs stellt Unferth Beowulfs Ehrlichkeit in frage. Mit der Ausnahme der Zeilen 503-506, in der er seine Eifersucht zugibt, eine Ausnahme, die sonst mit keinem Wort im Rest des Gedichtes erwähnt wird, beruht Unferths Aussage einzig und allein auf seinem Bezug auf einem einzigen Vorfall. Er klagt, daß Beowulf nicht ehrlich ist und erinnert ihn an seine Niederlage im Schwimmwettbewerb von Breca. Beowulf antwortet, daß er nur verloren hat, da er von Meeresmonstern angegriffen worden sei und weist damit effektiv Unferths Anschuldigungen zurück.  

Dieser Austausch folgt den selben Mustern wie denen des Harbardsljoths. Mit der Ausnahme der Zeilen 503-506 ist der Dialog zwischen Beowulf und Unferth der selbe wie der von Thor und Harbard. Die Anschuldigungen bezüglich der Integrität einer Person, beruhend auf einem einzigen Beispiel, werden zurückgewiesen mit spezifischen Beispielen von Taten, nicht Gedanken oder Absichten. Der Gebrauch ähnlicher Strukturen in anderen Beispielen veranschaulicht weiterhin diese allgemein akzeptierten Standards für die Bewertung eines Charakters im Alten Norden. Die Orte, in denen diese Gedichte erschaffen wurden, wurde durch die bitteren Gewässer der Nordsee und durch zwei verschiedene Sprachen getrennt. Von den beiden Gedichten nimmt man an, daß das des Beowulf das ältere ist, da es wohl während der Zeit der Komposition des Harbardsljoths geschrieben wurde. Dies zeigt erneut, daß ein gewisser Standard zu der Zeit herrschte, trotz aller geographischer und sprachlicher Trennungen.

Die Bekehrung Islands faßt die Hauptunterschiede zwischen der damaligen Mentalität und der traditionellen religiösen Orthodoxie zusammen. Im Jahr 1000 mußte sich die isländische Bevölkerung den Gefahren eines religiösen Bürgerkriegs und dem Einmarsch des Königs von Norwegen stellen. Thorgeir, ein Rechtsprecher, welcher von den Christen sowie germanischen Heiden geachtet wurde, bot einen Kompromiß an, welcher Island Freiheit und die Freiheit aller Isländer schützen würde. Er schlug vor, daß Island sich zum Christentum bekennen würde unter der Voraussettung, daß die der polytheistische Glaube in der Privatsphäre der eigenen vier Wände respektiert und geschützt werden würde.


Für die christlichen Missionare bedeutete dies einen großen Sieg. Ihre üblichen Methoden der Zwangskonversion bestand darin, die Eliten des jeweiligen Landes auf ihre Seite zu bringen, um so die Konversion der Bevölkerung zu erzwingen. Die offizielle Bestätigung durch das Allthing war ihnen hierbei nur recht. Für die heidnischen Isländer, für die Taten mehr zählten als Gedanken, änderte sich das Leben kaum. In Island fand die Verehrung (der Götter) zumeist zu Hause statt. Die Sicherung privater Verehrung bedeutete, daß die polytheistischen Isländer ohne großartige Unterbrechungen ihre Traditionen fortsetzen konnten. Diese Entscheidung ist heutzutage noch spürbar und sie ist sogleich der Hauptfaktor der Bewahrung von Islands traditioneller Praktiken und Folklore, die der Kernpunkt der Wiederbelebung des heidnischen Glaubens sind.
Wie die Orthopraxie zeigt besteht unser heutiger Glaube mit seinen tiefen Wurzeln aus mehr als nur der oberflächlichen Verehrung uralter Götter. Die Beurteilung der Leistung ist eine fundamental andere Mentalität von der traditioneler religiöser Einstellungen. Sich auf Taten zu berufen, anstatt auf bestimmte Glaubenssätze ermöglicht einem eine größere Freiheit und ruft zeitgleich zu mehr Verantwortung auf. Der Mensch wird dafür zur Verantwortung gezogen, was er tut und nicht dafür verfolgt, was er glaubt. Im Gegenzug muß er eine Balance finden zwischen persönlichem Bedürfnis und seinen Pflichten gegenüber der Gesellschaft.
1. Havamal 78, Die poetische Edda
2. Harbardsjloth 39
3. Beowulf 399-424, trans. by Seamus Heaney
4. Beowulf 506-568
5. Beowulf 529-586

Right Action

Available in German, translation by Erin Banks

One of the main questions posed to Heathens and Pagans when we first explain our beliefs to others is usually something like, "So you actually believe in those Gods?"  The common assumption in this question is the entire point of religion and spirituality is worshiping divinity.  If the Gods a person believes in do not exist it would argue, logically, the beliefs surrounding those Gods are equally invalid.  To the modern polytheist it is not what beliefs you hold that matters most but what you do with them.

At first glance this seems at odds with religion.  This is because our ideas about religion are heavily shaped by the omnipresence of Christianity in modern society.  For over a thousand years intellectual, cultural, and philosophical life in the West has been dominated by Christian monotheistic dualism.  As a result belief and ideas are defined by orthodoxy, correct thought, and heterodoxy, different thought.  Ideas and actions are measured for correctness by their adherence to established orthodoxy.  Holding unwanted thoughts is just as dangerous as engaging in sinful acts.

Polytheistic practice bases its ideas in different ground.  The main idea is orthopraxy, correct action.  The emphasis in ethics and practice is on how one speaks and acts, not on what one thinks or feels.  Orthopraxy argues speech and action are the best means for assessing a person's character.  Actions are the best expression of a person's intentions.  Unlike thoughts speech and action is permanent.  Thoughts and feelings unexpressed can be reconsidered and assessed.  Action and speech, once done, cannot be undone.  The impact on people, society, and the world is lasting with consequences which can echo across time.

Emphasis on rightness of action over rightness of thought means there is a much wider diversity of opinions in orthopraxic spirituality.  In orthopraxy there is no need to force people to conform to a specific set of ideas and thoughts.  The main concern is if the actions that make up their lives are beneficial for themselves, their families, and their community.

In Heathenry this is most eloquently expressed in the popularly quoted verse from the Havamal:

Cattle die, kinsmen die
And so dies oneself
One thing I know never dies
The fame of a dead man's deeds1

The Harbardsljoth gives an excellent example of the intent behind this verse in action.  In the poem Thor and Odin, disguised as the man Harbard, engage in a battle of insults across a great sound.  Most telling is the nature of the taunts used.  The bulk of the two's clash consists of recounting of stories of great exploits.  Wherever possible Thor and Harbard seek to undermine the other's claims.  Verses 32-39 provide an excellent example of volleying tales in action.

At the beginning of this section Harbard asserts Thor's word is no good by citing an incident where Thor promised to help and was not present.  Thor responds first that he would have helped if he could but he was busy fighting on the island of Hlesy.  Harbard taunts him claiming his actions were shameful because the people he killed were women.  Thor dismisses Harbard's charge boasting, "She-wolves they were like and women but little"2.

This section of the poem demonstrates a few things.  Thor and Harbard's battle of the wits is centered on an ethical value judgment.  Harbard's charge is very clearly an attack on Thor's character.  He is arguing Thor's word is no good because he was not present when Harbard needed his help.  Thor replies by stating he was unable because he was fighting on Hlesy at that time.  Even the sexist remarks regarding the berserker's wives are telling; when Harbard claims the battle was shameful because Thor's opponents were women Thor retorts they fought as fiercely as she-wolves.  His rebuttal is based, like Harbard's charges, on their conduct in spite of the chauvinistic expectations of the day. 

The same process is repeated in Beowulf.  When Beowulf arrives in Heorot the visit begins with Beowulf and Horthgar exchanging tales and boasts3.  During this exchange Unferth questions Beowulf's honesty4.  With the exception of lines 503-506 which claim he is envious, a particular aside which is not used elsewhere in the poem, Unferth's challenge rests solely on citing a specific event.  He claims Beowulf is not being honest by reminding him of his defeat in a swimming race by Breca.  Beowulf replies by saying he lost because he was waylaid by sea monsters, effectively refuting Unferth's charges5.

This exchange follows the same pattern seen in the Harbardsljoth.  With the exception of lines 503-506 Beowulf and Unferth's dialog follows the same pattern as Thor and Harbard's.  A challenge to one person's integrity on specific grounds is refuted with specific examples of actions, not thoughts or intentions.  The use of similar structure further demonstrates the common use of this rationale for character assessment in the Old North.  The locations where these poems were likely composed was separated by the harsh waters of the North Sea in two distinctly different languages.  Of the two it is believed Beowulf is the older of the two, having been written around the same time as the Harbardsljoth's composition.  This shows a fairly consistent standard across a broad, geographically separated and linguistically divided world. 

The conversion of Iceland neatly summarizes the key differences between this mindset and traditional religious orthodoxy.  In the year 1000 the people of Iceland were facing the threats of a possible religious civil war and invasion by the King of Norway.  Thorgeir, a lawspeaker respected by Christians and Heathens alike, offered a compromise that would protect Iceland's freedom and the freedom of the Icelanders.  He proposed that Iceland would convert to Christianity on the condition that traditional polytheistic worship in the privacy of the home would be respected and protected.

For the Christian missionaries this was a great victory.  Their usual method of conversion was to gain support the of local elites and work through them to convert the population.  Official endorsement by the Althing was in line with their usual pattern.  For Heathen Icelanders, where actions mattered more than thoughts, their lives were not going to change much.  In Iceland worship was usually done in the home.  Protecting private worship meant the polytheistic Icelanders could continue their traditional practice with minimal interruption.  This decision's impact has been felt to the present, proving critical in preserving Iceland's traditional practices and folklore which are the core of the modern Heathen revival. 

As orthopraxy shows there are deeper roots to modern polytheistic practices than superficial worship of ancient Gods.  Assessing of merit by the rightness of actions is a fundamentally distinct mindset from traditional religious attitudes.  Focusing on actions over adherence to specific beliefs gives far greater freedom while calling for greater responsibility.  A person is held accountable based on what they do and not persecuted for what they think.  In turn they must act to live the balance between their individual needs and their duties to society. 

1. Havamal 78, Poetic Edda trans. by Henry Adams Bellows
2. Harbardsjloth 39
3. Beowulf 399-424, trans. by Seamus Heaney
4. Beowulf 506-568
5. Beowulf 529-586

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Open Letter to the Rede of the Troth

Open Letter to the Rede of the Troth:

I am an active Heathen and recently lapsed member of the Troth.  The reason I joined the Troth was because it is a Heathen organization that is open to anyone.  The Troth's stand on tolerance is the reason why a recent statement by Victoria Clare, the Steerswoman of the High Rede, on the matter of hailing Loki during Troth-sponsored events shocked me.  That statement is the reason why I am writing this open letter.

What surprised me the most about this statement was its uncompromising tone.  Early on it is asserted the matter of hailing Loki is, "irresolvable in a manner consistent with both frith and mainstream heathen sensibilities" followed by a reminder to "maintain the frith."  It is argued the hailing of Loki was causing strife without any explanation as to how or why.  It claims such practices, "cause dissension in our ranks."  It finishes by stating, "The Rede has agreed to review the language, but that does not mean any significant change should be expected in our policies or procedures."

These words are chilling to me.  This is not how an organization that values honesty and transparency with its members operates.  One of the great benefits I found with Troth membership was the space it provided for open discussion and dialog.  The language of this statement is contrary to the spirit of free discourse.


If the issue of hailing Loki is serious enough to cause strife it should be resolved with open discussion and debate.  Let the ideas of all sides of the conversation be tested for their worth in public dialog just as the Gods did when They created Midgard(1) and our ancestors did when resolving matters great and small.

As long as this statement is the Troth's policy I will not renew my membership.  I hope the High Rede will reconsider their stance on this issue and resolve it openly and transparently.


Sincerely:


Ryan Smith

1. Voluspo 6-16

Friday, June 1, 2012

Solidarity


There are many ethical and spiritual virtues in Pagan and Heathen practice.  Which ones are followed are a matter of which tradition a person follows and their interpretation of its ideas.  There are many options in the rich diversity of traditions in the community to choose from.  In this tapestry of ideas there are many to choose from but a few are shared by many.  They may have different reasons and justifications but the root idea is the same.  One such precept is the virtue that calls for people to set aside personal differences in the name of the greater community.  Its name is solidarity.

Solidarity is the unity between people based on common ground.  It calls on us to support our friends, family, and community when they are in need however we can.  It urges us to do this because they are our kin whether by blood, association, or choice.  Such selfless acts are rooted in the soil of enlightened self-interest.

All societies, large and small, depend on common resources to ensure their continued survival and success.  These resources are built and maintained by the mutual aid, sacrifice, and work of the many.  When these patterns of mutual aid and support are maintained communities thrive.  Those that fragment, feud, and let these networks crumble rarely outlast the collapse of the social fabric.

Solidarity is an idea as old as humanity.  Every nation and culture in the world from the dawn of time has extolled the virtues of standing with one’s kin in times of trouble.  The origins of solidarity can be traced to humanity’s tribal past.  In the prehistoric world survival was not easy for a lone human to survive.  Essential tasks for survival such as hunting, gathering of food, shelter, protection from dangerous predators, child rearing, and aid when sick or injured depended on mutual support.  In a harsh world solidarity was a matter of life and death.

With the rise of agriculture and village life the need for solidarity was as great as always.  Growing crops and caring for livestock required the coordinated effort of whole tribes.  The dangers of famine, raiders, and natural disasters did not discriminate on what work a person did or where in the village they lived.  Collective effort and response was necessary for the sake of community survival whether one was raising a barn, plowing the fields, or putting out a fire everyone lent a hand however they could.

Concrete examples of solidarity in early civilization are easy to find.  In ancient Greece during times of war all inhabitants of a polis were given shelter in the city walls and expected to play a part in its defense.  Citizens were required to own arms and armor for taking part in the defense of the city as were landowners in the Roman Republic.  Every free person in the Celtic and Germanic tribes of northern and western Europe were expected to take their place in the line of battle when the tribe came under attack.

Some would argue solidarity requires us to sacrifice our individuality and submit to grey, featureless conformity.  They claim the actions necessary to maintain a strong community infringe too heavily on the rights of the individual.  This criticism misses the point completely.  Solidarity does not demand us to surrender our freedom and submit to communal enslavement.  In the cultures of pre-Christian Europe individual deeds and achievements were central to their ideals.  Whether in the songs of Celtic bards, the sagas of Scandinavian skalds, or from the pens of Greek poets the glory of individual mettle was celebrated.  What the great heroes have in common is applying their individual skills to the betterment of their people.  It did not matter if this was through battle, the arts, or trade those who strengthened their communities were celebrated while those who leeched from them were denounced.  There was no contradiction between duty to community and individual freedom.  It was well-understood the two were heavily intertwined, dependent on mutual support to remain. 

We now live in a time where our community is forming once again.  We face many challenges from many places.  Now, as our ancestors once did, in the face of these dangers we must heed solidarity’s wisdom.  How this manifests will depend on the person, tradition, and community.  What should hold true in all cases when facing common need is the unqualified trust and support of one’s fellow earth worshippers, polytheists, and Pagans transcending the differences that divide us to embrace the qualities that unite us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Right to Rebel, Duty to Resist

Modern Heathens take great pride in personal independence, refusing to bow before distant authorities or divine masters. This is not surprising, many who follow Heathen practices do so out of personal choice full well knowing their decision will push them to the fringes of modern Western society. The choice to follow any polytheistic practice, in an age when monotheism is the norm, is a small yet fundamental act of rebellion. For whatever reason the initial decision is made those who continue on a path that guarantees social marginalization at best do so because their existential needs are not served by modern, conventional spirituality. This same spirit of defiance sounds out strongly in Heathen lore. The duty to resist oppressive circumstances is a powerful theme in Germanic Lore.

To first understand the importance of resistance and rebellion one must first examine the cyclical nature of Germanic cosmology as presented in the Eddas. In the beginning of the sagas there was nothing but fire, ice, and a great void. One day the fire and ice boiled out into the gap, collided, and from the primordial void and chaos a new order emerged centered on Ymir. When Odin and His two brothers, Vili and Ve, struck down Ymir They used his body to create a new order where the Gods and humanity would flourish. Throughout the sagas They do battle with destructive giants and monsters like Fenris and the Midgard Serpent to keep Midgard and the Nine Worlds safe. In the Final Battle of Ragnarok the Gods take the field against their old foes one last time in spite of their pre-ordained doom. From the destruction of Ragnarok, as it was when fire and ice collided and Ymir fell, a new bright world will come from the ashes of the old.

In each cycle of destruction and rebirth new, more prosperous worlds are built from the bones of the old ended in chaos and destruction. The new worlds are born because of an upset of the existing status quo. The great yawning void, which had existed for time unknown between the realms of fire and ice, had been the center of the existing order until the great elemental forces poured in and filled it. Ymir and the frost giants had lived in relative prosperity unchallenged until Buri's grandsons Odin, Vili, and Ve struck him down and used the body to create a new world(1). Ragnarok begins with a three year ice age ending with Surtr's immolation of the World Tree. Every great cosmic change is catalyzed by disruption of the existing order. These changes are used as the means to initiate greater, more meaningful transformation.

Cosmic change does not come about for its own sake in the lore. While the lore is silent on the Gods' motives for slaying Ymir we can make some inferences from the lore. The primordial world in which the sons of Buri lived is described as extremely bleak. All that existed was Ymir, the cow Audumla who fed the giant, and a lot of salty ice(2). The new order built from Ymir's body is lush, fertile, and full of promise for the Gods, humans, and wights(3). Whatever the motive the end result was replacing the old, stagnant order with a new, more beneficial one for the Gods and the inhabitants of the Nine Worlds.

Beowulf's saga shows the same theme of liberation from oppressive circumstances. Following Grendel's first attack on the hall of Hereot the Ring-Danes did whatever they could to fight back and repel new attacks4. Conditions became quite grim:

"All were endangered; young and old
were hunted down by that dark death-shadow
who lurked and swooped in the long nights
on the misty moors; nobody knows
where these reavers from hell roam on their errands."(5)
In spite of all this they never stopped their war with Grendel, who "ruled in defiance of right"(6). When Beowulf left Geatland he did not come seeking wealth or riches but to volunteer for the battle with Grendel(7). He came with the blessing of the Geats(8) only requesting of Hrothgar that he do it himself with his men(9). The same theme re-asserts itself at the end of the saga when Beowulf, in the twilight of his years, personally seeks out and slays a dangerous dragon menacing his people at the cost of his own life.

The history of the people of the Old North is rich with stories of resistance and defiance of the mighty. The first and best examples come from the days when Rome ruled the world. In the first century AD Hermann of the Cherusci organized a coalition of tribes in defiance of Roman colonization of their lands. At Teutoburg Forest they destroyed the Roman army ending the first and only serious attempt by the Empire to conquer Germania. In the centuries that followed the Germanic tribes refused to let Rome rest fighting a series of bloody wars with the Empire. These were wars fought not by wealthy warrior-aristocrats or professional mercenaries but farmers, artisans, and merchants defending their homes and families. It is doubtful they had any serious hopes of destroying the Empire, a monolithic entity that cast a long shadow over the Rhine and Danube for centuries. What is clear is the fallout of the Empire's presence in the form of forced tribute, slave raids, punitive expeditions, and Rome's proxy wars reached a point where they could not be tolerated. In the face of deprivation, war, and slavery the Germanics consistently chose the risks of resistance over the certainty of submission.

The same defiance of oppression stands strong from the Empire's fall to the final Christianization of Scandinavia. Germanic tribes, facing conversion by force and coercion, refused to give up the old ways. With the exception of Iceland's conversion in 1000 AD every attempt to impose the Cross on the people was met with dogged, bloody resistance. From the Saxons' defiance of Charlemagne's invasion to Svolder when a coalition of Danes, Swedes, and Norse brought down the Christian tyrant Olaf Tryggvason and Stiklestad when an army of free common folk ambushed and slew the Christian king Olaf II the folk never gave up without a fight. When "conquered" they rebelled fiercely and often.

The message of resistance and rebellion is a powerful theme in the lore of the Northern world. When faced with oppressive conditions heroes, Gods, and ancestors alike pushed back, refusing to submit in the face of near-certain defeat. Many times when they made this fateful choice it was not with the certainty of victory behind them but as a challenge of impossible odds. Whether it is the Gods at Ragnarok, Beowulf facing the dragon, or the Cherusci at Teutoberg they chose defiance over submission and surrender.

Also published at Occupy-PNC

1. Gylfaginning V, trans. by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur
2. Gylfaginning VI
3. Gylfaginning VIII-IX
4. Beowulf 170-178, trans. by Seamus Heaney
5. Beowulf 159-163
6. Beowulf 144
7. Beowful 194-201
8. Beowulf 415-418
9. Beowulf 431-432