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Paganism: Part XIII - Pagan Love
Ever since the Axis powers lost WWII English has, whether we like it or not, been the Latin of the civilized world. This is bad news to the French, the Spanish, the Germans, and other cultural-imperialistic nations seeking to instead export their language to the world, but it is also bad news to the evolution of the spirit in man. You see, English is said to be a rich language, but - alas! - there is only one single English word meaning love.
In Norwegian there are a several different words with slightly different meanings that translate into English as "love" (like kjærlighet, elskov and forelskelse), but these are more general terms and to find the most interesting and precise love-words we need to study Old Norwegian (=Norse). These Norse love-words have survived in some first names, but other than that they are unknown in the modern Scandinavian society. The most obvious love-word in Norse frjá, from proto-Norse frijō (love), but ingr, from proto-Norse inguR (love, loving) too is well-know, and both are widely used in names in Scandinavia. The third and final word I will mention in this context is ást, from proto-Norse anst (love), a word that is also pretty much only used as a name, albeit more rarely than the other two before mentioned love-words.
The perceptive reader will see that ást is a word very similar to the Norse word for "god", namely áss (pl. æsir), from proto-Norse ans (mouth, river mouth, breath and blow, "a source of divine utterance"), and this is not a coincidence. All the different Norse words for love describe different types of love, and ást is the highest form of love, the divine love that manifest itself in the form of the æsir!
You might wonder why on earth words meaning "love" have disappeared from our languages, but it makes perfect sense when we know that the lost words for love were all directly linked to the Pagan religion and the Pagan deities: frjá is also the name of the goddess of love (Freyja) and the goddess of maternal love (Frigg [proto-Norse Frijjō]); ingr is also the name of the god of love and fertility (Ingr, a.k.a. Freyr), and ást is the love of the æsir! Why would and how could such words survive the Christianization of Europe? When our continent was Christianized the advanced (Pagan) love died along with the words we used to describe, understand and express it with, and all that is left today is the one-dimensional and general love of the English-speaking world (and a few additional terms in the more civilized parts of the world). Europe has in other words also in this context because of Judeo-Christianity become a poorer place, with a poorer understanding of and capacity for love.
Interestingly Freyja and Ingr (Freyr) are not æsir, but vanir (sg. vanr, meaning simply "water"). You see, frjá is a word describing the earthly love; parental love, marital (reproductive) love and racism (the love for those who genetically speaking are closest to you). This love is based on and stems from the blood, from the DNA. This is a primitive and natural love, and although not as noble and divine as ást it is quintessential to the survival and improvement of mankind. This is what makes us love our offspring, feel attracted to genetically speaking healthy partners and reproduce with them, and make sure our genes are carried on to the next generations. This is the love we still partly understand, in spite of the Christianization of Europe, simply because it is instinctive; because we are pre-programmed by our DNA to understand it. No amount of brainwash can ever remove our capacity for natural love1.
The noblest form of love that is sometimes known to modern man is ingr. This is also part biological, but it is still a more intellectual and even spiritual love and it is harder to grasp. Ingr can be described by the following line; "I love You, therefore I expose You to all the things that can make You a better person". If Your sweet and innocent daughter, for example, has the flu and You love her on this level You will be happy, because You wish her the best, and You know that in order for her to develop a stronger immune system she needs to be exposed to such viruses. When she gets well her immune system will be better prepared to fight the next generations of flu and other diseases as well. The smartest people therefore seek adversity and a hard life, a life in harsh climates and places where you need to be industrious and clever to survive. They do because they wish to make sure they and their children get the best opportunities to improve as human beings. They do because they love their children, and because they are intelligent enough to know what is really best for them. Life on Earth is pointless if it doesn't improve us!
This love, ingr, is basically how the gods and goddesses relate to us, as we are their children; they expose us to all kinds of adversity, horrors and problems because they love us. They do because they want us to become better, because they want us to eventually become gods and goddesses ourselves.
This explains why the gods decided to create the Nordic race in Thule (Atlantis), in the harsh climate of Northern Scandinavia, and it explains why people living in harsh climates are generally speaking more industrious, inventive and intelligent than people living in less harsh climates. After all, they have to be in order to survive. It explains further why the gods (by the help of gravity) threw our world into an Ice Age after they had created the Nordic race, and basically forced the Nordic man to improve, and to improve fast.
The best individuals of the Nordic race, those who really understood ingr, followed the rim of the ice back northwards, when the ice melted at the end of the last great Ice Age, rather than move to places with a friendlier climate, like others did. They understood the need for them to be exposed to as much adversity as possible. And individual who knows ingr will rejoice when he or she is exposed to adversity, and in fact he or she will knowingly and willingly expose him- or herself to it, while those who don't know ingr will instead whine, pity themselves and try to avoid adversity at all cost. The capacity for ingr is what separates humans from subhumans.
Ást is the highest form of love, and we have good descriptions of the unveiling of ást from some of the fairy tales gathered and published by the Grimm brothers and Asbjørnsen and Moe (like "Cinderella" and "Mother Holle" [=Mother Hel]), and from Russian fairy tales too (like some of the tales in the book called "Три Царства" ["The Three Kingdoms"] published in Moscow 1985, by Raduga publishers).
The divine love, ást, is in spite of the fairy tales unknown to modern man, because he is a Judeo-Christian or atheist fool, who no longer practices Paganism. Some people get a glimpse of this divine love anyhow, because they at some point in life get a glimpse of death (=Hel); on the operating table in a hospital, in an accident or perhaps in a dream!
Ást is unknown to modern man alright, but it was actually fairly unknown to most of the Pagans of the past as well, simply because the common man cannot cope with it. Most Pagans knew it existed, but they knew little about it. Ást can be dangerous if you don't know how to relate to it, just like the Sun and the Moon. The sunlight can be dangerous to us; it is harmful to your eyes if you look directly at it or to your skin if you expose it to the sunlight too much. Some people don't handle the moonlight, and lose their minds completely when exposed to it (they become lunatics, from the Latin name of the Moon [Luna]).
Therefore they had strict rules when it came to unveiling the secrets of ást to people. Those born in the thirteen days of Yule (id est from the 21st or 22nd of December to the 2nd or 3rd of January), those born with a "victory shirt", those born blind, those whose mother died during labour, those born with one blue and one green eye (like David Bowie, I may add), those born with a limp, or those born with some other "mark" were seen as predetermined to become Pagan priests and priestesses and learn about ást. They were "marked by the gods".
Those who had no such mark from birth, but were seen as strong and pure enough to be initiated anyway, were given a mark (usually a scar) as part of the initiation (and therefore the inquisitors of the Middle Age looked for "the mark of the devil" on all the men and women they wanted to murder as "witches", to prove that they were indeed "devil worshippers").
It is hard to understand all of this, but there is a logic to it. People born in the Yule tide came to Earth in the midst of the yearly Ragnarok battle (culminating in New Year's Eve), when the forces of light meet and fight the forces of darkness, and prevails I may add. They are born when the priests and priestesses fight the forces of darkness, and are therefore in a sense sent to Earth in that hour, by the gods, to participate. Those born with a "victory shirt", id est an intact membrane of the foetus, come to the world with extra protection. Those whose mother died during labour come to Earth in the midst of death, when the mother and child was still physically linked together, so they already know more about this than others. Those who are born blind cannot see the physical world, and therefore are extra aware of what goes on in the spiritual world. Those who are born with one blue and one green eye are said to have the ability to see ghosts and the realm of the dead better than others ("one eye for each realm"), and since the priests and priestesses go to fight ghosts in Ragnarok, in the realm of the dead, this is obviously an advantage. Those born with a limp are said to wear the shoe of Víðarr, and they probably participated in the Ragnarok-struggle even before they were born. They hurt their foot when they placed it in the mouth of the Fenrir wolf and tore it apart. That must be why they walk with a limp...
The mark of the gods was seen as so important that the unmarked priests and priestesses usually mutilated themselves to become marked by the gods (and whether you are born with it or do it yourself is irrelevant; if you can take the pain, and face it willingly, you are certainly strong enough to cope with the dangers of ást as well), and they often wore only one shoe, or one large and one small shoe, to walk with a limp.
The mythological examples of the mutilation or self-mutilation are many. Óðinn tore out one of his eyes to drink from the well of Mímir (memory). One of Þórr's goats (Tanngnjóstr [Tooth Sparks] or Tanngrísnir [Tooth Sparks]) walked with a limp after a peasant boy had broken one of his bones when he ate it, to get to the marrow. When the goat was resurrected by Þórr the next day it walked with a limp. Týr lost his hand when the wolf ate it. Óðinn was scarred for life when he trusted a spear into his body while hanging in the world tree, to learn the runes, and of course he actually hanged himself as well.
The clearest threat of ást to man is the splendour of the divine love. If you have seen the beauty of an elven princess and her white ebony castle in a divine realm, then the beauty of earthly women and the world we live in looses some of its force of attraction. If you have seen Heaven, and know that all you need do to go to Heaven is to die, it becomes hard to live on Earth. We are here for a reason, and if everybody knew how wonderful death is they would chose death rather than live on, and we would never be able to do what we are here to do. So, only those who are strong enough to cope with this should ever be allowed to experience the divine love in life. They need to know the splendour of Heaven and still be able to live on in this unfriendly and earthly world, custom designed to make us better (by exposing us to all kinds of adversity over time). The intimate knowledge of ást is in itself beneficial, because the longing and the ability to turn down different temptations makes us better.
Baldr (pure, clean, "white") and his wife Nanna (hard working, industrious) go to Hel six months each year, because the hard life there improves them further (and it is hard for him to live in Hel only because he knows what Ásgarðr is like). Baldr is invulnerable to all the temptations of our world, nothing can harm him, and like Cinderella (=Nanna) he uses a holy branch (Óðinn's spear) to open up the grave and enter Hel. When they return, after Ragnarok, all the powers are purified and the world is a better place.
Everybody is supposed to become better by life on Earth, and everybody is exposed to different levels of adversity, but only the strongest amongst us can cope with the challenges of ást. The learning rate of man on Earth is progressive, meaning that the stronger you are already, the stronger you get each day. Those who know ást learn and grow more in a day than those who don't do in a lifetime, and that is why the purest and most industrious amongst us should seek ást. If a human being cannot cope with ást, though, he or she is better off living life like a common man. The enlightenment will come soon enough anyhow.
The proverb amor vinict omnia ("love conquers all") is true only because the æsir are themselves manifestations and expressions of the divine love. Love conquers even death, because she exists beyond time, in the wyrd (esteem, "the realm of the gods", "Ásgarðr").
In other languages: Italiano
Varg "Kvísl-Ingr" Vikernes