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Paganism: Part XV - The Mystery Of Time
Scientists speak of a universe that came to be in a big bang about 13,7 billion years ago, they say that our planet Earth is 5 billion years old, that the Sun will use up its fuel in 5 or 6 billion years, and so forth. However, their estimates in this context are at best educated guesses. The truth is that they have no idea how old the universe is, how old our planet is or how long it will take for the Sun to extinguish itself. Their science is nothing but speculations based in vague, often flawed and even completely incorrect scientific theories. Some of their theories are not even scientific, like the theory of (macro) evolution.
The scientists and man in general try to understand the world within the concept of time, because, after all, we exist in time. It is hard to grasp or even think of an existence or a creation of our world beyond time when we only know of the existence in time. However, there is a world beyond time too, and in Norse this is amongst other things called the vyrð (esteem), a word that has survived in modern English only as the "degenerated term" weird (from wyrd, the Anglo-Saxon or Old English version of vyrð).
Even for the enlightened Pagan initiate the vyrð was indeed a weird place, and the best way for me to describe it is to ask You to imagine how the world looks like in Your dreams. When You sleep You leave the body to recharge (some of) Your spiritual faculties in the vyrð, and the reason we most often forget our dreams the moment we wake up is simply because we need to cross the river Styx on our way back to the body. Some dreams we remember anyhow, because we need to or because they are instructions to us from the vyrð, but we forget the vast majority.
In our dreams we exist beyond time, in a world of magic, mystery, surprises and incomprehensible events and emotions. Some dreams are merely our spiritual faculties trying to get rid of useless and invaluable memories (for example scenes from a computer game you have been playing all day long, or the memory of something else you have been doing too much). This is some sort of "disc tidying"; our minds making room for more useable or valuable memories on the "hard drive" by cleaning out all the useless and invaluable memories. Other dreams are more chaotic and are a result of our minds trying to process and file the more useable and valuable memories.
The final type of dreams I will mention here are the dreams known as mythological dreams. They are instructions to us from the different powers in the vyrð, they are remembered by us and are often experienced as so significant that we never forget them. These dreams are a one-way communication with the gods, as they speak to us in our dream, and they give us our different (personal) missions in life. The mythological dreams are actually the only way for the uninitiated man to receive signals from what our (Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon) forefathers called the æsir or ése (respectively), or simply gods.
The initiate's journey into the vyrð is experienced very much like a dream, obviously because this is a journey into the realm we all visit when we sleep (and dream). What makes the initiate's journey so different is that he or she can cross the river Styx without forgetting and he or she can interact with the powers too. In the yearly Ragnarok the initiates used to travel to the vyrð and fight different destructive powers, often in the shape of an animal, to secure the fertility of the land, the health of the kin and so forth. They put on a mask (like we still do in the julebukk tradition in Norway) to be able to see the spirits of the vyrð, and they participated in the huge (yearly) battle we know as Ragnarok, that takes place every New Year's Eve. They fought alongside the gods and goddesses, in a world beyond time.
To access the vyrð they used different magic symbols, like the famous Trojan Fortresses found all over Scandinavia (and in Greece). They danced into the centre of the symbol, on one foot, symbolizing the foot of Víðarr, that he uses when he kills the Fenrir wolf. We know a form of this dance from Ireland as river dance, and naturally it is called by that name because on their back from the vyrð the initiates had to dance across the river (we know best as) Styx1 in a certain way in order not to forget what they had seen and experienced.
The Trojan Fortress symbolizes the grave mound (as seen from above, with the entrance clearly visible2). This is the entrance to the vyrð, that is also known as Ásgarðr (and Troy). This is the world of the dead, the world of the elves, the world of the gods, and it is a world that exists beyond time.
The problem with the existence beyond time is that there is no growth there; it is a rather static world. In order to in any way enhance the powers of the vyrð the gods need to send them into our world (of time), to have them work for a while, and then let them turn to the vyrð, changed. And, mark my words, we are such powers, that are sent into the world to work for some time. After a while, when we die, we return to the vyrð changed; we are different from what we were before life on Earth.
In other words; the gods created our universe, the physical world influenced by time, to change, purify, enhance and improve the powers of the vyrð. The tiny spark given to each man when he or she is born can grow into a bright and shining star, if we play our cards right in life. Had this spark never existed in time, it would simply have remained a spark forever. Without time there can be no growth, and without growth there can be no births or positive change.
We know that the gods are the children of other gods, but we never hear about a goddess being pregnant or one giving birth to another god or goddess. The only birth we are told about is the birth of Sleipnir (the Trojan horse), but for Loki to give birth to this horse he actually has to leave Ásgarðr, naturally because he cannot give birth to anything in a realm existing beyond time. He needs to do it elsewhere, in our world of time.
We don't know, and cannot know, how old the universe is or when exactly the powers of our world came to be, because they were created beyond time. The world of time revolves around the world of the gods like the spokes of a wheel around its axis, and the distance from the past, the present and the future to the world of the gods is always the same.
Varg "Greybeard" Vikernes
Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum.
(To make mistakes is human, but to keep making mistakes is diabolic)
In other languages: Italiano