Are You Flexible Enough for Marriage?

pexels-photo-87273Flexibility is a sign of mental health, psychiatrist Tom Smith used to say when we were colleagues San Francisco’s Alcoholism Evaluation and Treatment Center.

I was single then and in my late twenties. The men I dated were usually flexible. They had to be, because it was usually my way or the highway about restaurants, outings, and so on.

But I thought Tom was talking about our patients, not moi! Although I was the agency’s couple therapy expert, I was not yet ready for marriage. I dated a lot but was more interested in getting my way than about forming a sound, lasting relationship.

Key Element for Good Marriage

Now that I’ve been married for nearly thirty years, and continue to counsel couples, I can add to Tom’s wise comment by saying that flexibility is also a key for a happy marriage. Of course it helps to have a spouse who is flexible, but really, both partners need to be willing to live in awareness of the other’s wants and needs as well as their own.

This is not to imply that you should have no boundaries, that you need to turn yourself into a pretzel because you get so twisted up trying to please your partner that you get confused about who you are and lose sight of your own needs.

So how do we learn to practice flexibility in a way that respects both our own and our partner’s needs? Here are a few ideas:

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” states Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He’s right, of course, and applying his advice to marriage helps change rigid patterns into more flexible ways of being. Getting practical, if your main thing is to have a good marriage, this should be more important in the big picture of your life than how you’ll spend leisure time together, exactly how a chore should get done, who does it, or something else.  

Flexibility Advice

A wise friend advised me early in my marriage, “Don’t argue with your husband about anything except for your child’s education. To her, this is where she needs to show she has a backbone. For you, it could be something else. “Choose your battles” is as relevant to marriage as it is to child rearing. When both partners are prepared to bend regarding relatively minor concerns they are cooking up a recipe for a good marriage, because while no one is keeping an exact score, they will both appreciate how the other accommodates her or him. Both feel secure, safe, loved, and loving.

How to Be Flexible in Your Relationship

Another wise friend showed me his tip for a good marriage. You might want to try it out visually by positioning your hands and fingers as he demonstrated in this order:

  1. He raised his hands in front of his chest.
  2. He pressed the fingertips of one hand against the fingertips of the opposing hand’s fingertips and said, “Here’s what it’s like when both spouses insist on getting their way.”
  3. Then, keeping all fingers spread out, he moved his hands apart, then slowly moved them closer together but placed the fingers of each hand into the spaces between the fingers of the other hand. “Here’s a good marriage,” he said.

Eureka! I got the message. He was showing me in step three what it looks like when spouses make room for each other’s wants and needs. Insisting on getting our own way can “work” for a while. But eventually the relationship will suffer, because, no one likes to feel squished by a dictator.

Personally, I learned to let go more often, to get along by going along with doing things my husband’s way much of the time. Usually, what I could choose to insist on is really no big deal. But when something is important to me, of course, I’ll speak up. In a healthy relationship, both partners want to satisfy each other’s wants and needs. They don’t block each other from moving forward. Instead, they grant each other ample space for self-expression and for each other’s desired outcome.

If I Can Grow, You Can Too

My husband David is quite flexible. On a scale of one to ten, he’d get an eight or nine. When writing this entry, I asked him, “How flexible would you rate me when we first got married?” “Three,” he said. “And now, about thirty years later?” I wondered. “Seven” he said.  

Good enough for now, I thought, with room to grow.

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The Three Levels Of Spiritual Enlightenment

Spiritual Enlightenment

Enlightenment, simply put, means to bring light where there was darkness. In spiritual terms, this ‘light’ isn’t literal but symbolic. Just like the cartoon characters whose bright ideas are shown by a lit bulb over their heads, spiritual enlightenment is like a light bulb going on in the mind, giving us insight and understanding about the meaning of life that we didn’t have before.

Almost all spiritual practices have enlightenment as their ultimate goal, and while there are some people who experience sudden and permanent enlightenment, most of us on a spiritual path move through three different levels.

Read below to see which level you’re on.

Level 1

At the first level your mind start to let things just be. You allow your experiences to be whatever they are without judging, analyzing or resisting.

Before this level, people tend to spend a lot of time planning, labeling, criticizing and worrying. But once they reach this first level, they find that their minds quiet down and become more accepting of what is.

People who have risen to level one often describe this as being more ‘fully present’ or ‘in the now’.

Level 2

When you reach level 2, you’ll feel a oneness with all that is. Here you recognize that every person, animal and even every object is connected to you and that you’re connected to all of them.

The rigid boundaries that you once thought existed between you and the rest of the world suddenly don’t seem so clear – or important – anymore. This doesn’t mean you lose yourself. Your mind still functions and you can still take care for yourself and your life. But now you recognize those physical separations as being far less important than the value of your oneness with everything else.

People who have risen to level two often describe this as feeling like deep and complete love.

Level 3

At level three you move beyond the sense of feeling connected with everything else and into the realization that you are everything else – and everything else is you.

You fully know the oneness of what we call God, and experience no separation from it or anything else.

People who live in level 3 of enlightenment describe it as bliss, and have let go of the kind of desires and wishes that are important to most people. The live in a state of inner peace and tranquility yet still function in the world.

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Expand Your Consciousness Now: 5 Spiritual Exercises That Work

Spiritual exercises

One of the best ways to expand your consciousness is to practice some spiritual exercises. I’m not talking about knowledge. you can read as many books as you want about everything from god to quantum physics, and while your knowledge of these subjects will be much greater, your consciousness will remain the same. Knowledge helps give context and understanding. but it’s in the action that true expansion begins.

Here’s a few spiritual exercises that can help you expand your consciousness quickly.

1. Appreciation

Sounds simple — is profound. If you make a daily habit of sitting for even 10 minutes to write a list of all the things you appreciate, in a month’s time you will expand your vibrational frequency and deepen your spiritual understanding of the preciousness of this life.

2. Meditate

Or pray. But take 15–25 minutes every day to bring your mind into at least the alpha, if not the theta state. When you do this, you build your capacity to handle stress and are much more able to handle life on your own terms. This means that where stress once consumed time and energy, you now have room for spirit to dwell.

3. ‘Yoke’ the body

The word ‘yoga’ means to ‘yoke’ together the spirit and body. Don’t worry you don’t have to be a gumby to do a little yoking of your own. Even if you sit still and totally focus on using the breath to both initiate and complete a movement — say raising and lowering an arm — in time you’ll start to unify your mind with your spirit.

4. Keep a journal

You can keep a journal where you communicate with whatever you consider to be most sacred. Whether you want to engage in a dialogue with God, ask questions of your Higher Self, request help from your Guardian Angels or simply give thanks to Source, a journal grounds you in the physical act of paying homage to Spirit.

5. Share with a friend

Find a spiritual buddy to share with. You may want to do a dream exchange, create spiritual songs or do sacred dances. Maybe you just want to share your perceptions and experiences of the Divine Hand in your life. It’s up to you. But by sharing with another, you exponentially expand the pleasure of connecting with what is most sacred to you.

Your turn!

Do you do something regularly to connect with spirit? Maybe you are part of a spiritual community like a church. Maybe you say prayers before each meal. Whatever it is, please share with us in the comments below.

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Repaving the Road

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

pexels-photo-250167Yesterday, I spent 12 hours sitting in my therapy office as I worked with clients who brought with them, a collective steamer trunk of challenges, trauma history, pain, triumphs to celebrate, healing stories, insights, and wisdom. Thank goodness for those last few items, since if all I saw were the first, I’m not sure how I could have continued my career for the 38 years I have logged. If calculated in dog years, that would equal 342 turns of the calendar pages.

Truth be told, sometimes it does feel that way. One of them who was working her way through a familiar pattern of self-deprecation had an aha moment as she became aware of the ways in which she follows roads that are not in her best interest to traverse. Still, they are familiar, so down them she goes.

This young woman is an insightful and gifted writer, although she has not pursued that career path. I have been encouraging her to begin gathering her words in a structured way and get them out there in the world. She peeks out from behind the well-rehearsed internal litany that hammers her with the fear that no one will like what she writes. I assure her that many will benefit from them.

In our session, she speaks of spotting on the street the vehicle of someone from her past whose memory triggers sadness and reminds her of her loss. We sit in silence for a moment to let her feelings rise to the surface with her tears. Then she says something profound. “I need to resurface the road since the one I am on has potholes in it.”

We laugh at the image of her riding over and over in slow motion those same bumps and falling into the fissures in the street. We imagine clearing the rock and rubble and pouring tar on the new road. She knows she needs to avoid driving on it until it dries since if she attempts to do so, she will get stuck in the muck. That too is familiar. Rushing to find a solution is her modus operandi. Patience with herself is not one of her virtues. A learned skill for her. A work in progress.

We muse about the classic definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” I remind her of another reference shared with me a few years ago, by a recovering heroin addict. He wisely offered his own explanation that he knew exactly what was going to happen and did it anyway. She laughs and says she can relate.

Creating New References

Working in the recovery field has brought into my life, wisdom from those who have found themselves caught in the swirling whirlpool of addiction. In conversation with someone who was attempting to free himself from the bottle, he shared his dilemma.

I asked him what meaning beer (his drug of choice) held. He smiled ruefully as he said, “I go camping with friends and there’s beer. I help friends move and there’s pizza and beer. I go to a game and there’s beer. At the end of a long work week, there’s beer. I go out with friends…” You get the picture. We needed to reframe the role of this compelling liquid made of barley, hops, yeast and water.

He found himself rewriting the script that told him that it had to be such an integral part of his life. Could he create new associations for the activities he enjoyed? Was it possible for him to socialize sober? In the time we worked together, he happily reported that he could do so.

My female client can relate to that reference, since she too needs to reframe her own beliefs about the man behind the wheel of the truck, who showed up once again last week, as well as the other habitual and self-limiting behaviors that ensue.

I offered her the wisdom of this iconic poem that is part of the recovery path.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Copyright (c) 1993, by Portia Nelson from the book There’s A Hole in My Sidewalk. Reproduced with kind permission from Beyond Words Publishing, Hillsboro, Oregon.

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Column: Animism and the Eternal Recurrence of Myth


befunky-design2The fourth century C.E. Neoplatonist Sallustius, a friend of the Roman Emperor Julian (who revoked Christianity’s status as state religion and attempted to revive polytheist worship), wrote in On the Gods and the Cosmos that the myths told in religious initiations “never happened, but always are,” and that “as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we attain higher order?” (section 4) Sallustius wrote that myths which mix both psychic and material interpretations particularly “suit religious initiations, since every initiation aims at uniting us with the world and the gods.”

Kybele

Kybele [public domain].

As an example of a “mixed” psychic and material myth, he cites the story of Kybele and Attis, putting forth the interpretation that Kybele “is the principle that generates life,” that Attis “is the creator of all things which are born and die,” and that “the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into the creation and is joined to the gods again.” Kybele’s priests, the Galli or Gallai (the latter term, of feminine linguistic gender, found in a fragment of Callimachus), were known for re-enacting Attis’ self-castration in their own ecstatic rituals.

There is also a cave in at Hierapolis in Phrygia, of which Daniel Ogden writes in Greek and Roman Necromancy: “The … fumes supposedly killed all but eunuch-priests (galli) and mystery-initiaties. As an initiate, Damascius ventured into the cave in the sixth century A.D., and subsequently dreamed that he was the gallus Attis, that he had been ordered by the mother of the gods to celebrate the Hilaria, and that he had been delivered from Hades.” (26) Damascius’s experience shows that even for non-galli, the myth had the power to re-enact itself in the realm of underworld-connected caves and dreams.

The connections between myth and mystery initiation run even deeper, however. Following Gregory Nagy, Richard P. Martin writes in “The Myth Before Myth Began:”

The root underlying the noun form muthos is that found in the Greek verb muô meaning ‘to close’ the eyes or mouth. From the same root we have the words mystêrion (mystery) and mystês (initiate), in both of which the notions of closure, and of being closed off or excluded, are operative. (4)

Furthermore, in Homeric poetry, μῦθος had the connotation of “authoritative utterance,” specifically a “unitary speech-act term comprising subcategories of rebuke, command, and recollection.” (2) Thus, it should come as no surprise that myths do indeed continue to unify speech and action, to violently reenact themselves in the material world and then to be recollected through storytelling.

Drawing of 5th century BCE Athenian vase. Public Domain.

Hermes slaying Argos, rawing of fifth-century B.C.E. Athenian vase [public domain].

Argeiphontes

Argos was a hundred-eyed giant, surnamed Panoptes: all-seeing. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Zeus transformed his lover Io into a milk-white heifer in the hopes of deceiving Hera, but when Hera asked for the cow to be given to her as a gift, Zeus acquiesced. Hera then set Argos as a guard over Io.

Argos was well-suited to the task, for he closed only two of his eyes at a time, “whilst all the others kept on watch and guard. Whichever way he stood his gaze was fixed on Io—even if he turned away his watchful eyes on Io still remained.” The Panopticon prison of Jeremy Bentham, much discussed by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish, is named after Argos Panoptes, for it operates by the principle that the prisoner never knows when they are being watched, and thus must regulate their own behavior as if they were being watched at all times.

Zeus, unwilling to act openly himself, sent his son Hermes to liberate Io. In Ovid’s version, Hermes lulls Argos to sleep with a long story and a touch of his magic wand, then kills Argos with his sword: “and one night filled his hundred eyes.” Henceforth, Hermes was known by the epithet Argeiphontes, “slayer of Argus.”

The helicopter program of Oakland Police Department is also named ARGUS (Aerial Reconnaissance Ground Unit Support). But what happens when you name your helicopter after the bad guy from a Greek myth, especially when you use it to surveil and terrorize the black and brown communities of Oakland, California?

In October 1973, the August Seventh Guerrilla Movement (named for the date of the martyrdoms of Jonathan Jackson, James McClain and William Christmas, whom I wrote about in “Black August”) shot down ARGUS with “two .30-caliber carbine automatic rifles fired from stationary positions on the ground at the armed copter spying on the city from an altitude of about 500 to 600 feet.” The group had previously demanded the release of the San Quentin Six by Sept. 7. In their claim of responsibility, they declared that the downing of the helicopter was a response to the failure of the Department of Corrections to respond to their ultimatum.

Such was the fate that overtook Milo

Milo of Croton, Joseph-Benoît Suvée. Public Domain.

Milo of Croton, Joseph-Benoît Suvée. Public Domain.

Milo of Croton was a sixth-century B.C.E. wrestler from Croton, an Achaean colony in Magna Graecia, whose fatal downfall was his pride. Pausanias writes:

He came across in the land of Crotona a tree-trunk that was drying up; wedges were inserted to keep the trunk apart. Milo in his pride thrust his hands into the trunk, the wedges slipped, and Milo was held fast by the trunk until the wolves – a beast that roves in vast packs in the land of Crotona – made him their prey. Such was the fate that overtook Milo. (6.14.8-9)

Far-right internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos attempted to speak at UC Berkeley on Feb. 1, 2017. His talk was shut down by masked individuals who smashed windows of the building he was inside and lit a light generator on fire, engulfing a nearby tree in flames as well.

As I discussed in “War and the Wild Hunt(s),” the scholar Otto Höfler hypothesizes that “the Wild Hunt was possibly the image of brotherhoods that consisted of masked warriors. The mask permitted them to be identified with the dead.” Furthermore, Claude Lecouteux draws parallels between these war bands and “the Latvian werewolves, the name of a secret fraternity of men who could cast Doubles who would fight the wizards who had stolen the seeds.”

The attention caused by “militant direct action” led to the exposure of comments Milo had made about pedophilia, which in turn led to the cancellation of his book deal, the rescinding of his invitation to speak at a conservative conference, and his resignation from Breitbart, where he had been a senior editor. It was the wolves who drew first blood, but it turns out that when the smell of blood is in the air, trolls are cannibals too.

Michael Israel: You Are History. You Are Legend.

Michael Israel. Photo Credit: Dr Partizan.

Michael Israel. Photo Credit: Dr Partizan.

At the intersection of antifascism and ancestor veneration, another hero has risen. Michael Israel, of Jackson, Calif., fought with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Daesh. On Nov. 29 Israel, an American citizen, was martyred by Turkish warplanes.

Michael’s friend Andee Sunderland recalls that Michael was able to see spirits, and that they reminded him of the reasons why he fought:

At the height of Sacramento’s Occupy movement, he’d become friends with an older woman experiencing homelessness. When she died on the streets, it was a gnawing revelation. “One night Mike was driving home and he started seeing her appear to him,” Sunderland remembers. “He’d always seemed kind of haunted to me. … I think during Occupy he was really affected by the terrible things going on in the world.”

Michael Israel was also an avid student of revolutionary history, tracing his lineage back to the Spanish Civil War:

In 2012 Israel met Delmer Berg, one of the last living survivors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer force of Americans that fought in the Spanish Civil War. For Israel, meeting Berg brought a legacy of resistance to life. Later, when Berg passed away, Israel expressed his feelings in a social media post. “RIP Del,” Israel wrote. “You are history. You are legend.”

Now it is Michael who is history, who is legend. Legends, like myths, are lived and are alive, and they grant immortality to those who enact them.

Michael was present at the June 26, 2016 battle between neo-Nazi skinheads and antifascists at the California state capitol building in Sacramento. In response, YPG fighters in Rojava posted a photograph in which they held up the red and black Anti-Fascist Action flag. Antifascists like Michael Israel have traveled to Rojava to fight with the YPG against Daesh, and the Kurds have reciprocated their solidarity.

YPG fighters holding an Anti-Fascist Action flag. Photo Credit: It's Going Down.

YPG fighters holding Antifa flag. Photo Credit: It’s Going Down.

Animism

Sallustius attributes the category of myth that he calls “material” to the Egyptians, among others: “they call the earth Isis, moisture Osiris, heat Typhon, or again, water Kronos, the fruits of the earth Adonis, and wine Dionysus.” Sallustius, being a Neoplatonist, is highly contemptuous of this tendency: “To say that these objects are sacred to the gods, like various herbs and stones and animals, is possible to sensible men, but to say that they are gods is the notion of madmen – except, perhaps, in the sense in which both the orb of the sun and the ray which comes from the orb are colloquially called ‘the sun.’”

Sallustius concedes that like the ray of a sun, the “various herbs and stones and animals” do contain divine essence. He also describes “mixed” myth as being precisely a blend of psychic and material interpretations, so despite his disdain, he does not dismiss the material interpretation of myth entirely.

For animists, however, the understanding that “various herbs and stones and animals” are alive and enspirited in and of themselves is foundational. We find the recognition of animism in stories such as Sigurd learning the speech of birds after tasting the blood of the dragon Fafnir: “when the heart-blood of the worm touched his tongue, straightway he knew the voice of all fowls and heard withal how the wood-peckers chattered in the brake beside him.”

Sigurd

1) Sigurd tasting the dragon’s blood. 2) The birds speaking to Sigurd. [Public domain.]

A similar story is told of the prophet Melampous, but rather than killing a dragon, he saves and raises baby snakes:

Before his house there was an oak, in which there was a lair of snakes. His servants killed the snakes, but Melampos gathered wood and burnt the reptiles, and reared the young ones. And when the young were full grown, they stood beside him at each of his shoulders as he slept, and they purged his ears with their tongues. He started up in a great fright, but understood the voices of the birds flying overhead, and from what he learned from them he foretold to men what should come to pass. (Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 1.9.11)

According to both Herodotos and Diodoros Sikeliotes, Melampous introduced the name of Dionysos to the Greeks from the Egyptians, reinforcing Sallustius’s association of Egypt and animism, and also brought the very myths of the gods themselves: “Melampos also, they say, brought from Egypt the rites which the Greeks celebrate in the name of Dionysos, the myths about Kronos and the war with the titans, and, in a word, the account of the things which happened to the gods.” (Diodoros Sikeliotes 1.97.4)

Melampous uses his ability to understand the speech of animals to foretell the collapse of a roof eaten by worms and termites, and to heal the infertility of Iphiklos:

Having sacrificed two bulls and cut them in pieces he summoned the birds; and when a vulture came, he learned from it that once, when Phylakos was gelding rams, he laid down the knife, still bloody, beside Iphiklos, and that when the child was frightened and ran away, he stuck the knife on the sacred oak, and the bark encompassed the knife and hid it. He said, therefore, that if the knife were found, and he scraped off the rust, and gave it to Iphiklos to drink for ten days, he would beget a son. (Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 1.9.12)

Animism necessitates a different worldview, one which recognizes that even the inadvertent the wounding of an oak can lead to the infertility of the one who wielded the knife, that vultures and woodpeckers and worms have important information to tell us, that saving baby snakes can lead to the prophetic gift.

James Leroy Marker.

James Leroy Marker. Photo Credit: Sabal Trail Resistance.

A Lover of the Earth

James “Jim” Leroy Marker, pictured above holding an alligator in front of a manatee statue and smiling widely, clearly understood these truths—and the only way to understand animism is through experience, not through academic theory. Sabal Trail Resistance writes, “We have learned that he was known by friends as a lover of the Earth and humanity, that he was a military veteran, that he participated in environmental/social advocacy, and that he was a father.”

Religiously, Marker was “a missionary to a church in the Everglades serving people who struggle with recovery from drugs and alcohol,” and a friend described him as having decided “that he needed to do God’s work, to help people.” He used to run an extension cord from his RV to a homeless camp, and “if anyone had a big reptile in their yard, ‘like a boa constrictor or an alligator, he’s the one you call.’”

On Feb. 26, 2017, Marker used a rifle to sabotage a Sabal Trail pipeline construction site, a pipeline in Florida that has provoked a widespread campaign of resistance. Despite the local sheriff admitting that “no law enforcement officer was injured or fired at,” Marker was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies. According to Sabal Trail Resistance, he may have timed his action in coordination with a call for indigenous solidarity:

It is believed that he may have chosen the date and location to coincide with a call to action that STR announced to honor the anniversary of the 1973 Wounded Knee Stand-off on the Pine Ridge Reservation and to stop the pipeline from going in the ground through the wetlands and endangered species habitat of Halpata Tastanaki Preserve (a site named after a Seminole leader of the armed resistance that fought U.S. invasion of indigenous communities in the mid-1800s.)

In the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipline (DAPL), the Sacred Stone Camp writes, “When we refer to the pipeline as a black snake, we are referencing an old Lakota prophecy that speaks of a black snake (zuzeca sape) crossing the land, bringing with it destruction and devastation.” Clearly, the struggle against pipelines, whether in Florida or on Lakota and Dakota land, is one of mythic dimensions. As the tales of Sigurd and Melampous show us, some snakes and alligators should be saved, but those of monstrous proportions, such as Fafnir or pipelines, should be killed.

In the downfall of ARGUS, we see the myths of the gods, reenacted. In the end of Milo’s career, and in the struggle of Michael Israel, we see immortalized the legends of the dead, the warriors, and the wolves. In the life and death of James Leroy Marker, we see the sacred truths of the land itself expressing themselves. In all of the Three Kindreds, we find eternal recurrence.

Nietzsche Stone at the Silvaplanersee (Oberengadin, Switzerland). Photo Credit: Katja Seeliger.

Nietzsche Stone, Switzerland. Photo Credit: Katja Seeliger.

Eternal Recurrence

The concept of eternal recurrence is said to have come to Nietzsche while he was walking along the banks of Lake Silvaplana in Switzerland, when he was struck by inspiration at the sight of a titanic pyramidal rock. He expressed it thus:

What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?… Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

If the life of mortals is subject to eternal recurrence, how much more so the living myths, the “authoritative utterances,” the “unitary speech-acts,” the bare bones of life and death and peace and war and truth and falsehood and body and soul? And with them, Dionysos, Zagreus, and the Orphikoi.

In the words of Sallustius, “May these explanations of the myths find favour in the eyes of the gods themselves and the souls of those who wrote the myths.” This article is dedicated to James Leroy Marker and Michael Israel. May they rise in power.

*   *   *
The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

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Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Continues to Fail: How Many Kids Must Die Before We Change?

bigstock--122346326As I write this article I am disgusted, feel responsible and I am ashamed to be a part of an industry that continues to flourish in spite of continued failure. I reflect on 20 years of being around the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry and I am appalled how little we do to change an industry that 1) Lives on repeat business; 2) Denies a 95% failure rate; and 3) Takes credit for the 5% success rate but blames the addict for the 95% failure rate.

A few recent facts regarding Opioid (synthetic heroin) and Heroin:

  • Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts all saw over 20% increases, year-over-year, between 2014-2015;
  • Heroin-related overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2010;
  • Over 2 million Americans abuse or are dependent on prescription opioids;
  • More than 1,000 people per day are treated for opioid misuse;

It is clear from the data, the epidemic is not getting better, but rather, drastically worse.

A mother’s story about her child who was a father:

A woman called me on the phone last week and stated, “My son just died from a heroin overdose… he was 23 and had a 4-year-old daughter. What do I tell my granddaughter?” The woman went on to describe that 15 “kids” overdosed in her town of 20,000 in 5 days! Then, came the shocker! 

“My son went to rehab for 20 days. He was supposed to stay 28. Our insurance stopped paying at 20 days. I begged the place to keep him longer. We didn’t have any more money to pay. They said he would be fine if he went to meetings and got a sponsor! He is dead.”

I hung up the phone with this mother and tears were running down my cheek. I was angry, sad and ashamed to be a part of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry. Sure, I could blame the insurance industry (I don’t give them a pass and I am disgusted by their actions) but, I asked myself, “What is my personal responsibility to help change things?” I played the tape all the way through and asked myself, “What could I do different if I was faced with the decision to send someone home, who wasn’t anywhere near ready, because insurance refused to pay?”

I don’t run a not-for-profit organization; however, the vast majority of individuals who operate and run drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, including myself, make a decent living. Bottom line, I can and do afford to scholarship over 15% of our census. Would I prefer to have these individuals pay for services? Do I think that insurance companies have a duty and responsibility to pay? The answer to both is a resounding yes. But, once again, I don’t have control over either of those issues. I take personal responsibility for what I believe is compassionate, loving and helping to avoid tragedy.  

The second part of the mother’s comment “he would be fine if he went to meetings and got a sponsor” was also troubling. For over 50 years the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry has focused on 1) don’t drink; 2) go to meetings; 3) get a sponsor; 4) work the steps; 5) help others; and 6) pray. Although I believe these are important parts of recovery, they put the cart before the horse. As the preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous states “our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” The question to be asked is how do I achieve sobriety and what is sobriety?  

From a clinical perspective and clinical experience, sobriety includes uncovering the core issues in a loving, compassionate and empathetic environment, before an individual has the ability to benefit from the twelve steps. The continuation of a model that is broken and offers success rates of 5% is unacceptable. To provide a crash-course on the 12-steps in treatment, when the 12-steps are free, borders on negligence and is a disservice to the clients we serve. Furthermore, the model isn’t working.

Treatment needs to focus on problems such as abandonment, abuse, neglect, fear and lack of self-love. These are the issues that create a perfect storm for an individual to continue acting out through addictive behavior and substances. Without addressing these issues, sobriety is non-existent, regardless of whether an individual works 12-steps or not.  

Going back to the mother who called me, my answer to her questions were simple, “I don’t know the answer, but I take personal responsibility for doing something different than we have always done.” I feel a personal responsibility, as a member of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry, to not give up and make an attempt at changing or supplementing models and solutions that are failing. I don’t accept 5% success without trying to improve.

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Psychology Around the Net: March 18, 2017

Typewriter Coffee And Paper – Version 2

Happy Saturday, sweet readers!

I have exciting news! (Well, exciting for me, anyway.) I have the entire weekend to myself. That’s right — To. Myself. Alone. No human interaction at all (unless I call the pizza guy).

Of course, I’ll have my doggo, but she just gets me, you know?

You might be wondering why being alone for nearly 72 hours is this is exciting, so I’ll fill you in: As a writer, I need to write. By “write,” I don’t mean “work.” Most of my writing is work-related writing and by the end of the day, when I have “free time,” I’m a) so, so tired of staring at my computer screen, and b) preoccupied with questions like “What are we doing for dinner?” and “Do you want to keep on with our Prison Break marathon tonight?” and “It’s Saturday? I bet friends are coming over…I should dust something.”

Hardly conducive to the creative writing my brain is craving.

So, when I finally hit my breaking point and decided to book myself a hotel for the weekend where it’d be just me, my laptop, and some inspiring background tunes, my beau stepped up and said, “Don’t. I’ll go out of town. I need to visit [insert friend’s name here] anyway. Write.”

What can I say? He just gets me, too.

I know myself and I know there’s nothing suspicious about this need to be alone; however, I did do a little digging around for your reading pleasure and guess what I found? 8 Reasons Why Spending Time Alone Is Actually Really Good For You, and some reasons that are perfect for my needs include clearing your mind, boosting creativity, and — get this — doing what you actually want to do.

(Not that I don’t want to work or eat or hang out with friends, but I do want to spend some time unloading all my story ideas, too.)

Now, let’s get on with it! This week we have updates on the psychological effects being in space has on people, how vegetables help combat stress, how each generation uses mindfulness, and more!

Mental Health in Outer Space: Scientists for NASA’s Human Research Program released a 123-page evidence report that highlights the both the negative and positive psychological effects being in space has on people. Currently, NASA requires astronauts to undergo psychiatric screenings, supports them with mental health providers during space missions, and has them meet during psychological conferences every two weeks.

House Passes Bill To Help Vets With Mental Illness Buy Guns: After a mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill requiring federal agencies such as the Veterans Administration to add the names of “people deemed ‘mentally defective’ to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to block gun purchases. Now, the House of Representatives has passed a bill — the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act — stopping the Veterans Administration from adding those “mentally defective” names to the list. Says Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), “I support veterans and I support veterans’ rights to defend themselves, but I don’t support crazy people having guns whether they are veterans or not.”

U2’s Adam Clayton To Receive MusiCares Addiction Recovery Award: U2’s bassist Adam Clayton, who’s been open about his struggles with past substance abuse and his 20-year-long sobriety, will receive the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at MusiCares 13th annual MAP Fund Benefit Concert for his role in helping others during their recovery process.

Some Veggies Each Day Keeps the Stress Blues Away: We all know vegetables are an extremely important part of the food pyramid, but according to new research published in British Medical Journal Open, veggies can help with more than just physical health. Eating three to four servings of vegetables every day can decrease psychological stress.

How Generations Meditate On Mindfulness: Generations have used mindfulness practices in different ways. For example, Baby Boomers have focused on holistic benefits; Generation X has used it as a way to rise above competition; Millennials tend to use meditation as a form of team-strengthening exercise. These practices haven’t gone unnoticed and that notice, as well as growing bodies of research, have led various institutions — from companies to the military to sports teams to schools to medical fields — to incorporate meditation and mindfulness for better mental and physical health.

One Surprisingly Simple Choice that Will Change Your Life: This one choice can help you become more productive, encourage others to embrace and let shine their unique light, stop yourself from breaking a heart that’s difficult to mend, and more.

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Live. Love. Explore: The Way of the Traveler

You’re reading Live. Love. Explore: The Way of the Traveler, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “I’m living someone else’s life”? I have. The realization came as I watched The Motorcycle Diaries, a romanticized version of Che Guevera traveling across South America relying on the kindness of strangers. The movie touched a spark in my soul. It woke me up. At the time I was a broker in the city of London, severely depressed and ready to give up on everything.  Sounds melodramatic, I know.  But it also happens to be true.
I would stay in my house and when I wasn’t sleeping I was self-medicating. It was a profoundly unsustainable way to live. Despite being surrounded by millions of people I felt completely alone. I had lost all form of human connection and I desperately needed it back. The pain forced me into a decision that would change my life forever.

I quit my job and decided to live by a set of ideals I now call the Way of the Traveler. A set of ideals that first germinated on a hilltop in Nepal but came to life on the rain-slicked streets of London.
What is the Way of the Traveler you may ask? Well, it means something different to each person but for me, it meant giving up on my externally successful life and trying to escape the internal pain I was hiding from others.  It became a way of life. I left my house, and my life (including all the pain that came with it. I hoped). I decided I was going to travel the world trying to connect with others face to face. Human connection was going to be my fuel…
What the Way of the Traveler tries to do is to help you determine where your passion truly lies and how to take steps to achieve your dreams. It creates a jumpstart to help you find the courage to live ‘your’ life. The beautiful one waiting for each and every one of us…
Leaving your job and family isn’t the only way to take the first step toward your dreams. What I will say is taking small risks is often the only way to get started. If you want to become a writer you can’t just say, “I’m a writer” and hey presto you become Orwell overnight. You have to be willing to take that first very important step; it’s a risky one, though. It’s admitting you’re not happy with your life. For me acknowledging that I wasn’t happy didn’t change things right away. After many nights of self-pity, I found the courage needed to change.
And you can too.

I fought through the fear and I left for my travels around the world. That trip would spark what would become my life’s goal of traveling while helping others feel empowered and feel seen; Viscerally seen by another human being until we find the strength to see ourselves.
So often we try to convince ourselves that we’re not good enough to dream, let alone work toward achieving our dreams. I’m here to tell you if this is what you think you are mistaken. If no one believes in you, know that this Englishman does. He may not know who you are, but he believes in your right to live magnificently. Truly magnificently.
But there is a cost to living fully. And that cost is that people may not like your choices. They may not like your newfound magnificence that shines as brightly as the brightest star. That’s the risk you take… Are you in? Or are you going to go back to the sadness and the boredom? The beauty of this life is that ultimately you get to choose.
The Way of the Traveler asks that you allow yourself to determine what your wildest dreams are. Do you want to become a doctor, an actor, or a world traveler? Nothing starts until you take that first leap into the unknown! It sounds cliché to say this but I’ve met so many people who once they move past the mental block of negativity that’s stopping them begin to soar. Magnificently.
What are 3 things big or small you could do today to start realizing your dreams? Maybe it’s going back to school, or writing one page of your screenplay a night. Whatever it is unless you embrace your ability to chase the impossible it will never happen. And then the magnificence that is waiting patiently to shine will be lost. Maybe forever.
Although the Way of the Traveler asks a lot of each of us, there’s no way to do this alone. This means we have to take a realistic look at those around us. When you tell people your wildest dreams, do they laugh and discourage you, or are they supportive and push you? If they don’t support you it may be difficult to completely take them out of your life. But what you can do is not let them get in your way and surround your self with likeminded people who support your dreams.
I call them accidental heroes! Find them. And keep them close.

When you find your accidental heroes; it will take energy and love to keep them around. If you’re there for each other and share the pain it takes to achieve your goals nothing can stop you. Do you have people like this in your life? Who are they?
Sometimes we will hit setbacks on our way toward happiness. For me, it was ending up right back where I fought so hard to escape, behind a desk (or my slab of wood as I like to call it…). It’s important that during these times we take the time to stop and see the magic. My moment was seeing a homeless chap holding up a sign that read, “Kindness is the best medicine”. This one moment catapulted my next travel adventure of driving a vintage yellow motorbike (with a sidecar) across the globe giving life-changing gifts to unsuspecting good Samaritans. Kindness is a two-way street. It’s not just about receiving kindness it’s also about profoundly giving it away. Like its confetti.
When we find ourselves disconnected from the things and people we value most we need to take a minute to see how far we’ve come. Don’t be deterred by failure. Failing is one of the best learning lessons we can experience. It gives us an opportunity to stop and reflect. The best way to move past failure is to turn it on its head, turn it into a success.
Remember the only reason we failed was because we had the courage to try in the first place.  Just ask Winston Churchill, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. about failure. Their lives were filled with roadblocks but more often than not it was their successes that shaped our world.  If you can change your perception of what failure is you can face any setback thrown at you.
Following your passion is not easy; you will have days where you want to give-up. Many days. On these days I say reward yourself for all the hard work you’re putting in toward living your greatest life. You deserve it! When I find myself in this state I turn my favorite song on really loud and I dance. I dance and I don’t stop dancing until I feel better. I believe you can tackle anything, just keep your head up and dance.
Grab life by the arm and never stop dancing.
Ready for more?
If you’re interested in learning more about The Way of the Traveler my book Live, Love, Explore: Discover the Way of the Traveler a Roadmap to the Life You Were Meant to Live, published by Readers Digest, is available online or at your local bookstore.
The Kindness Diaries a 13 part series that documents my worldwide sidecar adventure is now streaming on Netflix: http://ift.tt/2mdjLYP
About Leon Logothetis: 
Leon Logothetis is a global adventurer, motivational speaker, philanthropist, and author of the bestselling memoir The Kindness Diaries. He gave up his job as a broker and his home in London for a life on the road. Leon has now visited more than 90 countries and traveled to every continent. He is the host of the TV series Amazing Adventures Of A Nobody, which is broadcasted across the world by National Geographic. Leon has documented his travels for numerous media outlets including Good Morning America, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Outside, Good, Psychology Today, and The New York Times.

You’ve read Live. Love. Explore: The Way of the Traveler, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’ve enjoyed this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

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Advice to My 13-Year-Old Self

Mom Kisses Teen DaughterI write as a nineteen year old student. After two years of studying psychology — particularly child and developmental psychology — I have a newfound appreciation of the stresses and strains of my 13 year old self.

I am not a parent and therefore I don’t feel in any way qualified to advise or comment on parenting techniques. I can, however, advise my former self. I hope to offer an insightful look into the trials and tribulations of entry into adolescence and, although this is in no way an exhaustive list, it may offer a brief insight into the mysterious mind workings of a 13 year old child.

I am a big believer in the idea that in order to connect, help or communicate with others, we must first attempt to understand them. What’s happening in their world? What does it feel like to wake up as them? Hopefully my hindsight will help to forge a new appreciation and understanding of your own child.

1. Work hard at school but know when to stop.

In the finite hours of the day, approximately 7-8 of these are spent at school. This can be an extremely precious and pressuring time. When psychologists learn about child development, is it usually taught in segments and artificially divided up into skills. For example, motor development is taught separately to development of gender identity. Cognitive development is separate to social identity. However, the reality is that all of these changes are happening in the real world simultaneously. The 13 year old mind and body is a constant hotbed of changes — both emotional, physical, hormonal, social. At school, when staff and parents are so separate from the internal transformations that are happening in a 13 year old, there can be a real inconsistency in expectations. I suppose the real message here is be kind to yourself. Learning about who you are and where you fit into a social structure (such as school) is exhausting, and may in many cases surpass the attention you allocate to learning about science and English at school. Awareness of this and cultivating communication with parents which allows for learning on several planes can be hugely beneficial. Know your limitations and know your strengths, be aware of how much is going on both inside your body and inside your mind.  

2. Truth is — nobody knows what they’re doing.

There can be a real emphasis on understanding yourself and knowing where you fit into the new emerging dynamics of school. Groups start to form, enemies make themselves known and people will start to use big words to describe you. There is nothing worse than having to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” when you are in no way ready for that to happen. It’s the equivalent of being taken car shopping when you haven’t even received your provisional license yet. Scary, overwhelming and unnecessary. The main lesson I wish someone had told me is that there is no rush. Despite the excitement of entry into adolescence and the sudden use of scary words like “teenager” and “grown-up”, you still have all the characteristics of a child. Finding the right balance between preparing for older years and letting go of the real dependence of early childhood is so difficult to achieve. However, awareness of this can really help and foster an environment which celebrates the current stage in life, in all its messy and emotional 13-year old glory.

3. Sex is not as scary as it sounds.

13 years old seems to the age where the real meaty “talks” start to happen. Teachers may suddenly turn up to a lesson with a plastic penis and condom and nervously talk you through safe sex (before retreating to the staff room, all clammy and embarrassed). They may make it sound scary and use ugly words like “sexually-transmitted disease” and “chlamydia”, but you will learn that it is so much more than this. You will learn that sex is an adventure in itself and there is no rule book. Despite constant fears of teenage pregnancy and STIs, the one thing they don’t teach you at school is that sex is supposed to be good. You will learn about yourself and learn about your body in your own times (and there won’t be a teacher blushing about it then). The more that teachers, parents and other children talk about sex may, in some cases, attempt to scare you. Learn how to discuss your body with your parents and you will be so much better for it.

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Column: When the Gods Hide in Songs

befunky-design2

In the history of European Paganism and Polytheism, it is known that numerous Pagan concepts, gods, spirits, and ideas remained part of the people’s psyche even long after the beginning of the conversion process. While these figures did not necessarily retain their original religious place and spiritual function over the centuries, many managed to nevertheless survive by being carried on, if not through religious traditions, then through popular culture.

The Norse-Iceland sagas are a good example of this phenomenon. Even though there likely weren’t any Pagan Icelanders around after the 11th century, their descendants kept on compiling, adapting, and writing down tales of Þórr, Óðinn, and countless Pagan heroes all the way to the 20th century. While these figures had left the purely religious sphere of the Icelanders’ worldview, they nevertheless remained latent characters about which tales were told, and even created, until being finally spiritually and religiously brought back in the late 20th century.

Jens Christian Kloster and Gaute Vikdal in Bronze-Age garb at Tromsø's protestant Cathedral [Photo Credit: Lyonel Perabo, 2017]

Jens Christian Kloster and Gaute Vikdal in Bronze-Age garb at Tromsø’s protestant cathedral [Lyonel Perabo, 2017].

While the gods, the old ways, and everything surrounding them have indeed been brought back to their earlier status by some, there is no doubt that many more individuals still know of them not in a spiritual-religious sense but rather in a cultural one. Nearly anyone in the West can name at least half a dozen deities from the classical Graeco-Roman pantheon, Scandinavians know what a Jötun is, and every Frenchman who read Asterix as a child can name the Gaulish god of thunder, Toutatis.

This underlying Pagan presence within the Western worldview has become increasingly noticeable in the past couple of decades as the global entertainment industry has continued to grow and influence popular culture. While this process is maybe most apparent within visual media such as movies, series, comics, or video games due to the colorful and diverse imagery of the ancient pagan world, one could wonder if a similar process is also taking place within other media such as music.

After all, music has always explored a rich variety of topics, and masterful works such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Wagner’s Ring Cycle have managed to sublimate ancient myths and concepts. Yet such examples do not really fit into what one could be called popular culture per se. They cater instead more to the intellectual and cultural elites of their times. Those songs represent a learned tradition that, even given time, will likely not slip back into the general culture to an extant similar to “genuinely” popular music designed by and for the general public.

To illustrate this point, one could compare Stravinsky’s and Wagner’s works with highly introspective and hermetic contemporary cinema such as the movies directed by acclaimed, yet largely unknown, Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov. While on the opposite of the cinematographic spectrum, one can also find blockbuster pictures such as Marvel’s Thor, or Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson.

How can one explain the dearth of similarly popular Pagan-inspired art within the realm of music? One could rightly point out specific sub-genres, such as Pagan folk or Pagan metal, but those still remain rather niche for the most part. And while some pop stars do not mind utilizing witchy aesthetics for promo shots or music videos, it remains unlikely there will ever come a day when Ariana Grande or Drake pen songs about Aphrodite or Veles.

Illustration of the premiere of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold opera in 1869 [Photo Credit: public domain]

Illustration of the premiere of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold opera in 1869 [public domain].

I had been pondering this rather complex question for awhile when, perchance, two Pagan-themed musical events took place, mere weeks apart in my hometown of Tromsø in Arctic Norway. The first one, named Tir-Alu, was a commissioned work conducted by composer Ragnar Rasmussen for the town’s classical music festival Northern Lights. The second, Fra skapelse til Ragnarok (“from the creation to Ragnarok”) was another commissioned work celebrating the centenary of the Norwegian composers’ union, coordinated by the writer Tor Åge Bringsværd and the violinist Henning Kraggerud from the North-Norwegian Symphony Orchestra. Experiencing the two Norse-inspired events within just ten days gave me some useful fodder to ponder how, why, and to which extent Pagan religions and myths might be conveyed through music in our modern age.

Tir-Alu, which took place on Jan. 29, was promoted through press releases as a commentary and celebration of the old Norse values of hospitality and solidarity, especially in the light of the recent humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. From the get-go, the Pagan-Norse elements seemed to have formed the core of the work’s message, rather than simply being shoehorned in merely for aesthetic reasons.

The evening’s performance was not lacking in the form department either: for the occasion, Rasmussen had invited the two masterminds of the musical ensemble Klang av Oldtid, Jens Christian Kloster and Gaute Vikdal, to play parts of the score with reconstructed Bronze Age lures. These instruments are the only modern reconstructions of the original bronze lures which were once used between 1200 and 500 B.C.E. throughout Scandinavia, probably for cultic purposes. It was by a combined blow of these horns that the concert started.

At first, it can be hard to comprehend how such “primitive” instruments can create so much sound, seemingly without effort; Kloster and Vikdal filled the venue with one of the most strident, yet melodic, sounds I’ve ever heard. If such lures were indeed used during pagan rituals and ceremonies in millennia past, one can wager that the attendees must have been literally blow away by the cultists’ performance. Yet, this is not 1000 B.C.E., it is 2017, and the sound of these horns did not resonate in a grassy glade. They rang in the concert venue, which surprisingly enough was the town’s Protestant cathedral.

Considering this rather unusual location (at least when keeping in mind the event in question), it was therefore unsurprising that besides the overtly Norse-inspired pieces, Christian hymns and works were also performed, mostly through the voice of the local university choir Mimas. Quite obviously, the performance’s central concept of hospitality was thought from the beginning as encompassing both the Pagan and Christian spheres of ideas, and while such a rapprochement could be said to be rather natural, I personally found that it somewhat appeared to dilute the symbolism of extolling and attempting to connect with age-old values and ideals.

I especially found the inclusion of biblical passages within a recitation of the Eddic poem Grímnismál rather gauche; it made me feel as if the performance’s Pagan elements might have merely been thought as subservient to purely Christian ones and only allowed in because they could thus be understood without Pagan referent. Nevertheless, hearing passage from various Eddic poems in modern Norwegian accompanied by the potent sound of Bronze Age horns within a Christian house of worship was certainly a sight to behold, even if in some ways it could have been handled maybe more appropriately.

The second Pagan-inspired performance I was able to attend took place just ten days after the one in the cathedral, and proposed a very different take on making use of Pagan mythology and ideas through art. Fra skapelse til Ragnarok was, to start with, a much more collaborative effort. It stemmed from a collaboration between violinist Henning Kraggerud and the author Tor Åge Bringsværd. The idea behind the project was a celebration of Norway’s pagan roots to be expressed both musically and literally.

Bringsværd’s role was to write and recite eight short narratives retelling the main events found within Norse myth, with a string orchestra performing eight instrumental pieces illustrating said passages. It was Kraggerud’s work to conduct (while performing, no less) the orchestra and coordinate the adaptation of the commissioned eight pieces, which were each written by a different composer, including himself.

From a mythological standpoint, Bringsværd’s short texts mostly drew from the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson while borrowing a few figures from other texts. While short, it was a rather well-rounded summary of these tales which wasn’t devoid of poetry or even at times, humor. Often speaking in the guise of specific characters such as, notably enough, the boar Sæhrímnir who jokingly complaining about how cumbersome and tiring it was for him to have to be slaughtered every evening to feed Óðinn’s einherjar.

This at first unexpected narrative device created an atmosphere not unlike that found in mid-20th century French dramas such as those of Camus or Giraudoux. In addition, the fact that every monologue was followed by a thematic piece of music only increased the impression of attending a theater piece, as if Bringsværd acted as the coryphaeus of a voiceless, instrumental choir, enunciating their woes and aspirations in an abstract and symbolic manner.

Regarding the music itself, the eight pieces varied from intricate, dissonant modernist works to more Romantic-inspired melodious ones, and all managed to work in concert with each other to further strengthen the underlying, unifying theme of the performance. In many ways, the fact that such a heterogeneous multimedia project could even be conceived, let alone this masterfully executed, is probably what the public appreciated the most, an appreciation they very publicly expressed through long minutes of a heartfelt standing ovation for this singular work about Pagan gods and heroes.

The concertgoers of Tir-Alu did express much satisfaction following that performance as well but, at the end of the day, how and why did these works differ in the way they conveyed their ideas stemming directly from Old Norse myth?

Tor Åge Bringsværd on stage with the North-Norwegian Symphony Orchestra [Photo Credit: Linnea Nordström, 2017]

Tor Åge Bringsværd on stage with the North-Norwegian Symphony Orchestra [Linnea Nordström, 2017]

I believe that both projects were conceived with a similar and most appropriate idea, namely appealing to the public’s feelings of connection to ideals, beliefs, and the world of the past. After all, if art is anything, mustn’t it be the media used to express intricate feelings and sentiments to others? Another similarity between the two projects was that they were both composite works in their own right and made use of literature and music to strengthen their overall message, a message that was, in both cases, said to be grounded in Scandinavia’s pre-Christian past. Interestingly enough, it is through their approach to the written word that Tir-Alu and Fra skapelse til Ragnarok differ the most.

The former indeed included passages of poetry that were possibly composed and chanted by pagan Norsemen a thousand years ago, while the latter opted for a rephrasing of the same myths. While one could say that Tir-Alu might have had somewhat less directly to do with the actual myths, it is nevertheless notable that a lot of thought and planning has gone into presenting and interpreting the age-old tales of the pagan gods in a fitting way.

In both cases, expressing the message of the pagan myths was not only the impetus for the whole project, but was used as the main selling point of the events. Even if Tir-Alu indeed wasn’t quite an entirely pagan affair, it is telling that it was these pagan aspects that were marketed to the public, and not the Christian ones. Despite the fact that I wrote mere paragraphs ago that one could see this intermingling of pagan and Christian words and ideas as witness to what the pagan world owes to Christianity, the simple fact that this event was not publicized as a Biblical parable about hospitality with a few side-references to similar Norse ideals shows how much the appeal for Europe’s pre-Christian past has grown in living memory.

The overall feeling I got from witnessing these rare artistic showcases of Pagan tales was indeed one of respect, as if even in the alleged areligious kingdom of Norway, both onlookers and creators understood the distant echo of sacredness emanating from these tales. The fact that the spoken or chanted word (with or without accompanying bronze horns) was by most standards the media these honored stories were told and passed on through in the pagan age of old might be another reason why such a deference for the pagan past seems so singularly restricted to the musical world.

Could it be that we today still somehow feel, or understand, even unwittingly, the significance of chanting the tales of the gods and the sacredness behind it? After all, even the multitudes that do not, and likely will never identify as Pagan, can comprehend the importance of looking back to the reality and the ideals of our ancestors to comprehend more than just their world, or ours. This allure of ages past, in itself simultaneously a pivotal element of the revival of the old ways and a seemingly undying feature of our human condition was so eloquently expressed by Tor Åge Bringsværd in his introduction of Fra skapelse til Ragnarok that there could be no more fitting words to close the present piece:

It happened a long time ago…during the time the gods wandered around the earth, and the humans still had the abilities to see them. The old stories about Odin, Thor, Balder, Freyja and Loki are an essential part of our cultural heritage. They deserve to be kept alive. It is a question of having roots. In addition, myths and fairy tales never become irrelevant. Because they do not concern only “that moment” and “that time.” They can also well tell about “every moment” and “every time.” But every generation must nevertheless seize them anew. Retell them again. In their own way. Bring them towards the light of their own time.

*   *   *
The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

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