01 October 2010

[Admin] Moving Forward

A while back I realized that I was a much better essayist than I was a true blogger, and that my ability to build categories and such on this site were not really conducive to what I wanted for the future. I also realized that I knew several people in similar positions who I shared a significant portion of my readership with: none of us posted all that often, yet we maintained three separate sites. Rather than continuing to maintain those sites, we decided to consolidate in one place where we can post more often and that gives us better features for managing and organizing the different kinds of posts we want to make.

So this marks the start of a transition over to a new site. I am going to be focusing my blogging and essay efforts at Weaving Wyrd. Please update your bookmarks accordingly and I hope to see you all there!

05 July 2010

[Admin] Comment Moderation

Due to a rush of Chinese link spammers, I am moving comments to "moderated" for a while. So if your comment doesn't show up immediately, don't fear, I received an email about it and should approve it shortly.

04 July 2010

Prayer Beads, Week 9: Baldr, Nanna, Iduna

In the name of Balder, Bright One who must fall, may I learn to offer
sacrifice with grace.
In the name of Nanna, Bright One's Shadow, may I learn loyalty in love.
In the name of Iduna, Giver of Immortality, may I have health and
purity of body.

This has been a hard trio for me to cover, in part because I have virtually no connection to these three deities.


In the name of Balder, Bright One who must fall, may I learn to offer
sacrifice with grace.

Baldr is a god of light, beauty, love, happiness, and other such positive things. Described as being beautiful without measure, his hall Breiðablik (Broad-gleaming) is described in Snorri's Gylfaginning as there is not in heaven a fairer dwelling. It was this god that the lady Skaði sought out when choosing the god with the most beautiful feet for her marriage parter (and ending up with Njörðr). His death also has had a profound impact on modern heathen practices, and a lot of the enmity regarding Loki can be traced to the story of Baldr.

Unfortunately, the precise factors in his death is one of the points of contention between Saxo and Snorri, and how that encounter is interpreted plays a critical role in Loki's culpability, at least on the surface.

The Snorri interpretation is the one that we are most familiar with. In it Frigg asks everything in the world not to harm her son, but overlooks the mistletoe. Loki takes advantage of the blind god Höðr and gets him to fire the arrow that kills Baldr.

The traditional interpretation here has Loki as the bad guy, but makes Baldr seem, really, like a braggart. Standing in front of the gods and saying "Look what my mom did for me! Now I cannot be hurt!" Unlike than a somewhat heroic death fighting another king (Saxo's interpretation), we get him dying through hubris combined with the (potentially malevolent) actions of a trickster.

One of the more interesting interpretations of the events leading up to Baldr's demise is that his death was necessary so that he may survive the destruction of Ragnarok. Knowing that Helheim was the only place he could preserve his son, he had Loki work as his hatchet-man. In this interpretation the attitude of Baldr has a little more leeway. Instead of mere bravado, his action of inviting attack becomes an open door to allow Loki to do his work and ensure Baldr's availability after Ragnarok. In this interpretation, we see Baldr as sacrificing himself for the good of the world--not just this world, but for the world that exists after Ragnarok has passed and the gods are destroyed.

The implication here is clear: it makes Baldr into a Christ-figure, who's death was necessary that the world might live. There is also some thought that this entire storyline has been corrupted from Christian influences, which is entirely possible.

Regardless of one's particular interpretation of the events or what they might mean, Baldr's death makes for an excellent opportunity to meditate on impermanence. We will pass on, as it says in Hávamál:

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
the doom on each one dead

Whether Baldr went willingly to his death or if his death was an unwelcome shock, it was certainly assured and if nothing else we can take his death as a lesson in death and on being ready for it when the time comes.


In the name of Nanna, Bright One's Shadow, may I learn loyalty in love.

Nanna Nepsdöttir is the wife (according to Snorri) or love interest (according to Saxo) of Baldr. Very little is known about her individually, as most of her written accounts seem to describe her mostly in terms of her relationship to the men in her life. In Snorri's Gylfaginning she dies of grief for her lost husband.

So what does it mean to "learn loyalty in love." Does being loyal to someone require following them in death?

I generally like to think of the matter as entirely unrelated, actually, though it does make for a common story theme. I don't tend to think that loyalty requires being slavishly devoted to someone, nor does it require monogamous commitment. Loyalty doesn't even require a sexual or romantic relationship.

Loyalty means being true to your commitments. Not the ones that you speak, necessarily (thank you, Loki) but something far deeper. It means showing support for that person, even if they may not recognize the form that support comes in. It means not betraying that individual to others out of a sense of personal gain (beyond how your own personal gain is benefitted by your loyalty).

When we have loyalty in love it implies to me something much deeper than either word by itself would. Love can be a fleeting and whimsical thing when it doesn't have loyalty associated with it. Loyalty without love, on the other hand, starts to look very militant and can come across as hollow: loyalty to a cause you don't really believe in.

So when I say "may I learn loyalty in love" I read it multiple ways. Both may I learn loyalty in my love, and my I learn loyalty in love.


In the name of Iduna, Giver of Immortality, may I have health and
purity of body.

Iðunn is the guardian of the Apples of Immortality and a goddess of youth. John Lindow lists her name as meaning "ever young," while Rudolf Simek thinks of it as "the rejuvenating one." She seems to be a peacemaker, stepping in to ask her husband Bragi to not fight with Loki in Lokasenna. When Loki turns on her, she has the distinction of quietly asserting her boundaries without turning to attack him:

I'm not saying words of blame to Loki,
in Ægir's hall
I quietened Bragi, made talkative with beer;
and all living things love him

In this specific prayer we contemplate health and purity of body. For us there are no apples, no silver-bullet magic cures, and "purity of body" is something that we have to maintain for ourselves. We have to bear the responsibility for caring for our own selves, which means things such as eating right, not drinking to excess, and taking care to acknowledge the risks we take. Too often we neglect this to our own detriment.

28 June 2010

[Admin] More Posts!

As you may have noticed, I will be posting here again. I had some personal things in my life that I had to work through over the last six months that I am working through, but the time has come for me start reestablishing connections with the outside world.

So I am back again ^_^ I cannot promise I will be posting regularly, but it will happen significantly more frequently. I am also going to start up my Prayer Beads analysis again, so watch for that on Sundays!


I've started meditating every day when I am on the bus. Just for short, well-defined, periods of time when I am on the bus or on the train.

There is an account in the book Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg that made it easier to start doing this on a more regular basis. It talked about going to a 45 day retreat meant for monks. The person going and those he was with were the only laypeople in attendance. Each day involved getting up early in the morning and then meditating for 50 minutes out of every hour until it was time to go to sleep. There were two meals of rice and vegetables provided through the day, along with one bowl of miso before going to bed. It is a grueling period, and most of the monks will drop out before the end of the retreat.

After they got there, the laypeople found out that in the middle of the retreat there was an unadvertised "week of no sleep." Here they meditated in this pattern around the clock, with a monk walking around with a "stick of compassion" to keep your from dozing off in the middle of meditating. After a day of this the author was ready to go home and didn't see how one could do an entire week without sleeping.

He asked for a consultation with a very old and respected monk who lived at the monastery. The monk was infirm, in his nineties, and had to be moved around on a stretcher. He was not participating, but had participated many times before. The monk assured the author that yes, it was possible to do the week of no sleep, but that he was carrying two burdens.

The first burden was staying awake, the second burden was the thought of staying awake for the entire week. If he wanted to make it through, he needed to only be carrying the burden of staying awake--for each individual moment. Entirely in the present, without worrying about the remainder of the week. He made it through the week of no sleep--though he was hallucinating by the end of it--by just living in each individual moment.

Similarly, if you sit to meditate for 10 minutes--or an hour--it helps not to think of it wondering how much time is left, or worrying about whether you can make it. It also helps to have an audible (or visual, if you are using the Zen-like meditations where your eyes stay open) cue in your environment so that you don't feel the need to check the clock or worry the amount of time remaining.

This has further ramifications in our lives. When practicing kaizen this is essentially the ultimate goal, but one of the ways we practice kaizen is counterproductive to this goal. We set a goal for the week, or the month, and that is the thing we are going to work on. But unless we add the qualifier just for today or even just for this moment it is easy to fall under the trap of "do I have to keep up all of these other things I have done and then this as well for another week?" It becomes an extra burden, rather than a continual process.

Focus on the moment. The moment--that moment--is all that matters.

So it is with our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. You cannot change everything, but maybe you can change one thing, for just this moment.

"Always mindful, the meditator breathes in; mindful, the meditator breathes out."