21 June 2009

Prayer Beads, Week 7: Odin, Frigg, Thor

In the name of Odin, the All-Father, One-Eyed Master of the Runes, may I be opened to ecstasy and inspiration.
In the name of Frigga, Mistress of Fensalir, spinner of clouds, may my home be a frithstead where all are welcome.
In the name of Thor, Lord of Thunder, Master of the Winds of the Western World, may my strength never fail me.


In the name of Odin, the All-Father, One-Eyed Master of the Runes, may I be opened to ecstasy and inspiration.

Óðinn is an extremely multifaceted deity. He, along with his brothers Ve and Vili, created the earth from the body of the giant Ymir. He is the Allfather (Alföðr) and leader of the Æsir, he is the terrible one (Yggr), the Raven God (Hrafnaguð), and the Grey Bearded (Hárbarðr) wanderer, he is Beloved (Uðr) and the Hanged One (Hangi), and many many other things besides.

As such an eclectic god, there are numerous perceptions of him and--more than virtually any other deity--two people who follow the same god can come away with dramatically different impressions of him and relationships with him. As with any god, some may follow one aspect and others may follow another, but even then Odin has a stunning array of aspects.

I follow Óðinn in his trickster, magician, and wanderer aspects. Mine is the Óðinn who hanged for nine days and nine nights in a quest for knowledge, mine is the Óðinn who wandered the world in search of knowledge, who spent time in a skirt with Freyja to learn seiðr, and mine is the Óðinn who stood across from Thor (Þōrr) on the opposite riverbank and refused to ferry him across. I do not interface with him as a death god or a god of war, I don't talk to him as a Shaman-King or as the Allfather, and only rarely as a god of victory. I never see him in Asgard (Ásgarðr), and will generally either meet him while out and about or go to him at the Chair/High Seat (Hliðskjálf/Hlidskjalf) which exists outside of Asgard and overlooks the Nine Worlds.

One thing that is widely recognized is that he is a god of ecstasy. Not in the modern sense of feeling "overwhelming happiness," but in terms of "involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence." It comes from the Greek ekstasis, meaning "trance, distraction" which comes from existanai, meaning to "displace" or "drive out of one's mind" (as in existanai phrenon).

Ecstasy has long been recognized as a potent force for Shamans. William Fairchild, in his work on Shamanism in Japan says of ecstasy that:

Ecstasy is absolutely necessary for shamanism. It is a special kind of ecstasy-a transformation into another personality. By ecstasy the shaman contacts transcendental beings. This ecstasy may be migratory-contact outside of the body. or possessive-transcendental beings enter the body.

Inspiration, on the other hand, is a fundamental force behind human achievement. It is what comes in a flash of insight, allowing us to connect the dots in intuitive ways. One of the meanings of the word is "the drawing of breath." As we say in Hapkido: If you aren't breathing, you are dead. Breath also has a long history in Northern religious thought.


In the name of Frigga, Mistress of Fensalir, spinner of clouds, may my home be a frithstead where all are welcome.

Frigg is the wife of Odin and described by Snorri as the "foremost among the goddesses." She is said to have a remarkable gift of insight, but while she may teach the technique of it does not share what she sees.

Her hall in Asgard, Fensalir, stands for Marsh Halls and she is known for the goddess of hearth and home. I have now heard from several sources (including someone who was tapped by Frigg) that the people who are hers first feel like they need to clean house. Not just pick up, but a good deep, thorough cleaning.

The book Zen and the Art of Housekeeping talks about something called CHAOS: Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. This is something that I struggle with daily. By having a clean place, we can be more comfortable with ourselves in entertaining guests, in having people over, and in performing those activities that encourage Frith within our group.

Frith, meaning "peace; freedom from molestation, protection; safety, security" is a very important concept to the Northern Tradition religions. Svartesol points out that the word has somewhat subtle connotations and is often confused with a similar term, but it basically comes down to the peaceful bonds you build within a group. She says of it that:

[I]n a frithstead you can have a violent disagreement with someone and still know at the end you will not have a knife in your back, whether literally or figuratively. Frith does not mean everyone agrees on every issue and completely loses their individuality to be absorbed by the greater whole. But it does mean working together for the greater good, and keeping good will within the process, including not betraying or otherwise deliberately harming someone within the innangeard.


In the name of Thor, Lord of Thunder, Master of the Winds of the Western World, may my strength never fail me.

Thor, a red-headed god, is widely known as a friend of mankind. He is the one who protects Asgard and Midgard from the Jotuns--the forces of the wilds, of nature, and of chaos.

He was an extremely popular deity historically, though in modern times Odin frequently gets more attention among many heathen groups. Part of this may be ahistorical, but it may also be that Odin's domains--ciphers, knowledge, and problem solving--have more relevance for many of us in the modern world. Still, Thor plays an important part in protecting a space and--along with his wife Sif--helping make a place sacred.

Protecting others requires that our strengths--no matter what those may be--be there when we need them. My strengths that I use to defend others do not come down to brawn, but are bound up in my mind, my observational skills, and things along those lines. While it would be bad if my physical strength were to fail me, most of the time physical strength is the least important thing and vastly overrated.

One of the most frequent comments I make to lower belts in Hapkido is "you are using too much force."

Yet in all of these things--whether the strength is physical or mental, whether it is from bashing things with a hammer, building fortifications, getting others out of danger, or volunteering at a safe house--Thor's presence is still there.

1 comment:

  1. Frige does indeed like a clean house; cleanliness is next to godliness in Her world. I am OCD enough to appreciate this, I'll admit... (I don't suffer from CHAOS but perhaps its opposite, I absolutely _cannot_ function if things get past a certain point of clutter.)

    I agree with the idea of why Odin is more popular than Thor in this day and age (and as always, I think Frey needs more love because He's awesome...). But it's good to see someone else who realizes Thor's strength isn't just brute physical force. He was known as "the Deep-Minded" in Scandinavia, and His challenge of Alviss proves He wasn't just a brainless yutz...

    Thank you for this.