Modern men from their sheltered existence often see Nature as cruel and unforgiving. This is often transferred over into pagan ideas, especially that of the mother Goddess and Woden, the Alfather. In my recent Piece “Woden of the Wild Wood” some of Woden’s “darker” elements are seen. So I have decided to write a short piece just to put this apparent “darkness” in its true context.
The Wild unknown places, from our modern vantage point, appear, as savage in their construction. We watch from our comfort the natural world outside and see the powerful prey upon the weak; some poor adolescent barely able to run chased down mercilessly by a mighty predator. Then comes the question, what righteous power could allow such apparent cruelty? Similarly when we look at how our ancestors lived, who dwelt in such places, it is hard to imagine how they coped in such conditions. With no one to call when you are in trouble, no super markets to fill your cupboard when the hunger pains kick in. Looking back it can appear very bleak, everyday facing an almost impossible struggle for life. Yet they did not curse their reality, but held it in reverence.
To understand this, first we must strip ourselves of all distraction and get down to the roots of life. If you can, try to imagine a mother holding her suckling babe, as she looks down into her child’s eyes, try to feel all she feels, all her hopes, dreams and fears, the enormity of her love. Add to this image the protective father standing over them, and with him too, feel what he feels as gazes upon this sacred sight. Now reduce the image down, take away all objects from the image, till it appears all alone surrounded by white light. Now imagine the mother as a babe herself, in her mothers arms and repeat this back to the dawn of man. So to with the babe, imagine her now as the mother with a new babe in her arms, and stretch this out till the end of time. This is the image of the eternal mother and father that spans all ages of man both past and yet to come. This is life, all its hopes all its dreams, all its worries and concerns, all are captured within the image. This is the root, where it all begins, the dream of life. Now add back into the image all that was removed, the house, the hearth, the entire idyllic household. This is the safe place, the sacred, but to have value there must be contrast. Walk now to the threshold of the homestead, peek outside the door and look upon the wild places, full of predators and hardship, this is the contrast that magnifies the image.
It is in this contrast that life takes all its glory, the greater the odds against, the more magnificent bloom. It is because of the dangers of life, that the mothers love is all consuming, the howling rain beating on the window, only adds to the warmth of the fire. This is the eternal muse of poet and painter, alike, to immortalise the fragile beauty, that which is destined to die. Much as the candle lights intensity is magnified by how long the observer has dwelt in darkness, so to the beauty of life dwells within its fleeting manifestation. Without death, without struggle, life and comfort lose all their value. Life would become a burden unto itself, it would become the great nothing, the endless, ceaseless void.
Ralph Waldo emerson wrote,
“ If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!”
But they come out every night and because of this their splendid glory goes unnoticed. It is only through the frailty of life that it gains its status, it is the brief inhalation after holding your breath. Life dances in all its mortal glory over the eternal darkness and those dancing closest to the edge, are the ones who know its true value
But now back to the image of the mother, father and child. My proud father came to visit me when my first born entered this world. With my son held tightly in his powerful arms, he walked over to the window and as my son tried to focus on the light, he said “that’s the big bad world”. So how does a loving parent prepare their children for this big bad world? As parents it is our duty to prepare them for what is to come, for when it is their turn to step over the threshold. As much as we love them, when they take their first steps holding our hands, after a while we let go. We know that they may fall, we know that they may hurt themselves and cry, but we let go anyway. This is because you know, that one day you will not be there to hold their hand. But from the child’s perspective, unable to perceive your foresight, wonders why the one who loves them most of all, allowed them to fall. What if we did not do this? what if we instead pandered to their every need, what would become of them when they cross the threshold and we have returned to dust?
The Gods and Goddesses, do not wish weak children, not because they are cruel, but because their love for you is immeasurable. They know that for life there has to be death, that to feel comfort pain must exist. The gift of life always comes at a price, and it is their duty to prepare you. Death being the one thing no man can out run, is not their greatest fear. As much as the loss of a loved one is heartbreaking, there are worse fates. As cruel as nature may seem the lion only kills to live, in the world of mammals death is swift and natural. In the world of men however, it is not so simple. Some men have veered from the eternal laws, perverted by greed and selfish desire they have become bringers of misery and endless hell in their quest for self satisfaction. They have replaced death, the swift judgement of failure, with abominations of slavery and torture. The Gods and Goddesses did not give you life, to be at the mercy of such perversions, that have turned their backs upon all that is righteous. Their greatest fear is to see your labour forced by another, to see you live in fear and without hope. What loving parent could bare the thought of this for their children? They would rather you fall in glory, swift and noble than be at the mercy of such cruelty. They wish you to be strong and hold the gift of life in a reverence befitting of it, not for their pleasure, but so that you do not suffer.
The Cimbri are an example of such reverence, they danced the most glorious of dances in life. When fate finally caught up with them, they did not bend their knee to another mortal, but instead lifted their heads upward. Unable to see their mother suffer, they, with their last act returned to the safety of her bosom. They held the value of life so highly they chose to die rather than dishonour this sacred gift, and in doing so they stole from the corrupted their prize and with their sacrifice honoured the sanctity of life.
Our forebears saw in the wild places, the comfort of their home, and in death they saw life. In each contrast a reflection of its opposite can be seen. They kept their dead close, not only as a reminder of their ancestors loving sacrifices for them, but also to remind them they should not waste this gift, that they must live. They knew that for every hardship they endured, they became stronger and more able. When the eternal mother let go of their hands, they did not curse her no matter how hard they fell, but instead held her as the most high and wise.