Category Archives: Scandinavia

Shaping a Living World: Part 10

“Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism & Islamophobia are poisoning our societies. We must stand up against them. Every time. Everywhere.”
— United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Hello again folks! You will notice that I skipped a few parts to this piece. This is because I think it is pertinent to talk about these issues now, as opposed to waiting until later.

Why talk about this now? The answer is short and simple; Charlottesville. If you are not familiar with what happened there (you live under a rock?) I suggest using the fine power that is Google. I will not be going into a detailed analysis of the events that took place. The specifics of this particular case are beyond the scopes of this piece, but it does give me a good opportunity to talk about the issues raised by the event.

In case I have been in any way vague or unclear on this blog; I condemn bigotry in all its forms. My animism says that the world is full of people, and that those people deserve dignity and respect. All people.

As the quote I used above; I condemn racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamaphobia. I also condemn discrimination in all its forms, whether directed towards People of Color, Native American Peoples, or the LGBT+ community. I stand with these peoples in their struggles for equality and against oppression.

In the event that is unclear in any way, let me put it this way. Fuck Nazis and all they stand for. This world has no place for white nationalists, white supremacists, or any other form of bigotry. I happen to think that these ideologies are toxic, a poison to our minds and spirits. We need to fight them anywhere and everywhere we can; we need to inoculate ourselves, and do everything in our power to prevent these social toxins from spreading.

“We hold it as an inviolable principle that racism must be opposed by all the means that humanity has at its disposal. Wherever it occurs it has the potential to result in a systematic and comprehensive denial of human rights to those who are discriminated against.” – Nelson Mandela, in an address to the UN.

Charlottesville throws that in stark relief, and we must do everything we can to stand against these ideas. Such ideas are responsible for the countless injuries, and the death of Heather Heyer when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters. In recent memory, too many lives have already been claimed by toxic ideologies. We literally buried millions in the last World War to tell Nazi fucks to go to hell.

Yet, it must be admitted that this is a really complicated set of issues. There is no single, simple answer to any of this, and it must be considered at best a work in progress. There is no way I have the space or the time to detail all of that nuance here.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goals;

It should be noted that Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, is broadly focused on everything from income inequalities to social inequalities. As I feel I have covered my thoughts on income inequalities in other posts, and with Charlottesville as our focus, we are going to be putting those aside. For purposes of this blog, I will focus more on the social aspects of this goal. Here are three specifics goals that address these issues;

“By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status

Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard

Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality.”- UN Sustainable Development Goals

The first goal in my mind is nothing short of the liberation and empowerment of minority populations, and anyone that is subject to discrimination. People of Color, Women, Native Americans, Immigrants, LGBT+ folks, Muslims, all of them. Inclusion is a big deal, because these populations have historical and in many way intentionally been left “out”, of politics, of the economy, and in our society.

I really like how the second goal above addresses both opportunity as well as outcome, because this is a significant distinction to be made. It is not enough that minority and marginalized populations have equal opportunities, as in that the have “access” to things such as good schools and good healthcare. Equality in outcome literally means if they have the opportunity for something, then they have the ability to make it happen.

In addition, the second goal also speaks to the need to eliminate discriminatory laws and policies. I don’t want to mince words here; the US is absolutely steeped and was even founded on such ideas as white supremacy. Women were at one time not given the right to vote, nor African-Americans. We can still see these policies at work in our city planning, in our politics, and even in our rhetoric. We need to destroy those old policies, and put in place better ones. That is a long discussion that needs to happen.

With all that in mind, I think it can be stated that in many ways events such as what happened in Charlottesville are uniquely US problems. Many other countries tackle these issues differently than we do, and some in ways that make it nearly impossible for something like Charlottesville to happen. In other parts of the world, the “Unite the Right” protestors would have been arrested long before they had the chance to rally.

As exploring the Nordic countries, and wider Europe in general, is a part of this series; let’s now turn to explore some of those policies.

Social Democracy

The first thing we need to do is talk about hate speech, because many countries in the world make a distinction between free speech, and hate speech;

Hate speech is speech which attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender… “ – Wikipedia “Hate Speech”

So let’s look a little closer at how the Nordic countries treat this issue, with Denmark up first;

Denmark prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements by which a group is threatened (trues), insulted (forhånes) or degraded (nedværdiges) due to race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual orientation.” – Wikipedia “Hate Speech”

Or more specifically in Denmark;

Whoever publicly, or with intention to disseminating in a larger circle makes statements or other pronouncement, by which a group of persons is threatened, derided or degraded because of their race, colour of skin, national or ethnic background, faith or sexual orientation, will be punished by fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years. Sec. 2. When meting out the punishment it shall be considered an especially aggravating circumstance, if the count has the character of propaganda.”

— § 266b of the Danish penal code

That’s right, you either get fined or go to prison in Denmark for the kind of thing we saw in Charlottesville. What about Norway?

Norway prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or ridicule someone or that incite hatred, persecution or contempt for someone due to their skin colour, ethnic origin, homosexual orientation, religion or philosophy of life. At the same time, the Norwegian Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, and there has been an ongoing public and judicial debate over where the right balance between the ban against hate speech and the right to free speech lies.” Wikipedia “Hate Speech”

Norway’s response is a little more nuanced than that of Denmark, but has very strong protections and a straightforward definition of what distinguishes hate speech from free speech. However, because Norway seeks to strike a balance, whether or not something qualifies is usually left up to the courts.

However, the alt-right pukes in Charlottesville would definitely fall under hate speech in Norway. On to Sweden;

Sweden prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or express disrespect for an ethnic group or similar group regarding their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, faith, or sexual orientation. The crime does not prohibit a pertinent and responsible debate (en saklig och vederhäftig diskussion), nor statements made in a completely private sphere. There are constitutional restrictions pertaining to which acts are criminalized, as well limits set by the European Convention on Human Rights. The crime is called “Hets mot folkgrupp” in Swedish which directly translated can be translated to Incitement (of hatred/violence) towards population groups.” Wikipedia “Hate Speech”

Sweden’s law is pretty nuanced as well, and is also governed by the ECHR and the Swedish constitution. As such, this is the kind of thing that, like Norway, is often decided in the courts. However, because the Swedes make a particular distinction for “incitement” I think that showing up with helmets, shields, and in the presence of heavily armed militia constitutes incitement in the case of Charlottesville.

Generally, this series has been limited to the Nordic countries. But since we are talking about literal fucking Nazis (no hyperbole), perhaps it’s fair to bring Germany into the conversation as well.

In Germany, Volksverhetzung (“incitement of popular hatred”) is a punishable offense under Section 130 of the Strafgesetzbuch(Germany’s criminal code) and can lead to up to five years imprisonment. Section 130 makes it a crime to publicly incite hatred against parts of the population or to call for violent or arbitrary measures against them or to insult, maliciously slur or defame them in a manner violating their (constitutionally protected) human dignity.”

As with the examples above; incitement counts, violence counts, as well as insults against human dignity. Germany isn’t even playing around here folks, with up to five years in prison for the kind of shit we saw in Charlottesville.

Plus it might get you punched and then arrested

But America is different folks, and in this case I am not sure “different” is such a great thing. It is written into our very constitution;

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment of US Constitution.

Now, I’m generally a big support of free speech and the first amendment. I think we should be free to write and talk about most ideas and topics. But like Norway, I also think there is a balance to this. I think there is a limit to the kinds of speech we tolerate. You are familiar with the paradox of tolerance correct?

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. “ – Karl Popper

This is the kind of crisis we face. Do we tolerate open threats of genocide in our streets? Do we tolerate literal fucking Nazis, and let them get away with it?

Speaking legally, the answer is yes. Because of the First Amendment, we cannot enact any laws at any level to tease out the nuance on this kind of thing. The USA does not make the distinction between hate speech and free speech; the direct result is events like Charlottesville. This is one of the few countries in the world this kind of toxin can fester.

There is no legal recourse, unless another law is broken in the process. Such as assault, or murder… Oh wait… (And in the case of many assaults, the police failed to act.)

In short;

Effectively, the Supreme Court unanimously reaffirms that there is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment.” – Washington Post

So where does that leave us? If you ask my opinion, it is time we have a real serious talk about what hate speech means in this country. However, as our hands are tied on the legislative side of things; we are left with cultural, social and spiritual avenues of fighting this social disease. In the words of the UN Secretary-General…

We fight it everytime. Everywhere.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. As this goal and topic is primarily focused on social issues (as opposed to environmental ones); there was really nothing from Drawdown to be included here.

Sources/References;

http://www.un.org/en/letsfightracism/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/06/19/supreme-court-unanimously-reaffirms-there-is-no-hate-speech-exception-to-the-first-amendment/?utm_term=.34b6d2ab2ef1

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/08/13/an-american-tourist-gave-the-nazi-salute-in-germany-so-a-stranger-beat-him-up-police-say/?utm_term=.f9f8aa9a10c1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_and_freedom_of_the_press_in_Denmark

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance


Shaping a Living World: Part 2

We must be clear about our agenda, which includes promoting sustainable, local economies, reforming our food systems, distributing resources in a more just and humane fashion, and ensuring that our human populations are below the carrying capacity of our planet through access to voluntary birth control, and equal access to education and work for women. “ Pagan Statement on the Environment (http://ecopagan.com/) (Emphasis mine)

Today I want to talk about the second Sustainable Development Goal, as put forward by the UN: Zero Hunger. There is quite a bit to discuss here, and inevitably I am not going to be able to cover every aspect that goes into this. There is so much data and information, and so much to say on this topic. Many others have said it way better than I can. There are some great resources out there in internet land, and I encourage you to seek those out. This is a collective effort after all.

Before I get into the real meat of this post, there are a few notes I want to put out there before we go deeper. As is pointed out in the quote at the beginning of this post, these issues are all intertwined. Sometimes it is hard to separate all these different topics and discuss them discretely. These are holistic topics, and one often informs all the others. I think that is a good thing in the long run. It just means we have a lot of work to do.

Just as an example, you will notice that both population and food systems are mentioned in the opening quote, as well as women’s rights. Population and agriculture especially are very much intertwined, especially since the industrial revolution. Agriculture alone gave us the option to reliably sustain a stable population. But even so, the total population of the world has exploded since the industrial revolution.

One of the biggest things we can do is to help is stabilize our population growth, in addition to ensuring everyone has enough to eat. While these issues will be discussed more in future posts, one example covered above is providing access to universal voluntary birth control.

This alone has all kinds of issues with it, because more people means more mouths to feed and more resource use. But, population  alone doesn’t tell the whole story. As the article linked points outs;

Citizens of more affluent nations leave a much greater footprint on our planet than people living in poorer countries – although there are exceptions. Copenhagen is the capital of a high-income nation – Denmark “ – BBC

That means those of us in the US. We have a huge footprint compared to many other people across the globe. That will have to change, but that is a topic for another time. As the UN has pointed out, we could be pushing 10 billion people on the planet by mid century, and that means we are going to have to face the challenges created by that.

There are a lot of facets to this, which I will cover in later parts of this series. For the purpose of this post, we have to figure out how to feed our current population with sustainable food system, as well as plan for the future as well. With guidance from the Sustainable Development Goals, social democracy, and Drawdown, we can start to see how we might handle these challenges.

Sustainable Development Goals;

I encourage you to visit the UN site about these goals linked below. There is much more there than I have the space to cover here. But as a brief selection, the SDG’s provide this general outline on how to shape a world that does not have to worry about hunger.

– By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

– By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons

– By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

– By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality”

The SDG’s are often considered to be very ambitious, and it certainly is a possibility that we may not be able to reach these goals. But having a goal to shoot towards I think is just as important as whether or not we succeed or fail. It means we are trying, and that counts in my book.

Most of these goals speak for themselves, and will require a great variety of local, regional and global policy to meet. They will require a hard look at ourselves, and a lot of global cooperation. The first two goals are pretty straight forward, make sure all people are fed; especially marginalized or impoverished people as well as children. Malnutrition is a huge problem, because it stunts growth, and also is a big problem for pregnant women as well.

The third and fourth goals are more relevant to our purpose here, and more directly applicable through the solutions proposed by Drawdown. Under current projections our population is expected to grow, and we will need to be able to feed that population across the globe. While I think it is just as important that we stabilize our population growth, we also have provide for the needs of the people. The third goal really centers the importance of small-scale producers, which are often women and indigenous people. Their skills and knowledge in sustainable agriculture are necessary and important for a sustainable food system.

The fourth goal above is an important one, and can be addressed with some of the solutions from both social democracy as well as Drawdown. Let’s explore those ideas in a little more depth shall we.

Social Democracy;

Combined, the Nordic countries were the 6th largest donor to WFP in 2014 and among WFP’s top multilateral donors. “ – UN World Food Program 

The Nordic countries are doing their part to alleviate world hunger, but this is not the whole story to be sure. Just as an example , the USA is the single largest donor. This kind of funding goes into feeding people across the world, especially in low-income countries in the global South. It is also noteworthy that the World Food Program has a office in Copenhagen, which has been ranked as one of the greenest  cities in the world. That is surely a model worth exploring.

Such efforts are important and should be encouraged, but there is a lot more work to be done. Just as an example, overall the USA lags well behind the Nordic countries and Europe.

Based on the data available, though, the report finds that Scandinavian countries — Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland — win the honors. Sweden was already “84.5 percent of the way to the best possible outcome across the 17 [Sustainable Development Goals],” the report found, ranking number one in the world – and receiving a corresponding score of 84.5. The other three Scandinavian nations then filled out the top four slots, followed by many European nations. “ (Washington Post )

The Nordic countries in particular, and Europe more generally are well ahead of the curve on building a less hungry and more sustainable world. How did the US fair?

The United States, in contrast, ranked 25th, with a score of 72.7. It fared considerably worse than a comparable neighbor, Canada, which ranked 13th, with a score of 76.8. “ (Washington Post )

The logical follow up question is why?

These poor rankings were doled out because (among other things) the U.S. has too many people below the poverty line, too much adult obesity, too little renewable energy, too many homicides and people in prison, and so on and so on

the poor score of the United States underscores that while we’ve done exceedingly well economically, we’ve neglected the social and the environmental dimensions of progress — issues ranging from equality to ecosystem preservation.” (Washington Post )

Right there gets at the real heart of the matter. While the USA is a powerhouse of an economy, and the largest military in the world, we are behind the ball in many important measures. We are not doing nearly enough as a country to take care of our poor, our hungry, and to provide access to nutritional food either. We have not had a great record so far on social or environmental issues, and there is certainly a lot of room for improvement.

Let’s look at some specific solutions that not only help to alleviate hunger, but also go a long way to fighting climate change and create sustainable food systems.

Drawdown;

The applications for Drawdown here are immense, because we need a radical change in our food systems, not only to combat hunger, but also to live sustainably. Pretty much the entire “Food” sector could apply here. As such, I am limiting myself to the some of the most impactful solutions.

Food ;

Reduced Food Waste

#3 Solution 70.53 gigatons CO2 reduction by 2050

A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions… Beyond addressing emissions, these efforts can also help to meet future food demand.”

Especially in the US, we throw out a ridiculous amount of food. As the above quote points out, this is a waste in a whole lot of ways, of time as well as energy. Plus, in many cases, perfectly good food is thrown out, food that could just benefit some of our most vulnerable. In addition to contributing to climate change, reduction of food waste could go a long way into combating hunger as well. As the page on Drawdown points out, there is a lot of nuance in why food goes to waste. We need to take a hard look at these aspects and see where we can do better.

Plant Rich Diets 

#4 Solution 66.11 gigatons C02 reduction by 2050

Shifting to a diet rich in plants is a demand-side solution to global warming that runs counter to the meat-centric Western diet on the rise globally. That diet comes with a steep climate price tag: one-fifth of global emissions. If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”

There is no real getting around this one. How we raise and tend our livestock in industrial factory farms is absurd, from just about every level you can think of. CAFOs are often inhumane, and contribute huge amounts of emissions and pollution. I can’t go into all that here, but suffice to say there is a quite a bit of work to be done.

I’m not advocating veganism or vegetarianism here, though these are noble goals to be sure. I’ll confess straight out that I’m a happy little omnivore. That being said, my family is doing all we can to eat less meat, and that is a start.

Regenerative Agriculture

#11 Solution 23.15 gigatons C02 Reduction by 2050

Conventional wisdom has long held that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture. “

There is so much that could be said here, and alas I don’t have the space to detail all of it here. There are so many ideas and options out there that we seriously need to explore, of which Regenerative Agriculture is just one. It is vitally important to our environment and our water ways that we reduce synthetic chemical and fertilizer use. Such chemicals often leads to toxic algae blooms, and the declining health of our water systems.

Conservation Agriculture

#16 Solution 17.35 Gigatons of C02 reduction by 2050

Plows are absent on farms practicing conservation agriculture, and for good reason. When farmers till their fields to destroy weeds and fold in fertilizer, water in the freshly turned soil evaporates. Soil itself can be blown or washed away and carbon held within it released into the atmosphere. Tilling can make a field nutrient poor and less life-giving.”

Large mechanized industrial farm systems have really done their fair share of damage, and it is well past time we start rethinking those methods. So much harm to our environment can be prevented if we change how we do so many things, agriculture is just one. Conservation Agriculture spares the plow, and in that way protects the health of both the soil as well as increasing resiliency.

Tree Intercropping

#17 Solution 17.2 gigatons of C02 reduction by 2050

Plowed under during the twentieth century to make room for industrialized methods of farming, tree intercropping is one of dozens of techniques that can create an agricultural renaissance—a transformation of food-growing practices that bring people, regeneration, and abundance back to the land. “

It should go without saying that planting and growing more trees will help in the work ahead. Trees are often removed on farmland, and agriculture since it’s invention is responsible for mass deforestation. Bringing back some of those trees can help by creating carbon sinks, wind breaks, and overall benefits to the health of the soil.

There is so much more I could talk about; composting, permaculture, urban forests, urban gardens, the whole works. Sadly, this piece is already longer than I had expected. As such I will wrap this up and I hope you join me next time when we explore the third goal; Good Health & Well-Being.

As always, thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

http://ecopagan.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

http://www.drawdown.org/

http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

http://un.dk/un-in-denmark/wfp

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/07/21/a-new-report-rated-countries-on-sustainable-development-and-the-u-s-did-horribly/?utm_term=.d33e3e80a675

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160311-how-many-people-can-our-planet-really-support

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

https://www.ecowatch.com/top-10-greenest-cities-in-the-world-1881963132.html

https://www.wfp.org/funding/year/2016


Shaping a Living World: Part 1

In addition, there is a deeper and more profound change that is needed. Fundamentally, we believe that a change in spirit is required, one that fosters a new relationship between humanity and other species and Earth as a whole. As Pagans, we believe we are well situated to help imagine and create a future in which humanity lives in greater harmony with the rest of our planet.“Pagan Statement on the Environment

We face a lot of challenges with the future ahead, climate change just being one among them. As an animist, I am asked to engage; with the planet and with my community. My animism is both nature-centric, as well as human-centric.

It is people-centric (human and not), and because it is relational ignoring the greater problems in our communities and world is not an option for me. Being an animist means I need to think about where we have come from, and where we are going.

It asks me to imagine a better future tomorrow, for everyone. So now I have to ask myself, what would my future look like?

This is a pretty complex question to ask, and it is at the heart of this series. The answer to this question is informed by both my spirituality as well as my values, and the two are deeply integrated and intertwined. Both will be discussed over the course of this series, so that I can explore these things more deeply.

That being said, I have thus far been impressed with the ideas of social democracy, especially the Nordic model. Much of the data and information we have suggests that it is one of the better social models in the world, and the Nordics are consistently ranked as some of the most prosperous and happiest people in the world. As such, the values of social democracy will be central to this series.

In addition, I think that global problems require a global response, and many of the issues we face such as climate change are certainly global issues. As such, I found the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals a good mesh with many of my values. 193 nations representing a majority of the population of the planet have worked on the SDG’s, and therefore it provides us a road map that is agreed upon by consensus, because there is “no planet B.” Those too will form a way in which to frame this series.

Also, I believe firmly that our future as a species must be a sustainable one. For that reason another big part of project will be Drawdown, which is one of the most comprehensive plans to date on how to combat climate change. It will form a big part of this project as well.

All that said; I am a dreamer as well as a realist. I am going to be tempering myself with a healthy dose of skepticism and pragmatism. I will try my best to focus on what we can do today, or at least in the near future. We need solutions now, and so we cannot place our hope in some far off ideal.

As such, it must be kept in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect solution. The perfect is the enemy of the good. I am not dreaming up a Utopia here, as such a world is not possible at the current time. At very least, I simply want to emphasize the fact that we can, and must do better. The future is bleak indeed if we don’t try.

Without further ado, let’s talk about the first of the Sustainable Development Goal; No Poverty

One of the core philosophies of my animism is that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few. We can and should make a concentrated effort on making sure no single persons goes without. It implies not only do we have to do better for our most vulnerable, it in some way implies we must.

Sustainable Development Goals

Some of the highlights from the SDG’s include;

By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.”

This is a huge global effort, and it will take a lot of policy decisions that I have not the space to write about here. Some of these decisions will happen on the local level, some regional, some national, and some on the international level. I like the EU’s principle of subsidiarity, in which decisions should happen at the level they are most effective.

On this ground, I think the Nordic model of Social Democracy has some insights to offer, and ideas we should look at more closely.

Social Democracy

That being said, I think the model of social democracy is on to some very important aspects that help to eliminate extreme poverty in our society. The USA in particular is behind the ball on a lot of these points, and have a deplorable track record of treating our vulnerable poorly.

According to the OECD, the 2012 poverty rates for Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland stood at 9 percent, 5.4 percent, 8.1 percent and 6.5 percent respectively….

The “Nordic Model” presents a starting point for other countries to develop methods to attack poverty as they work towards sustainable development.” – Borgen Project

Universal Healthcare – This is one of the most important things we can do for our most vulnerable. We need to frame health care as a right, not a privilege that only those with the means can afford. Every single person should not have to make the choice between health and bankruptcy. Considering one of the SDG’s involves healthcare, I will say no more on this for now.

Universal Education – This one is another big part of the puzzle that comes into play when trying to eliminate poverty. People end up in poverty for a lot of reasons, unemployment and displacement being among them. Universal Education (including Higher Ed and Trade/Vocational Skills) gives people the option of retraining, or any other type of personal advancement. Education is also among the SDG’s (which are all deeply intertwined), so let’s move on.

Universal Basic Income – The idea of UBI is still being explored, but the concept is simple; give everyone in a society a basic income just for existing. The idea being that a person has the right to have their basic needs met, primarily food and shelter. A person would receive a basic stipend to use however they wanted, no strings attached. It is being tested in Finland and several other areas, and some of the results are already starting to show;

“Not only could UBI replace the income lost as automated systems continue to replace human workers, experts also believe that having such a safety net would spur more innovation as the fear of failure would be reduced. People equipped with the knowledge that they will be able to provide for themselves should they fail will be more willing to take bigger risks, which could result in a spike in innovation that would help us all. “

UBI could help eliminate the “scarcity mentality”, and help people out of poverty and increased equality all around. I will be watching the idea as it unfolds with interest.

Drawdown

Getting rid of poverty in our societies with require social, cultural, and well as political changes. A change in spirit. It will also require technological solutions, and here we visit a few of the solutions from Drawdown that can really make a difference in the life of impoverish communities and people. They also help the planet at the same time. Please note that many of these solutions will appear under other Sustainable Development Goals, as I get to them.

Energy;

Rooftop Solar 

In rural parts of low-income countries, they can leapfrog the need for large-scale, centralized power grids, and accelerate access to affordable, clean electricity—becoming a powerful tool for eliminating poverty. “

Impoverished people all over the world, especially in the Global South, often don’t have reliable access to electricity. While this is a complex issue with a lot of nuance that I will not be able to cover here, one of the solutions proposed by Drawdown with a lot of promise for fighting poverty is Rooftop Solar. It is ranked in the top ten of most effective solutions, with a reduction of 20.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050. As many people in poverty globally are often found in Africa and South Asia, rooftop solar provides a reliable option that fights poverty and climate change at the same time.

Micro-wind 

In lower-income countries, micro wind turbines can help expand access to electricity, giving people a way to light their homes or cook their evening meals, which can avoid emissions from dirty diesel generators or kerosene lamps.”

In addition to rooftop solar, micro-wind can act as a supplement in order to bring electricity to rural and impoverished areas. While the impact is not nearly as large as rooftop solar, it is should not be discounted. It is ranked #76 out of a 100 total solutions by Drawdown, with 0.2 gigatons of CO2 reduction. It could be a vital supplemental energy source for places without grid access, and just like solar the costs are currently plummeting, thus reducing implementation costs and net benefits in the long term.

Micro-grids

Microgrids also aid human and economic development. Globally, 1.1 billion people do not have access to a grid or electricity, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In rural parts of low-income countries, populations are best supplied with electricity from microgrids. “

Many rural communities are far away from city centers and centralized grid systems. These communities are often rural, and have low incomes. In combination with rooftop solar and micro-wind (along with other sources), micro-grids have the capacity to bring electrical power to entire communities, and help share the load variability among renewable sources. Overall it is ranked #78 out of a 100.

Food;

Clean Cookstoves

Around the world, 3 billion people cook over open fires or on rudimentary stoves. The cooking fuels used by 40 percent of humanity are wood, charcoal, animal dung, crop residues, and coal. As these burn, often inside homes or in areas with limited ventilation, they release plumes of smoke and soot liable for 4.3 million premature deaths each year.

As much about food will be covered under SDG Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), I have included clean cookstoves here. As I have pointed out above, many rural and poor areas do not have reliable access to electricity or utilities, so often they have to use more traditional cookstoves. By helping to clean up that process, we can aid people in poverty as well as reduce the numbers of premature death annually, as well as improve the health of people.

This solution is ranked #21 by Drawdown, with an overall reduction of 15.81 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Women & Girls

Women Smallholders

On average, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force and produce 60 to 80 percent of food crops in poorer parts of the world. Often unpaid or low-paid laborers, they cultivate field and tree crops, tend livestock, and grow home gardens. Most of them are part of the 475 million smallholder families who operate on less than 5 acres of land.”

As Gender Equality is one of the SDG’s, I have decided to put this solution here. It is ranked number #62 overall, with a 2.06 gigaton reduction in CO2 by 2050. By giving women an equal share in both income and productive resources on their farms, farm yield would be expected to rise, and this would lead to increased efficiency of land resources, including a lower need for deforestation.

In the next part of this series, we will be looking at the second Sustainable Development Goal, which is Zero Hunger.

Thanks for reading!

Sources;/References;

http://ecopagan.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

http://www.drawdown.org/

http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_Development_Goals

https://futurism.com/finlands-universal-basic-income-program-is-already-reducing-stress-for-recipients/

https://borgenproject.org/why-sweden-has-lower-poverty-rates/


Klaus

First, I want to say hello to all the new readers that follow this blog. Hello, and thanks for reading! I have surpassed 900 followers recently, and that makes me very happy. Welcome aboard!

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Volume 1 Artwork (The artwork is amazing!)

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The cover of the volume I picked up.

I have written a fair deal on this blog about storytelling. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that I am fascinated by the process as well as the actual art of it. I mean, I am a fiction writer after all. It seems like a prerequisite to be a writer that first; you must be a voracious consumer of stories in whatever form. Whether novels, comics, movies, and/or games, you have to go through a lot of stories.

At a certain point, at least if you are anything like me, you have a whole set of ideas floating around in your head just waiting to to be stitched together. Your own stories start to percolate and mature, and the writing begins.

But this post isn’t about writing, but about one particular story. Every so often a story comes along that just really kicks you in both the heart and the head. Something you identify with strongly, and that relates so strongly to the world you live it that it leaves you reeling. This is a post about one such story, which happens to be in graphic novel form.

However, I want to say a few things before I get to that; because hopefully it will explain a little of why this story hit me so hard. It is also no secret that I am still in processing mode with the recent election and other events in the world; such as Standing Rock. There has been a lot of questioning for me in the recent days.

I was a strong Sanders supporter. Even though I am young, I have never had a candidate speak to my values and ideals as closely as he did. I remember thinking to myself, that was the kind of revolution I can get behind. One that shakes up both our culture and our society, one that refocuses all these things in the direction of social democracy. I could support something like that.

Yet, I have to face facts. That is not the way things went with this election. If I may be a little biased for a second, I think we elected a straight up tyrant. Several people have called him a fascist. I say if the boot fits…

I have also said that if his campaign is any indicator, a lot of people are going to be in harm’s way. Hell, at least one person I highly respect has already been attacked in Trump’s name.

All of this has left me with more questions than answers. Questions about the Democrats, questions about the media, questions about America in general.

Which brings to mind all the stories that have really inspired me. Stories like Star Wars, in which rebels fight against an evil ruler and Empire.

Which brings me to the story I wanted to talk about today. It is a graphic novel called Klaus, by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora. At the basic level, this is a reinvented and retelling of Santa Claus, but done in a beautiful and imaginative way that is filled with shamanism and Viking-ness.

It is the story of Klaus, who is a man of the wild, a hunter. He comes into a town to sell his furs, and comes to realize the Baron of the town is an evil man. Klaus is assaulted outside a tavern, basically for being an outsider. He also sees the town guards assault a small child, and he learns that Baron has taken all the toys and joy generally out of the town.

So Klaus is sent from the village, bleeding and battered. The guards make a sport of it, and chase after him. He is shot with at least one arrow, and left for dead. The guards corner him and come in for the kill. That is when we first meet his companion, Lilli, a great white wolf, who makes short work of the guards.

Later on in the story, we learn that the Baron has made a deal with the Krampus. He oppresses the people of the village, works them day and night in a coal mine, where the Krampus is buried. You know, basic deal with the devil stuff.

Shamanism, Viking-ness, white wolves, a fight against an oppressive tyrant and an evil demon, found in a coal (fossil fuel) mine?

It is not my place to tell you the whole story, but it struck me right in the heart strings. There are enough parallels between Klaus, his wolf companion, the world as well as myself that it certainly made an impression.

I have written many times before how I have two spirit companions that are Arctic Wolves, white as the new fallen snow (Well, the male does actually have darker spots). I am also a hunter and outdoorsman myself, and work with Skaði, who also is commonly pictured with a great white wolf.

Did I ever say that naming my shop The White Wolf was no coincidence?

What is even funnier, is that my current Dnd character started (I say started because there have been both hair color and sex changes recently..) as basically the character in the book, except a little older and with white hair. A ranger/shaman hybrid with a wolf companion.

Side note: No, I do not base my Dnd characters on some idealized version of myself… Okay maybe I do. Maybe I see a lot of myself in Klaus, though he is significantly more beefcake than I will ever be. Alas.

In addition, Klaus is in fact a Germanic shortform of my name, Nicholas. Nicholas is a Greek name that means “victory of the people”. This fact is actually pointed out in the book, as Klaus continues his transition from wild man to hero of the people, and eventually Santa Claus himself.

I don’t really think I really need to harp on that point any more. But I did want to circle back to the original point of this post. The strange influence stories have on our reality, and how they teach lessons in the most unexpected ways.

I hope it is clear why this story resonated so strongly with me, and there are certainly some lessons here about the current state of the world.

In the story, one of the chief “bad guys” comes from a coal mine. I think there is some important lessons there about our use of fossil fuels, as well as the ongoing situation at Standing Rock. I think we should be resisting “the creature in the coal mine”, given how toxic fossil fuels are for our world. I think we as a society should do everything in our power to resist the Black Snake, and at the same time build a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.

I think there are important lessons here as well when it comes to oppressive governments and tyrants. The hero in the story fights with sword and magic to be sure (because comic book hero), but also with the support of the people. In a way, he leads a people’s revolt against both a tyrannical government as well as the beast in the coal mine.

To be fair, he is Santa Claus at the end of the day.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Here is a link to this book on Amazon for reference. There are single issues, but the volume I got is seven in all.

Naturally, I would say support your local comic book store.

Apparently, this has been published this month. Per Amazon’s date, it had been out 4 days when I picked it up. 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Klaus-Grant-Morrison/dp/1608869032


Animism and Capitalism Part 4

As I was working on my thoughts for this part of the series, I came across an article that really spoke to me, and really put into words what I was trying to say for myself. I think it is a good reflection of where on stand, somewhere in the middle, on the issues of socialism and capitalism.

I have said quite a bit in this series on some of the problems with capitalism, especially as it takes form in America. I live here by the circumstances surrounding my birth, but some days I wish I could leave it all behind and move, because if there is one thing that has become very clear to me it is that;

The United States of America is becoming very backwards.

And the article I will be discussing today helps to highlight some of the reasons that is so. Ann Jones starts out with asking a very simple question;

What is it, though, that makes the Scandinavians so different? Since the Democrats can’t tell you and the Republicans wouldn’t want you to know, let me offer you a quick introduction. What Scandinavians call the Nordic model is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That’s two concepts combined in a single goal because, as far as they’re concerned, you can’t have one without the other. ”

As a general statement, I am highly supportive of ideals such as democracy and equality, and these are two things that the Nordic countries do very well. Democracy to means rule by the people, for the people. Equality of course means that rights and privileges are enjoyed by all people. In my mind it is synonymous to the idea of egalitarianism, which includes trends such as feminism as well as the fair distribution of wealth. This is a marked difference from America, as Jones points out;

Right there, they part company with capitalist America, now the most unequal of all the developed nations, and consequently a democracy no more. Political scientists say it has become an oligarchy, run at the expense of its citizenry by and for the superrich. Perhaps you’ve noticed that.”

Yes, I have noticed that in fact, and the political scientists she referenced were from Princeton University. It would seem many of our politicians are on regular rotation between Congress, the Senate, and many of the largest corporations in the country, if not in the world. So many of our policies are being shaped by former employess of companies like Monsanto or Shell Oil, it is not even funny. In addition, more of our countries wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a very few, and these very few are using that very same wealth to seek political office, and running the country. With decisions such as Citizens United, those with money have even more say and power in our political system.

Moving forward with Jones article;

In the last century, Scandinavians, aiming for their egalitarian goal, refused to settle solely for any of the ideologies competing for power—not capitalism or fascism, not Marxist socialism or communism. Geographically stuck between powerful nations waging hot and cold wars for such doctrines, Scandinavians set out to find a middle path. That path was contested—by socialist-inspired workers on the one hand, and by capitalist owners and their elite cronies on the other—but in the end, it led to a mixed economy. Thanks largely to the solidarity and savvy of organized labor and the political parties it backed, the long struggle produced a system that makes capitalism more or less cooperative, and then redistributes equitably the wealth it helps to produce. Struggles like this took place around the world in the 20th century, but the Scandinavians alone managed to combine the best ideas of both camps while chucking out the worst.”

I found myself nodding along throughout this whole passage, because this exemplifies more than anything where I stand on the ideas of capitalism. I have very deep problems with capitalism, but neither am I sold on the ideas of the socialists or Marxists, and so that places me somewhere in the middle. I want to walk that middle path, though it is not always a comfortable place to be. You will get flak from one side for being a socialist, and flak from the other for not being socialist enough. I do not strive to please everyone, and I certainly don’t aim to.

I do want to be clear on one point. Even though people like Bernie Sanders may call himself democratic socialist, the Nordic model is not socialist. It is a social democracy, a kind of capitalist system. As such, I don’t consider myself a socialist, nor do I consider myself a capitalist. There is that middle ground thing again.

All the same, I think the idea of mixed economy is a great one. We can still have private businesses, while at the same time redistributing the wealth it creates for the benefit of everyone. Also, we can have a strong public sector to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and reinvest wealth into research and technological innovations that could make things like Peak Oil and non issue, and we would be in a better position to adapt to things such as climate change. Also, expansion of the public sector could be used to increase the funding and expanse of public land projects, and better conserve and protect our natural resources.

I return here to Jones;

So here’s the big difference: In Norway, capitalism serves the people. The government, elected by the people, sees to that. All eight of the parties that won parliamentary seats in the last national election—including the conservative Høyre party now leading the government—are committed to maintaining the welfare state. In the United States, however, neoliberal politics puts the foxes in charge of the henhouse, and capitalists have used the wealth generated by their enterprises (as well as financial and political manipulations) to capture the state and pluck the chickens. “

I want to scream this from the rooftops. This points out better than many thing exactly where the some of the real problems lie with America. Not only are there serious flaws with our method of capitalism, but very serious problems with the ideas behind neoliberal policies. For example, Jones points out;

They’ve done a masterful job of chewing up organized labor. Today, only 11 percent of American workers belong to a union. In Norway, that number is 52 percent; in Denmark, 67 percent; in Sweden, 70 percent. Thus, in the United States, oligarchs maximize their wealth and keep it, using the “democratically elected” government to shape policies and laws favorable to the interests of their foxy class. “

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I commented in the last part of this post on how this mentality has crept into major research institutions, and even into our literature and television. The problems with the American system go well beyond these things, and in many ways we have nearly the inverse of the Nordic model. As Jones points out;

In the Nordic countries, on the other hand, democratically elected governments give their populations freedom from the market by using capitalism as a tool to benefit everyone. That liberates their people from the tyranny of the mighty profit motive that warps so many American lives, leaving them freer to follow their own dreams—to become poets or philosophers, bartenders or business owners, as they please. “

Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? Even I can sense some of the Jone’s glassy eyed optimism. Of course, let’s be realistic. No system of government is perfect, which she acknowledges at the end of her article;

It’s not perfect, of course. It has always been a carefully considered work in progress. Governance by consensus takes time and effort. You might think of it as slow democracy. Even so, it’s light-years ahead of us. “

Denmark has done a pretty ugly thing with confiscating valuables from refugees, whereas Sweden has accepted more than any other country except Germany. Also, Norway has a portion of its wealth coming from an oil boom, that in the long run is not sustainable.

Still, I think that last part is the most important. Even when we compare the US with other developed countries that don’t use the Nordic Model, we still lag behind on many measures. I think America could learn a lot from the Nordic Model, and yes it is safe to say I will be voting for Sanders in the upcoming primary.

It must be said here at the end, that these are momentous changes for a place like America. In fact some (such as Hillary) have gone so far as to call them unrealistic given the political climate. It is that very same climate that is part of the problem. Also, I think the fact that we can point to the Nordic countries and say “it is working for them”, means these ideas are not unrealistic. They are working, and very well for that matter.

Nor am I saying that the Nordic model should be the end game, but simply a peak on the horizon. We have to climb that peak first before we can even contemplate where the next one might be.

And make no mistake, it is a hell of a climb. The changes it would take in America to make this kind of system work would be substantial and imply huge changes in our political, cultural and social ideals.

Those such as Bernie have said it would be nothing short of a revolution…

At very least, it would be a hell of a change.

This series has been a little more political than I originally wanted it to be. Also, it has been a lot more theory than practical application.

As such, in what I hope will be the last part of this series, I am hoping to come to some kind of synthesis of my animism beliefs and some of the things I have talked about in this series.

References;

“After I lived in Norway, American Felt Backwards.” By Ann Jones

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746


Kalevala Part 4

First off, I want to say thank you to all my readers.

This blog has passed over the 800 email followers mark. Now, I don’t know if that means over 800 people get an email when I post, or if that counter is somehow consecutive, or even faulty. However, it is one of the few measures I have with which to judge my readership. And, to me at least, 800 is a big deal.

So, thank you all so very much!

For this post I will be telling my experience of Rune 9, or the 9th poem in the Kalevala. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be skipping certain poems, partially based on interests, but also partially based on what the spirits feel I should study.

To recap, Vainamoinen has left Pojhola and set off back home. On the way, he meets a woman from Pojhola and tries to win her hand. She finally promises to wed him, if he can build her a boat and get it into the water without touching it in any way. While he tries to do so, his ax slips and hits his knee, which then begins to bleed profusely, and so Vainamoinen has to seek healing.

That is where Rune 9, picks up, and here is my experience of it.

So Vainamoinen took to his sled, and traveled to the cabin of a healer. His knee was gushing blood, as he entered the old man’s house. The old man cried out, and jugs were brought forth, to catch the blood that Vainamoinen has bled.

“Oh! So much blood have you left on my floor!” The old healer cried.
“Alas, that such a wound was made with iron, and I know not the charms to heal such a wound as this.” The healer said.
“I know some charms, and I can tell you of the origins of iron, or the beginning of steel.” Vainamoinen said.

So, Vainamoinen told of the beginnings of iron, since it was iron that caused his wound.

“ Air is the first of its mothers, Water the Oldest Brother.
Iron is the younger brother, and Fire the Middle

Ukko, great god, separated the air from the water, and the land from both.
Three Maidens were brought forth, three spirits of nature.
They traveled the land, and their breasts were full of milk.

So, to find relief from the ache, they milked out their breasts onto the land.
The oldest of them let out black milk, and where it hit the land bar iron came into being.
The middle one milked out white milk, from which steel is made.
The youngest let out red milk, and from this came iron ore.

After some time, Iron wanted to meet its older brother, and so it sought out fire.
But their meeting was not kind, and Iron was badly burned.
Iron ran, went into hiding, deep in the fen, deep below the ground.
It hide from its brother, went into hiding from fire.

For many long ages, iron was not found.
Until a wolf came running through the fen, and a bear too.
The wolf’s tracks uncovered iron, and the bear’s tracks did too.
In the wolf’s claws, and the bear’s paws, was iron revealed.

One day came Ilmarinen, the great smith, and he looked for a place to set his forge.
He walked through the fens, and found the tracks of wolf and bear.
Ilmarinen saw Iron, and saw it was in hiding, and miserable.

“Why iron, are you in such a terrible state? Lowly is your situation, for one so grand as you.” Ilmarinen said.
“I am in hiding, for fire, my brother, has burned me!” Iron said.
“That is because Fire does not know you, does not realize you are his kin. Come, and I will put you into the forge, and you can make a proper aquitance with Fire.” Ilmarinen said.

Yet, iron was afraid of the fire, and cried out before being put in the forge. Ilmarinen soothed it.
“When Fire has met you proper, it will lift you up and make you beautiful. Your form will be of fine tools, swords and fine jewelry.” Ilmarinen said.

So, Ilmarinen put Iron into the forge, and it became hot.
Iron cried out; “Take me away from this agony!”
“If I do, you will grow terrible. You will rise up against your kin, and be cruel to your brothers and mothers.” Ilmarinen said.

Then Iron swore a solemn oath, by the forge, the anvil, the tongs and the hammer.
“There is wood for me to bite, the heart of stone for me to cut, so that I will not have to harm my kin. It is far nicer for me to exist as an ally, as a tool, then to harm my own kin.”

The Ilmarinen pulled Iron from the Fire, and Iron was shaped into swords, shovels, and many fine tools.”

Vainamoinen had finished his story, and so the Old Healer understood the nature of Iron. Thus, he set about stopping the blood, and mending the wound caused by the abuses of Iron, so that Vainamoinen could go on his way.
I really enjoyed this story, and it is chock full of lore, knowledge, and charms. In this story alone, not all of which was covered here, is the origin of iron, charms for staunching blood, charms against the abuses of iron, bandage charms, healing charms, and even a protective charm at the end.

In truth, there is so much to this story that would need another post to unpack. I will hopefully be writing such a post in the near future, but for now I leave this here.

Thanks for reading!


Hamr – The Northern Spirit Part 4

For this post I wanted to explore the concept of the northern spirit in more depth. This time around, I will be exploring the concept of the hamr. According to Raven Kaldera, the hamr or hame, is; “Your astral body. Not your aura; the part of you that lies within your physical body and is (sometimes) twin to it. Some people’s hames are less like their physical bodies than you might think…”

We will come back to the second part later, because we need to explore the basic idea in more detail before moving into the specifics. According to Stromback; “But we also have other good and ancient words in Swedish dialects for the same fylgja or vård, names that have an obvious connection with the Old Norse terminology, namely hamn or hamm (in the provinces of Norrbotten and Dalarna, where they are genuine), and droug or dräug in the province of Jämtland, also genuine. In form and sense these words correspond to Old Norse draugr and hamr, although draugr in Old Norse has a more special sense of ‘ghost’, ‘spirit’ (of a dead person), or ‘animated corpse’.”

There is a lot to unpack in this short quote. The amount of overlap between various concepts is immense, and that overlap will be an ongoing theme in this series of posts. Fylgja and vord will be covered in later posts, and we will likely return to to this in future posts. Last time I wrote about the hugr, which is the closest thing we have in the northern spirit to the “I” spirit, or personal soul.

By contrast, the hamr is the second self, a kind of free soul that can leave the body, either in sleep, dreaming, or sent from the body is some form of magic flight. As Stromback points out; “Generally speaking you could activate your hugr, leading it in different directions and using it for certain intentions. Here in fact lies the germ of the idea of changing shape, the ability to go out from yourself and let your hugr take hamr, that is to say take the form of your second self.”

In addition, he adds; “We have already heard that according to folk-belief in Setesdal the hug from a person could be so strong that it came with ham, that is to say with something that was more or less materialized and reflected the owner of the hug, a kind of harbinger or companion but in shape only vaguely specified”

Hamr also overlaps heavily with the idea of the fylgja and vordr, and actually could be sometimes conceived as an independent entity, either partially dependent or fully independent being in its own right. To strengthen the connection, Stromback has this to say in regards to the vordr; “”The vård (literally: the guardian) is a being attached to the individual, a spirit who accompanies a person wherever he goes, and sometimes reveals itself either as a glimmer or in the form of the person as a second self (hamn)…”

The implication here is that even the vordr could sometimes take the form of the hamm (hamr), the second self. The second self is the real core of the hamr, a kind of double, that may or may not resemble your physical self. Also, this leads into the idea of shapeshifting, as Kaldera points out; “The hame is the part of your soul that can be shapeshifted into another form, with work and training.”

So, we have explored the idea of the hamr as a second self, and the “astral” part of the self that can be shapeshifted. As such, let’s explore some of the folklore associated with some of the ideas raised here.

First off, the dream soul. The Kvideland book has this to say; “It leaves the body, usually takes the shape of a small animal, and explores the world. Its experiences are then remembered by the sleeper as a dream.”

This is the experience of working with the hamr, but in addition to dreams, the hamr can be sent out as a magical/shamanic skill. Also, it is the part that can be shapeshifted, and this is illustrated perfectly by topic “The Finn Messenger” category in the Kvideland book;  “The folk tradition about the Finn (Sami) who sends his hug on a journey while his body lays in trance has its origins in Lappish (Sami) shamanism.”

As such, I will relay the story of the Skipper and the Finn. This is my own retelling, and not a direct quote from the book.

A skipper sailed to Norway, and there was trapped by the winter and forced to lodge with some other people in Finnmark. While in Finnmark, his host asked the Skipper if he would like to know how his family was doing. “Of course!” The Skipper said. After all, it was Christmas Eve and he had been away from home for several months. The host called forth a Finn, a man native to the area. The Skipper offered a pint of brandy in exchange, and so the Finn drank half the pint and then lay down on the floor. The Finn’s wife covered him with a quilt, and he lay there shaking for about half an hour. When he awoke, the Finn told the Skipper what his family was having for Christmas Eve dinner, and handed the Skipper a knife and a fork, which he recognized as his own cutlery.

Also, since shapeshifting is part of the hamr, here I also present a story about shapeshifting. This is also based on the folklore in the Kvideland book.

There once was Finn that was good friends with a farmer. One day, the Finn showed the farmer his wolfskin. The Finn pulled on one of the sleeves to show the farmer how it worked. The farmer wanted to see more, but the Finn refused.

“If I put on the whole of the skin, I will become a wolf, not only in body, but also deep in my hug. Then I would not be able to control myself.” The Finn said.

That is where I will leave this post, though there is a lot more to say on these topics. Sadly, that will have to wait until next time.

Sources/References:

Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. Pgs 41 – 64

Kaldera, Raven http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

Strömbäck, Dag., from the book “Sejd” (2000 edition), pages 220-236. The Concept of the Soul in Nordic Tradition http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=84650

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela