Tag Archives: Stories

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!

download

Volume 1 Artwork (The artwork is amazing!)

download-1

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

Advertisements

Walking with the Spirits Part 3-B

(Update: I noticed today that my email followers is over 900. Thank you! Each and every one of my dear readers!)

After long cycles of debate, the Peoples had decided that they would introduce themselves to the humans. But yet the questioned remained of who would do the introductions?

“We are too unlike them. We cannot understand their needs.” The Tree People argued.

“They would kill us and eat us.” The Rabbit People added.

“They already kill and eat us.” The Deer People said.

It was in that moment that a person came into the circle among all the competing voices.

“I will do it.” The small voice said.

It was not heard over the cacophony. Many of the People gave reasons why they should not be the ones to introduce themselves to the humans.

“I will do it.” The small voice repeated.

It was in that moment that one of Tree People noticed the tiny little person. It was a small boy. A small human boy. To this point, no humans had ever joined the debates.

“How did you get here?” The Tree asked. The boy looked around, and an expression of fear crossed his face.

“I am unsure. I was laying down to sleep, and when I woke up I was here.” The little boy said.

The Tree then addressed the group, and brought their attention to the little boy. He repeated his offer.

“Why have we never considered a human before?” The Wolf asked.

“Of all the People that would understand their needs, it would make sense it would be one of their own.” The Tree added.

“And in time, this human can start to introduce his people to our own.” The Deer said.

“We could grow together as friends as allies.” Bear said, obviously excited by the idea.

By nearly unanimous vote it was decided that the boy would serve as the mediator to humanity. The only one that voted against it was a very unfriendly member of the Pine Clan. When pressed for a reason why, all the Pine would say was;

“I dunno. I just don’t like him.”

The boy was invited to sit in with the council of the Peoples, and he would live and learn from them.

“Why can’t I go be with my own people now?” The boy asked.

“You have a lot of learning to do first. There is much that you must understand, and when it is time, you will have to teach all you have learned to your own people. Then we all can begin the long process of getting to know each other.”

The boy nodded in agreement, and his days as a student began. Over many long ages did the boy grown into a young man, learning all he could from the People of all kinds. Even if he spent a year with each, there would never be enough time to learn from them all.

In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, the boy had grown into an old man. He had learned much, and had become wise and full of knowledge. One of the Oak People approached him.

“You have become quite wise in the time you have spent with us, but now it is time for you to take all you have learned back to your own people. I do think your descendants will be quite happy to see you.” The Oak said.

“My descendants?” The old man asked.

“Oh yes. You have spent quite a bit of time with us here, time in fact for many of your relatives to grow and have children of their own, and as such down through the generations.” The Oak said.

“How long?” The old man said.

“Generations, but the exact amount of time is not important. What is important that they learn of what you have to teach. It is important that they learn the way of other Peoples.” The oak said.

“How will I do that?” The old man asked. The Oak invited the old man for a walk.

They walked across the land, and as they did it started to shift and change. It was noticeable for only a second, and then the old man found himself staring down a hill at a small group of humans sitting around a fire.

He turned to see that the Oak person was gone.

The old man took a deep breath, an walked into the stranger’s camp.

Commentary;

I have had writer’s block on this series for a while, mostly because of this story. I have found out something about myself all through this process, and that is I struggle a lot with writing shorter stories. I am much more of a novelist at heart. The reason being, I think, is mostly because I am a wordy person. I feel like there is always more to a story, and more to the world than a short story allows me to explore.

Deliberately editing myself drives me a little bit crazy. There is plenty of material here for a few thousand words, and here I am trying to keep it under a thousand. You know, a good size to read in a single sitting; something fit for a blog instead of a novel.

All that aside, there were a few things I really enjoyed about this story. It really has an “otherworldly” feel in my opinion. The little boy comes to the People at the beginning of the story. Honestly, I imagined that the boy had died young, and so he met all these people in some sort of after life, where time and space really don’t play my the rules of “reality.”

That is why by the time the boy has become an old man, an inexact number of “generations” has passed. The way I figured it, learning from even a few dozen mentors could be a long process. Never mind that the People represent different species, of which there is some trillion or so living on the planet. Can you imagine the length of time it would take to learn all that, or even a small part of it? Even if you spent a day with each of them, that is still some trillion days.

Which, if I have enough zeros (12) in my calculator, is something like 2,739,726,027 years.

It’s a really long time, even I messed up the math. That is some 2.7 billion years. Humanity hasn’t even been on the planet that long.

Math! I know, it is pretty intense. There is another odd note I wanted to make about the “time” of this story. Sometimes the chapters of my two series are interconnected, sometime they are not. It is all part of the same “story arc”, but they don’t always line up one-to-one. This is one of those felt really disjointed to me. I am not really sure where it should fall in the time line, if it really fits at all.

All the same, in the next part of this series, we get to explore the earliest evidence we have for spiritual and/or religious belief.

Thanks for reading!


Walking with the Ancestors Part 3-C

. The boy returned back to the fire once more, and was dismayed when he saw an old man sitting there.

“Come boy, and sit by the fire.” The old man said. The boy did as he was told, and sat down and warmed himself. It was a welcome contrast to the cold of the night.

“Would you tell me the story?” The boy asked. The old man smiled and nodded.

“I will tell you a story, though it is a long one. It begins long before the ancestors of our ancestors ever walked the land or swam in the water. That is because the story of this place starts at the beginning of time. There was a time when there was no light or land, before there was a single tree or the sky had come into being. In that time, there was nothing but blackness and an endless bitter cold.” The old man said.

“I have already heard this story.” The boy said.

“But you have not heard it from me. It was dark because there was not yet any light in the sky. No stars shone in the blackness, not at first anyways. Then it was that fire spread across the sky, a thousand thousand fires in the night sky. They are the campfires of the old people, and that is where they lived.” The old man said, gesturing to all the stars in the sky.

The boy noticed that two other lights had appeared outside the fire. With a chill of fear, he also realized that these were not lights, but the shining eyes of a wolf. The old man must have seen the wolf as well, because he gestured to it.

“Come old friend, and sit by the fire.” The old man said.

“That is a wolf!” The boy said, in terror.

“That she is, but of no concern to you. She has come to listen to the story.” The old man said with a smile.

“Though I have heard it many times in my long years.” The she-wolf said as she strode up to the fire. The boy saw that she was mostly grey and black, though with white around her muzzle and under her belly. She had the same aged, weary look of the old man.

“Yes, we have told many stories together, though now our time grows short.” The old man said.

The wolf curled up near to the fire, and the old man continued with the story.

“The fire people spread across the sky, and so it was that the fire people came into the empty space, and thought it a fine place to build a home for their children. So it was that the fire people set to work, and the burning heart of this world was forged by their hands. They found it to be a good home, and they multiplied.

Yet, the sky was still mostly dark, and in the places the stars did not light, it was still very cold. That is where the people of shadow and ice dwelled, in the cold places beyond the stars. The ice people saw what the fire people were doing, and found it a very curious thing. So they came by for a closer look.

It happened that the sons of fire found the daughters of ice to be beautiful beyond compare, and they sought them out eagerly. It came to pass that sons of fire courted and wooed the daughters of ice, and settled down to start families with them.

They had many children, diverse in form and kinds. There were many peoples born to ice and fire, and I will not name them all. However, among their children is the land, which came into being when the fire cooled because of the ice. The sky too came into being, from all the steam and smoke that came from the union. Great rivers of water, lakes and seas, these too were the children of Ice as it melted and warmed.” The old man said.

“That is how the land, lakes and sky came into being.” The she-wolf said.

“What about the plants and animals?” The boy asked.

“I will tell you of these things. As I have said, ice and fire had a great many children, and those children went on to have more children of their own, and fire, ice, land, lake and sky we count among the oldest of our ancestors. As such great many peoples spread across the world, and they were very diverse indeed. Life itself spread across the world, with many branches. Plants were among the oldest. Small plants, such as grass and flowers, and great trees as well spread across the world.

Animals came in time too, some that fed upon the plants, and some that fed upon one another. Animals of all kinds were counted among the children of the world, and the people of plants and animals multiplied.” The old man said.

The young boy turned to the wolf.

“Is that how you got here?” The boy asked. The wolf looked at the boy and nodded, and then she spoke.

“The story of my people starts just as the old man has said. Those of my kin are counted among the descendants of the land, and of the trees and forests. The first of our kind were born to the forests, and we multiplied and spread across the world. My kindred are counted among many different tribes, Grey ones such as myself, Red far to South, White far to the North, and many others besides.

From the beginning the first of our kind has kept watch on all their descendants. Our ancestors are still with us, and they teach us the old ways. The ways of the forest, the hunt, and the ways of the four legged. Those are the ways we lived by long before your people came into being, and that is when things started to change.” The she-wolf said.

“When my people came to be?” The boy asked.

“Yes, and that is a story worth recounting as well.” The old man cleared his throat and continued.

“The story of our people young man starts like that of all others on this world. From the oldest of people, we trace our descent. We are a young people in this world, far older are the ancestors of the Wolf, and older still the trees and the land.

The land is the ancestors of our ancestors, and the peoples of the land have long been tied to us. We were hunters, and we knew the ways of the land and the water. We hunted for our food in the vast forests, fished in the lakes and seas, and foraged for plants of all kinds.” The old man said.

“It was in those days that we knew you as brother and sister, and we looked upon one another as equals. We were hunters, kin bound by blood and bone.” The she-wolf said. The old man nodded.

“There is an old story that tells of the bond between man and wolf. A Hunter was out on the trail, and got separated from his companions. He got lost in the woods, and traveled for days trying to find his way. He wandered into a strange area, and soon found himself growing hungry and tired. He finally sat down to have a rest, and fell into a deep sleep.

When he awoke, a large wolf was standing over him. He panicked and reached for his knife, but he had left it far away from where he slept. Besides, the wolf was already upon him, and he would have no chance of fighting off such a large wolf with his bare hands. He fully expected to die.

But the wolf did not strike, just starred. The hunter and the wolf met the gaze of one another, and saw deep into one another spirits. There, the two of them recognized kindred, and saw one another has being more alike then different. Both were hunters, both loved their families.

So it was that a ancient oath was made, and the wolf taught the hunter his ways, and the hunter taught the wolf in return. The two of them became like brothers, and went together wherever they went. The dogs with us today are the descendants of that old promise, though they are far removed from the ancestors of their ancestors.” The old man said. The she-wolf picked up the story.

“But that is not where it ended…” The she wolf-said.

Commentary;

This is in fact an older story I once wrote for a wolf anthology, but alas it was rejected. But it no small way, it has found a new home here. For that reason it does differ in form a little bit from the previous stories in this series. As I have explained before, some of this in inevitable, because the focus and perspective of each story is a little different. This one is told by an old man, and so his telling is different. There is also the she-wolf, and her perspective is also different, and so are her stories.

However, one of the reasons I am including this story in this series is because of the Altai mountains. In Razboinichya Cave, there was found a dog-like canid dated to about 33,000 years ago. It was determined through genetic testing that this canid was closer to modern day dogs than the ancestral wolves from which dogs descended from. The time range we are talking about in this chapter is from about 50 kya to about 30 kya, so I felt this was a fitting addition to this series.

Thanks for reading!

 

Sources, references;

Wikipedia (Altai Mountains)


Walking with the Ancestors Part 3-B

The two hunters slowly made their way across the steep mountain pass. The mountains rose up to their right, and over the precipice to their left, lay the forested valleys far below them. The winds blew across the exposed mountains, and the hunters wrapped themselves tighter in their furs.

The old ones of their village had told them stories about their ancestors, how one generation after another they had moved north in search of new more verdant lands. In the ancient days, the old ones had said, they had lived far to the south in lands warm and lush. But some had said that those lands had become too crowded, and there had not been enough food. Others had said that it was the sky that called to them, and they walked out of that land in order to find where the land touched the sky.

The first hunter turned to the second and smiled.

“Do you think we will be able to touch they sky soon brother?” He said. His younger brother smiled.

“This place is certainly as near to the sky as I have ever been.” The younger of the two replied.

“Yet, the sun does not seem any closer. It is almost as if we are farther from it now.” The older brother said.

“I would think so. The days are colder than I remember.” The younger brother confirmed.

Around the edge of the mountain, the older brother found new signs of their prey, tracks in the soil that covered the mountain. The older brother looked out to the mountains beyond. High above them shone the white capped peaks in the distance. He had always loved just looking at the mountains, as the green cloaks slowly gave way to white as they great peaks reached for the sky. The hunters were still firmly in that green cloak, and grass and trees spread out all around them.

The younger brother squatted over the tracks, and traced his fingers around them. The older brother smiled. His younger sibling had become quite the tracker since becoming an adult just the winter past. He would never admit it, but he figured his brother was already a better track than himself.

“The horned one (1) passed this way not too long ago, it should be close.” The younger brother said.

“Then now is the time for quiet.” The older brother said, and he set out moving slowly towards the trees around the side of the mountain. The horned ones loved the higher parts of the mountains, and they were fast and sure footed even on the steepest of slopes. If the brothers hoped to get one with their spears, they would have to catch it unaware. Otherwise, it would sprint across the mountains and they would loose it.

The younger brother took the lead as they tracked the horned one, but luck was not in their favor. As they emerged from some cover, the horned was was there waiting for them. The younger brother’s eyes went wide as he saw the animal, and he realized a little late that the two of them were blocking it’s only way of escape. The horned one charged, and the younger brother jumped out of the way. He tumbled to the side, and pan iced as his feet hit loose gravel instead of grassy soil. He lost his footing and the ground slid out from under him, and in another heartbeat you would have slid right off the edge of the cliff.

The older brother had had a little more warning than his sibling, and had an easier time dodging out of the way of the horned one as it quickly ran off beyond their reach. The older brother had seen his sibling fall, and he ran to catch him before he went over the edge of the cliff. When his own feet hit the gravel, he had to struggle to keep his own footing, and realized with horror that he could not have reach his brother in time.

He shouted as the younger man went over the edge of the mountain.

The young man lost sight of his brother as he passed over the ledge and tumbled down the long slope that followed. For that much he had to be thankful, as a sheer drop would have killed him instantly. He slid down the slope as the gravel tore at his skin and only made him slide faster. He had little time to look around before the slope came to a stop among much larger rocks. Pain racked his body, and he heard a loud snap as he collided with the rocks and tumbled some more before coming to a stop against the side of a cliff.

Pain shot through his left leg, and blood ran down his forearms. He took one deep breath, and then another. He cried in pain and longing for his brother.

“I am going to die here.” He sobbed to himself. He struggled to keep his eyes open, but the blackness slowly took him.

When he next opened his eyes, he realized instantly that he was not in the same place he fallen. He could hear voices around him (2), but he did not understand them. He glanced around, and came to the conclusion that he was in a cave, and that there was a fire somewhere near by. Light and shadows danced across the cave around him.

There were faces as well, and these frightened him. The faces he could see were broad, with large ridges above the eyes. One of these faces however over him, staring right back into his eyes. He had heard the other hunters tell stories about these people. The other hunters had said they were strong and could rip a person in half. Some said that they were stupid, and could not even speak. All they did was crush things, and some of the hunters even said they would catch people and eat them.

Tears ran down his eyes.

“Please don’t eat me.” The young man said. The face above him seemed startled for a moment, and then smiled. That is when the young man realized that the face over him was probably a woman.

She touched him low on his body, and more pain streaked through his body. She had touched his left leg, and he know knew it was surely broken. The woman started to touch other parts of his body, and he was pleased when only a few areas were really painful. The woman muttered something that he did not understand.

He titled his head to the right, and saw that a good portion of his chest had been wrapped in leather, and some kind of crushed plant. He was happy when he saw his right arm rise, and he gestured at the wraps.

“Did you do this?” He said, tapping his chest. The broad face started at him for a long moment. Then she tapped a finger on his chest. He flinched a little bit. He took the gesture as a ‘yes’.

The world faded in an out over the next few days. With each turn of the sun, those days turned into weeks, and then into months. The young man met many others as they came and went from the cave, and one day at a time he started to pick up little bits of their language. He learned their ways, and over time started to love them.

He also came to love her, the first face he had awoken to. He wanted to stay with them, with her, and so he stayed.

And in time a child was born…

Notes;

(1) From Wikipedia (Altai Mountains), it is stated that the climate in the Altai mountains has been relatively stable since the last ice age. As a result, it has also retained a lot of ice age fauna (minus mammoths and other extinct creatures). I figured the Siberian Ibex would make a good choice of prey.

(2) There is still some debate about whether or not Neanderthals could actually speak in the same way we do. I took a creative liberty in this case.

Commentary;

I could have fleshed this one out a lot more had I chosen too. You might think it has a bit of an abrupt ending, and this is deliberate in this case. I had to bring it to an end, otherwise it would have quickly exceeded an easily readable size. I do try to limit the length of my individual posts on this blog. Also, if you really like this kind of story, may I recommend Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel. While I am not a huge fan of the later books in the series, I highly recommend Clan of the Cave Bear for a good all around neanderthal/human story.

You also might have noticed that this one departed from the general format I have used for the previous stories. I really considering making it another story of a boy sitting around a fire with an old woman. But it some ways, I felt that that format would be a little too much “once upon a time” in feeling. I choose this one because this is not a story of some far off time before humans or any kind of people to witness it. I actually share part of my genetic code with some of the fossils that were found in that cave. My ancestors were actually there, actually experienced what it was like in those days. And so I choose to make this a much more “in the moment” kind of story.

Who knows, maybe I am just conjuring up buried ancestral memories from some young hunter buried deep in my genetic code?

Maybe not.

All the same, I hoped you enjoyed this one, and hope you join me in the next chapter of this series as we explore another site and another of my distant ancestors.

As always, thanks for reading!

Sources and references;

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel.

I also referenced many of the sources from part A of this chapter for inspiration.


Finnish Folklore Atlas Part 6

The first whiffs of spring are in the air. The snow is melting at a rapid rate, and I have felt a lift in my mood I have not felt all winter. Over the weekend I went on a five mile hike. It certainly helped to lift the weight I have been feeling. It was refreshing, cleansing.

As we continue to work our way through the Finnish Folklore Atlas, Sarmela introduces us to an curious overlap of the shaman and narration. In his own words;

” The soul was also an instrument of narration, a monitor to the invisible. The shaman described his journeys through the eyes of his soul or his soul characters; this made the description plausible and credible. Among Palearctic peoples, evidently also in early Finland, the shamanistic rite – the soul journey – was often performed as a dramatic play, with the shaman or his assistant recounting in song the course of the journey, the difficulties, dangers and battles the shaman’s soul had encountered.”

In no small way, shamanism is also a method for narration. In many stories, the shaman is often a singer, chanter, or some other type of story teller. The story is told through a variety of characters, spirits and those the shaman meets along his (or her) journey. The shaman as well, will take on many different roles, and the story will unfold through the narrative.

A lot of this links back into things I have said in other places, such as here and here. The quote by Geertz especially comes in mind, because we are suspended in webs of meaning, webs we ourselves have created. That is one role of the shaman, to weave people together through narrative. And by people, I mean more than just humans. The shaman connects people with spirits of the land, the ancestors, and the gods. The shaman crafts stories in which everyone is a character, and from that emerges a community. Everyone takes part in the creation of a communal narratives, which then serves to shape experience in a dynamic, and adaptive way.

“The shaman’s dress, his role costume, mostly symbolized the animals in whose habitus he was believed to go about. Entering a state of trance, the fast tempo of drumming or the rite technique were not so much designed to affect the forces on the other side, but the audience. The shaman also manipulated his listeners, endeavored to whisk them away with him to the stage of the souls, and to strengthen the concepts held by the community on the constantly regenerating natural order, the world on the other side, and the causal relationships of the environment.”

Everything about the shaman and his performance served to reinforce the narrative, as well as the cosmology in which the narrative took place. This was not a one sided narrative, but one in which the audience was a part. The bonds of the society were strengthened, and the community brought together in shared stories.

When I think about the modern pagan communities, I can see a fair amount of this going on. People are reconnecting, rebuilding old bridges that were left to decay long ago. All sorts of beings are being reshaped into a meaningful web, spirits, ancestors, gods, and those of us among the living.

This reminds me of the article over at the Wild Hunt, that asked if pagan bloggers shape pagan culture. As a blogger, obviously I am invested in this question. Be that as it may, I think we are threads in that web of meaning. We are part of that web, building and shaping the meaning and narratives that surround us all. Whether or not these narratives all agree, we are part of the process.

And that is certainly worth pondering.

Sources;

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela. Pg 310

http://wildhunt.org/2015/02/culture-and-community-do-pagan-bloggers-help-to-shape-pagan-culture.html


Skaði Part 2

It is important to note, that since about the 1970’s (give or take), the Northern tradition has been reinvigorated and revived into modern times. It is once again a living tradition, dynamic, adaptive, and changing with each new adherent. As such, from the foundations in the ancient literature, with additions from fields such as anthropology and history, has been growing new branches. As such, in some ways, the old stories are changing. Through things like personal insight and interpretation, new details and information are being added to the old stories. The internet, especially, is awash with new(er) information concerning old deities.

This section focuses on modern interpretations of the ancient material. Let’s start with the Northern Paganism shrine. The bulk of it just recounts the story of Njord and Skadi, and the eventual divorce. But here is a new bit not accounted in the sources; (My comments are in parenthesis)

“It seems that shortly after this (the divorce), she had an ill-fated affair with Loki. Some sources (which ones?) claim that Odin sent Loki to her in order to cement her bonds with Asgard; others merely suggest that the opportunistic Loki saw a chance to take advantage of the depressed Skadi. Apparently she had fallen into sadness, and Loki decided to cheer her up by making a spectacle of himself.” The goat story concerning Loki’s testicles is recounted here. I have omitted it. Moving on.

“At any rate, she seems to have taken him more seriously than he took her, for they had an affair that did not last, and it filled her with a rage against him so bitter that when he was caught and bound after Baldur’s death, Skadi placed a poisonous serpent over his head, to drip venom onto him until he was released.”

Now, I will be the first to admit that the sources allow for a lot of interpretation. So does personal insight, journey work, working with deity, what have you. I by no means wish to discount these things. There is definitely the indication in the Lokasenaa that the two might have had an affair. However, Loki also makes the same accusations of the other goddesses there. Not to say some of those are without truth, but it is a far stretch from “sometimes true” to “always true.”

I for one, am not a big fan of this interpretation, and that is primarily based on the assumptions it makes. First, it assumes Loki was telling the truth. Gods can and do lie. This was one thing I learned when I first started in spirit work. The are not “all good”, spirits (gods included) can and do lie. Second, it assumes she was really upset over her divorce with Njord. On the contrary, the information we do have seems to indicate she was unhappier with him. Plus, it could be argued that she was “tricked” into marrying him in the first place. Lastly, and this is the one that really gets me, that she would need a bad rebound screw to have a reason to dislike Loki. Let me see, he admittedly had a hand in the death of her father, something she was upset enough over to march to Asgard and demand compensation for. You could add to this that Loki simply accused her of sleeping with him, with everyone else as a witness. If you want to humiliate/dishonor a woman publicly, accuse her of an affair, especially if her husband is present. Personally, I think she has more than enough reason to dislike him without a bad affair.

Here is a selection from Diana Paxson, along the same lines;

“Skadhi is stronger than any civilized being, fully capable of challenging the gods. Even though she is persuaded to forgo her vengeance for the death of her father, she does not forget. When Loki makes the mistake of taunting her with his part in the killing, she renews her vow and after he finally exhausts the patience of all the gods and is captured and bound, she is the one who ties the serpent above him to drip venom onto his face.” – Diana Paxson

Another common association with Skaði in modern contexts is the wolf, especially the white wolf. Images on the internet abound with her paired with wolves, and this is also how she sometimes appears to me. Given my own proclivities, this is certainly one of the associations I can get behind. Besides, she is even associated with wolves in the ancient Eddas. Njord could not stand the sound of wolves in Thrymheim, being the most notable.

Here us a bit from Elfwood.com; “After a while, Skadi realized that she and Niord could never be happy with each other, so she left. When she was out hunting with her wolves one day, she ran into Ulle, the Aesir god of Winter, Archery and Skiers. They fell in love and were soon married.” (Elfwood.com)

This also serves as a good bridge into the next bit of contemporary lore concerning Skadi. The connection with Ullr. Here is a selection from pantheon.org, sanctioning the same line of thought.

“The marriage between Njord and Skadi was not a happy one. She wanted to live where her father had lived, in Thrymheim in the mountains, and Njord wanted to live in Noatun, his palace by the sea. So they agreed to spend the first nine days in the mountains and the following nine days by the sea. This arrangement did not work out very well, and they separated. Eventually, Skadi left Njord for the god Ull.” (Pantheon.org)

Now, this little addition in the modern lore seems to me to be a logical choice. Its adds an interesting epilogue to her cycle of stories. “And then they hunted happily ever after”, if you prefer the romance. Yet, it also creates an odd kind of contradiction when considered with the information from the Heimskringla. Now, I’ve already noted on the problems with the Heimskringla.

But here is my question, did Skadi have a bunch of sons with Odin and then go off with Ullr? Or did she leave Ullr after a time to go have sons with Odin? Just a thought.

Moving on.

I think that is where I am going to leave this post for the time being. There is a lot more to explore here, so there will probably be more posts in this series going forward.

As always, I am open for questions!

Sources/References;

http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/skadi/welcome.html
http://www.elfwood.com/~aolson/Skadi-the-Norse-Goddess-of-the-Hunt-and-Scandinavian-Winter.2531678.html
http://www.hrafnar.org/articles/dpaxson/asynjur/skadi/
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/s/skadi.html
http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/skadi/writing/working-with-skadi.html
http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/skadi/gifts.html