Midsummer is certainly one of my favorite holidays of the Ásatrú calendar. The different is Midwinter. A minimum of in our personal celebrations right here in Chicago, the two stability points of the yr each give attention to family, buddies, gratitude, hope, and focus.
At Midwinter, we flip to Odin, the wanderer who slips between the worlds and who evokes us with creativity. He’s probably the most applicable figure to preside over the darkish time of the yr, when Midwestern winds howl outdoors and we have fun life by feasting indoors and buying and selling tales across the table.
At Midsummer, we turn to Thor, the thunderer who lives life loud and proud as he challenges monsters, takes youngsters on adventures, and enjoys as a lot food and drinks as could be found. Once we rejoice outdoors in the sun and heat, once we drink horns of beer beneath the green leaves of the oak tree in its full glory, we flip to the fantastic son of the giving Earth.
In an age of teachers casting the gods
as power-mad oppressors of the freedom-loving giants and trendy retellers portraying the Æsir as incomprehensible shadows of demise opposed by the “alluring character” and “governing intelligence” of Loki, what does it imply to venerate the hammer-wielding, giant-smiting god of the Previous Method? How does the figure of Thor fit into a progressive Heathen follow?
A logo of group
For these of us who see the Norse myths as symbolic stories expressing the values of the previous peoples that produced them (even when there was originally no clear distinction of “religion” as separate from life lived), Thor’s hammer could be seen not merely as a weapon of struggle but as a logo of group.
Within the palms of the god and of practitioners, the hammer was used to bless newborns, brides, and the lifeless – to hallow members of the group within the major life occasions locally. As the god of the myths makes use of the hammer to guard the human world from the incursions of the threatening giants, archaeological finds present historic heathens calling upon Thor to make use of his hammer and shield them from hurt.
The hammer as a logo of blessing and protection merges into the conceptual locus across the god himself, a god who could be seen as a constructive embodiment of what we must all do for the betterment of the communities to which we belong.
I subscribe to the thought of the expanding innangarð, of the inside world surrounded by ever-widening rings that embrace an increasingly inclusive concept of group. From focusing on the wellness of the self (what Me Phi Me way back referred to as a “fraternity of one”), to engaged on wholesome family relationships, to constructing an area Ásatrú group, to functioning as a welcoming member of a various city, to collaborating in the push for progressive politics at the national degree, to partaking in a worldwide dialogue on local weather change, the ideas of innagarð and group might be as small or giant as the second calls for.
In this context, it is sensible to venerate Thor as the god of the group, nevertheless the group is defined. Because the god who brings down the waters of the sky, he brings the refreshing rain that falls in your lonely head, the same present that feeds the crops in America’s heartland and cools the refugees who depart their violence-wracked houses to seek higher lives distant. Thor’s hammer illuminates the sky over all of us alike.
Inspiration and action
The hammer that protects the human group in the myths is identical hammer that beats within the heart of the Heathen who stands up towards hate and injustice. At each degree, from the private to the political (which aren’t essentially at all totally different), we will look as much as Thor as a model of proper action within the interests of all. This modeling is at the center of how we have fun Midsummer around these elements.
Throughout our ritual of blót with Thor’s Oak Kindred, I thank the thunderer for uplifting us to face up to the World Serpent of prejudice and bigotry, even when standing up puts us in peril – as the god puts himself in peril by challenging the monsters who threaten the denizens of Midgard. I thank him for setting our hammer-hearts beating with willpower to do proper, to withstand the slide to the far right into which the nation and the Heathen group appear to continually be pulled, to seek out the courage to struggle hate even when it signifies that hate focuses its baleful glare on us.
Then I ask Thor to proceed to inspire and strengthen us before offering beer from the horn at the roots of our oak tree, and we together converse our hails to the god because the reciprocal gifting cycle between deity and devotees continues. Our focus can also be on the cycle of inspiration and motion: the god evokes motion, we honor him for doing so, and we rededicate ourselves to further motion.
Inspiration can take many varieties. For youngsters, listening to the tales of Thor bravely standing as much as giants and monsters can encourage them to be courageous in the face of the scary features of their young lives. For adults, listening to others converse at blót can encourage them to talk out themselves and to really feel a sense of communal help. For all, the targeted experience of standing around the tree through the ritual can reinforce inner feelings of dedication to the deity, the tradition, and their own commitment to proper motion.
Thor in the cultural second
How does the god with the goats fit into this age of violence and battle by which we reside? When white cops are gunning down black youngsters, when hate crimes towards trans individuals are within the national news, when anti-Semitism is on the rise, when the Air Drive is briefing personnel on the actual menace of violence by males who determine as “involuntary celibates,” does it make sense to have fun a god greatest recognized for smashing people with a hammer?
To start with, historic myths are usually not news studies. Individuals consider as they do, however I personally don’t subscribe to the concept the Norse myths are true representations of historical occasions. That means lies literalism, fundamentalism, and the Noah’s ark theme park. I consider that mythology can encode worldviews from earlier occasions, that there are deeper meanings beneath the surface degree of plot. Yes, the tales are exciting and could be enjoyed as nice tales of adventure, however they may also be mirrored on for ethical and religious steerage.
The undeniable fact that the myths embrace so many episodes of Thor smashing heads doesn’t mean that we should always see him as a god of killing or that we should always honor him by murdering everybody outdoors our neighborhood. To take action can be to privilege plot over purport, to sanction surface over spirituality. The divide between literal and symbolic readings of spiritual texts is an historic one which cuts throughout world traditions, and we each make our own decisions relating to which aspect of the previous debate we again.
Second, we do not stay in historic occasions. We aren’t Germanic tribesmen searching the aurochs beneath the forest cover. We aren’t Vikings throwing clergymen overboard to placate Thor. A minimum of round here, we’re trendy individuals working trendy jobs and dwelling trendy lives with trendy households in trendy communities. We don’t fake that we will erase centuries of human historical past and progress – are we nonetheless allowed to say that word? – and someway reprogram our brains in order that we see things purely from the finally unknowable perspective of some unrecorded northern European wanderer of the Migration Age. We embrace the constructive parts of dwelling in right now’s America and do our greatest to push again towards the adverse ones.
Of all of the types of literature, mythology (and particularly mythology informed as poetry) is probably the most mutable, most malleable, and most capable of transfer with the changing moods of Midgard. J.R.R. Tolkien long ago attacked allegory and endorsed applicability, and I consider his level is indeed applicable here. Somewhat than insist there’s one, holy, Heathen, and unchanging which means embedded in each fantasy, we will settle for that there are a mess of attainable readings that may be pulled from the narrative and applied to our trendy lives.
I do consider that tales of Thor may be read in a approach that has which means for us at the moment. The folkish Ásatrúar and the universalist Heathen can have radically totally different readings, as can the Odinist and the Lokean, the reconstructionist and the spiritualist. Does this mean that something goes and all opinions have equal weight? Absolutely not. One particular studying might have profound which means for a person or a group, but that doesn’t at all mean that anybody aside from that particular person and that group have to provide any credence in any respect to that interpretation. Indeed, we will and will actively oppose readings that use historic texts to justify at the moment’s hate and violence.
No matter weight a given studying has inside a specific innangarð, every part is up for grabs because the circle expands and the appliance of the myth to trendy life reaches a wider audience on the earth. Inevitably, the interpretation enters the realm of battling theologies and, most of the time, web flame wars. Simply because some group over there believes that Odin hates refugees or Loki is a god of affection doesn’t mean that anyone else has to agree. The plurality of Heathenries means that there is, by definition, no universal Heathen dogma and there may be no worldwide blasphemy. We will argue strongly for our personal perspectives, and we should always argue towards people who promote prejudice, but I personally gained’t climb aboard any ship that flies the flag of universal fact.
To me, Thor represents the love between household and buddies, the gratitude for inspiration to do right, the hope that our overlapping communities can move forward together, and the concentrate on a future that’s higher than yesterday.
Thor evokes me to work on bettering myself in all of the sides of my life, to attempt to all the time be a very good father and husband and son, to help those who take part in our local Ásatrú group, to interact with all of the members of our incredibly numerous metropolis, to speak out towards the atrocities perpetrated by our authorities in our identify, and to assume globally whereas appearing regionally.
The tales of Thor’s mythic battles with giants and monsters inspire me to stay decided in the struggle towards hate, including the racism in Ásatrú and Heathenry that both boldly shouts its identify from the rooftops or hides its darkish mild underneath the guise of declared inclusiveness. Thor’s great enmity in the direction of the World Serpent evokes me to stay aware of the jealous monster that surrounds the world at the moment, whether or not it takes the form of anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny, or another such horror.
Thor means far more to me than this, but these are a number of the issues I think about once I collect with family and associates at Midsummer to look back on the past yr, to have fun the second collectively, and to look ahead to the longer term.