Growing up in the 1970’s in a very small out of the way city in a very small out of the way country, I had no idea what a heathen was other than what was espoused from the mouth of our local priest in the pulpit each Sunday – someone with horns, covered in warts who smelt and was altogether generally foul. To a young child with a vivid imagination, images would be conjured up every Sunday night of hideous creatures who would devour me if I stopped believing in the White Christ.
When I turned 12, I had more of those vivid dreams, only this time I was the ‘hideous creature’, fighting, sword in hand in a very bloody battle covered in someone else’s blood and smashing my way through faceless, nameless humans. Instead of waking in tears, shaking and feeling ill, I awoke feeling empowered, my heart was racing and all I wanted to do was run – away from all the people trying to tell me how I was supposed to live my life. That one dream – repeated many times in the months that followed, instilled in me a purpose for my life – however “out of century” it appeared at that time. That purpose was freedom, to live my life the way that I wanted to live it – and not to bow and curtail to societies norms. What that dream also did for me was gave me a reason to question everything – why are the governments killing our oceans and forests? Why is Christ’s life almost a parallel to that of Buddha?
It also gave me an inner strength to deal with my issues head on. In my teenage years we didn’t have anything resembling gaming where it was possible to project myself into an avatar. The warrior within me was tamed by learning and dealing with life’s issues using what little knowledge I had. By keeping quiet, listening and watching, I learnt much about the way the world works and I drew on that knowledge and the strength it gave me in future situations.
I did not know the Lore then but I know the Lore know and I know that the strength I gained helped me define my experiences as opposed to allowing those experiences to define me. Whilst reading through the Eddas, I am drawn to Odin’s quest for knowledge even when he knows the fate of himself and the Gods at Ragnarok. Even with this kenning, he still searches for more knowledge. Through his experiences at Mimir’s Well and the nine days where he sacrificed himself to himself, his strength grows as he chooses to define these experiences and not allow them to define him. He uses the lessons learned to grow and to teach. By using Odin’s experiences and lessons, I try each day to embrace those situations I face without cowering to them or trying to escape them. I face my fears
With this inner strength also comes sacrifice. If we want real rewards we must be willing to sacrifice something in return. The Lore explains this to us – Thor sacrificed a part of his pride when he went after his hammer; Tyr sacrificed his hand as he sought security; Odin sacrificed his eye in his quest for wisdom. These are lessons we take into our lives daily – we have a given amount of time here as determined by the Norns, it is our responsibility to use it wisely.
We all have tales to tell, there is not one of us here who does not. Our lives are made richer through our questioning and seeking the knowledge, as well as by embracing our experiences – whether joyful, sorrowful or hard – and drawing strength from the outcome. What sets us apart is that we all have the inner strength as taught to us by our Gods and Goddesses, we do not blindly follow the ‘lessons’ from a book.