Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Havamal Snippets 138: Hanging on World Tree

This verse moves towards mystical wisdom and away from practical wisdom that has characterised the Havamal so far.
I'm no expert on mystical systems, and cannot claim to have had any experiences (either drug induced, prayer induced, or isolation tank induced), so I cannot really provide you with any mystical insight into the verse.  (Mysticism, as I understand it, is a kind of emotionally-experienced wisdom, in constradistinction to thoughtful-emotionless wisdom, the latter is evident in academia).   The only point that I can make with any confidence is that the tree mentioned in the verse is Yggdrasil, which is the World Tree, and represents the totality of existence.  (Think of the tree as something like a universal fractal pattern)..  When Odin hangs himself on it, he is really fusing with it.  Joining with the tree and thus attataining a kind of 'one-ness' with it.  This 'one-ness' is very much like when Buddha sits under the Boddhi tree (which is also a symbol of the world tree) and gains enlightenment.  These two characters, Odin and Buddha, represent the two different paths that one can use to gain enlightenment (or knowledge, to a lesser or greater degree) of world tree (or the cosmos if you like):
- The active path, which is full of action, tends towards an active body & inert mind, and also suffers hostility from others.  This is Odin's path or tree.
- The passive path, which is full of peace, tends towards an active mind & inert body, and also experiences gentleness from others.  This is Buddhas path or tree.

Both paths, trees, are viable options to gaining understanding of the world and things in it (even if it's understanding of something small and seemingly inconsequential).  It's up to each man to decide which path he chooses to gain that knowledge.

Veit ek at ek hekk
vindga meiði á
nætr allar níu
geiri undaðr
ok gefinn Óðni
sjálfr sjálfum mér
á þeim meiði
er manngi veit
hvers hann af rótum renn 
I know that I hung
upon a windy tree
for nine whole nights,
wounded with a spear
and given to Othinn,
myself to myself for me;
on that tree
I knew nothing
of what kind of roots it came from.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 22 - Rousing Feelings

This song is about the rousing feelings, the inner-fire, that a father gives to his son by BEING a positive example himself. By having a ‘sparkle’ in his eye and a ‘warm heart’ does he give encouragement to his son.

Their are three characters in this song from the Norse Pantheon (including one who you all know): Thor, Magni (one of Thor’s sons), and Nidhoggr (the most wicked serpent who lives at the bottom of The World Tree, Yggdrasil).

In this song, Magni feelings are roused by looking into the face of his father as Magni battles with the evil serpent (Nidhoggr) who dwells at the bottom-most of The World Tree. Nidhoggr desires to end the world, this world, your world, my world, because he is evil and hates goodness, and it is Magni (which translates as ‘Great’, like in the word ‘magnificent’) who will destroy Nidhoggr with his mighty hammer.

It’s a curious thing: that on this occasion evil trickery is ‘not’ destroyed by a mighty brain, but is instead destroyed by a mighty arm. It’s reminiscent of Alexander the Great solving the puzzle of the Gordian Knot by using a strong arm wielding his sword. If you find yourself confonted by the forked silver-tongue of a woman, politician or whoever, and feel like they are over-whelming you with lies then you might consider using the Magni approach: physical prowess, be it prowess in your arms or in your prowess in your voice.

Play the song in the music video above and sing along with the alternative lyrics given below.

# Rousing Feelings #Well Nidhoggrs forked tongue,
Makes my heart hurt.
And Nidhoggrs forked tongue,
Makes my heart, makes my heart hurt.

The sparkle in Thor's eyes,
Keeps me alive.
And the sparkle in Thor's eyes,
Keeps me alive, keeps a me alive.

And Nidhoggr wants me down.
Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr yeah,
Nidhoggr wants me down.

Nidhoggr's forked tongue,
Makes my heart hurt.
And Nidhoggr's forked tongue,
Makes my heart, makes my heart hurt.


The fire in Thor's heart,
Keeps me alive.
And the fire in Thor's heart,
Keeps me alive.
And still in Thor I find,
Rousing feelings.
And still in Thor I find,
Rousing feelings.

And Nidhoggr.
And Nidhoggr wants me down.
And Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr.
Nidhoggr wants me down.
And Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr.
Nidhoggr wants me down.
And Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr.
Nidhoggr wants me down.



And Nidhoggr.
And Nidhoggr wants me down.
Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr wants me down.
Yeah Nidhoggr wants me down.
And Nidhoggr.
Yeah Nidhoggr wants me down.
And Nidhoggr and Nidhoggr wants me down.
Nidhoggr wants me down.

(Rousing feelings)
(Rousing feelings)

[End of Lyrics]

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Havamal Snippets 137: A window into the Viking pharmacy

This verse deals with practical advice that Vikings used for physiological and psychological maladies.  (If you have any stomach complaints then please speak to a respectable qualified professional first.  The Havamal shouldn't be your first port of call for medical advice!)

One of the lines in the verse refers to a belly that is over-filled with acidic beer should be treated with alkali soil.  This makes sense when you remember that in the tropical rain forests, both humans and animals that live on a diet of acidic plants quite often eat mud to counteract the toxic effects of the plants.  People living in industrialised countries suffering from stomach acid also consume soil but soil in a bottle, that has been carefully prepared by a chemist, e.g. milk of magnesia.

Ráðumk þér Loddfáfnir
en þú ráð nemir
njóta mundu ef þú nemr
þér munu góð ef þú getr
hvars þú öl drekkr
kjós þú þér jarðar megin
því at jörð tekr við ölðri
en eldr við sóttum
eik við abbindi
ax við fjölkynngi
höll við hýrógi
heiptum skal mána kveðja
beiti við bitsóttum
en við bölvi rúnar
fold skal við flóð taka       
I advise you, Loddfafnir,
to take advice;
you would benefit, it you took it,
good will come to you, if you accept it:
when you drink ale,
choose for yourself the might of the earth,
because earth fights against beer,
and fire against sickness,
oak against constipation,
an ear of corn against sorcery,
the hall-tree against domestic strife,
-- one must invoke the moon against wrathful deeds --
alum against bite-sickness
and runes against misfortune;
the earth must contend against the sea.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Men of Yore: Thomas Wakley

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Thomas Wakley

Thomas Wakley, the youngest of Henry Wakley's eleven children, was born in Membury, Devon, on 11th July, 1795. Henry Wakley was a country squire who bred racehorses. After being educated at the local grammar school, he left at the age of sixteen, to be apprenticed as an apothecary in Taunton. Thomas enjoyed the work and decided to become a surgeon. After training at Guy's Hospital, London, Wakley qualified in 1817.
Wakley established himself as a doctor in Argyll Street, one of the most expensive areas in London and in February 1820 married the daughter of a wealthy iron merchant. Six months later the Wakley's house was destroyed by fire. Wakley's claim for insurance was refused as the fire had been started deliberately. Thomas Wakley claimed that the fire had been an attempt to murder him. While waiting for the insurance company to pay him for his losses, Wakley became a doctor in a less prosperous part of London.
In 1821 Wakley met the radical journalist William Cobbett, who published the weekly newspaper Political Register. Wakley told Cobbett about how the need to reform in the medical profession. Cobbett suggested that Wakley should publish a journal that could be used to campaign for these reforms.
Wakley liked the idea and in October 1823 began publishing The Lancet. In the journal Wakley criticised the autocratic powers of the council that ran the Royal College of Surgeons. He also campaigned for a united profession of apothecaries, physicians and surgeons and a new system of medical qualifications to help improve standards in the medical profession.
In 1828 Thomas Wakley became involved in the campaign for parliamentary reform. This brought Wakley into contact with other political reformers in London and in 1832 he was asked to become the Radical candidate for Finsbury. With 330.000 potential voters, this new constituency was one of the largest in Britain. With the support of his two closest political friends, Joseph Hume and William Cobbett, Wakley campaigned for an extension of the vote, the removal of property qualifications for parliamentary candidates, the repeal of the Corn Laws, the abolition of slavery and the suspension of the Newspaper Stamp Act. Wakley was defeated in 1832 but he won when he tried again in January 1835.
Thomas Wakley spent the next seventeen years in the House of Commons. Thomas Wakley's maiden speech was an attack on the decision to convict the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Wakley was the main spokesman for the campaign to have the men reprieved and when their freedom was celebrated in 1838 by a vast procession through London, Wakley was the guest of honour, in recognition of the fact that he had done more than any other person in Britain to secure their pardon.
Thomas Wakley was also one of the main opponents of the stamp duty on newspapers. As part of the campaign, Wakley published six issues in 1836 of an unstamped newspaper called A Voice from the Commons. Wakley was also a passionate opponent of the 1834 Poor Law and in 1845 helped to expose the Andover Workhouse scandal.
Wakley remained a strong supporter of parliamentary reform and was one of the few members of the House of Commons who defended the activities of the Chartists. However, Wakley did not agree with all the six points of the Charter. Although he wanted an extension of the franchise, he never publicly argued for universal suffrage. Wakley also had doubts about the wisdom of annual parliaments arguing that he would prefer a triennial system of elections.
As a former doctor Wakley took a particular interest in medical reform. He was mainly responsible for the setting up of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843 and the General Council of Medical Education and Registration in 1858. His long campaign against the adulteration of food and drink resulted in the passing of the Food and Drugs Act in 1860. Wakley died on 16th May, 1862, and like many other Radicals of the period, was buried at Kensall Green Cemetery. 
Quite often we place too much trust in other people, other people who like to call themselves experts.  Experts in medicine, experts in economics, experts in metaphysics, experts in fitness.  Experts who are vocal in pointing out how correct they are and how incorrect the proverbial unwashed masses are.  When these types of experts end up gaining a large amount of prestige and power in society they cause the masses to suffer.  This was the case during the Victorian era when the priesthood of the doctors was prominent in Britain.  Doctors could do what they want and charge what they want and not be held accountable for their actions.  Their theories and beliefs went unchallenged, and this caused much suffering for the masses.  Thomas Wakley was one man who challenged the priesthood of the doctors, who challenged the status quo and demanded that doctors prove that they were the good doctors that they claimed to be.

His drive to improve standards and to tear down the edifice of superiority worked.  He established the Lancet medical journal which was like a Promethean publication of the era, allowing men to publish their own ideas and importantly allow them to be scrutinised, critiqued, by others in order to allow them to be purged of errors.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Havamal Snippets 136: Make sure your door has a good lock

This stanza is a continuation of the previous stanza 135 (which stresses the importance of treating guests well) because it highlights that in addition to treating guests well, hosts should also have a good & securable door (in Viking times this meant a beam across the door, in modern times this means a Yale lock) which the home-owner can use to keep out unwanted or malevolent people.

Rammt er þat tré
er ríða skal
öllum at upploki
baug þú gef
eða þat biðja mun
þér læs hvers á liðu
Powerful is that beam
that must move from side to side
to open for all;
give a ring,
or it will call down
every evil on your limbs