Monday, February 1, 2010

Embracing the Wódnes, Soul-ful Musings, Folkways and Fighting the Lyme

Sickness is never an easy thing to accept, especially when it looks like it won't be a quick fix and might leave you with lasting issues that could ultimately make you a burden on your friends and loved ones. Goodness knows I don't want that, I've always been so independent, the wild woman that would have probably never settled down had it not been for meeting a man that I feel such a connection with, that life without him is now not only unthinkable but unimaginable.

A couple of weeks ago, I was officially diagnosed with Lyme disease and it looks like I've had it for a while. By my calculations, my lovely man first noticed the mark on the 27th of September. I really wouldn't normally remember were it not in the same week as a particularly traumatic medical appointment. It was at my friend's house when we were getting dressed one morning that he noticed it and at the time, I just thought it was a bruise - after all, I had walked into a dresser the previous day in a furniture showroom, hadn't I? But over time, it began to spread and spread and then my breathing became difficult and I spent a lot of time with my right hip in pain. Then my right elbow, then my right shoulder and right knee. I finished my first course of treatment last week but need to go back for more but I'm not going to just be one of those folks that lets the disease take everything away from them. I've started a program of 'FUCK THE LYME'. The plan is simple, do stuff. Exercise, go to the gym, do yoga, just get off the sofa and get one over on the disease that would keep you there! I will make roses from this shit, just watch me!

As for the more mental/spiritual aspect of Lyme that I was worrying about, I'm going to embrace it. I don't know that the things I see and hear aren't hallucinations caused by possible late stage disease but who cares if they are! If it becomes distressing then I might reconsider my position but if it doesn't then what is the harm?

Incidentally enough, there is a word in Old English - 'Wodnes' and it means 'madness' or 'frenzy', it's also the possessive form of the name 'Woden'. For example, take the original version of the word 'Wednesday', it was 'Wodnesdaeg', literally 'Woden's day'. Woden is a god of truth, or at least searching for the truth and in many cultures the link between a form of madness and then enlightenment is unquestionable. Who knows, through embracing any Lymey Wodnes, maybe I'll learn something of use? Or maybe I'll just go crazy but at least it'll be interesting.

So in light of this, I'd like to share my potential Lymey brain wank from last night with you. Part of my FTL program is meditation and sometimes chanting motivational affirmations with Buddhist prayer beads to try and brainwash myself into doing everything I want to do. Last night I ended up talking to my dead Grandmother again. I haven't done this for a couple of years and it was great, very interesting. I've had a non-dualist standpoint for a while now but now I'm not so sure. I think there's a degree of choice involved in where we go when we die. If we want to be non-dualist, we will be. If we want to go somewhere else or think we have to spend eternity in some big, burning pit then that's also what will happen. It's not reconstructionist but it's what I'm coming to believe.

Which brings me to the matter of belief and folkways.

There's been talk of the existence of some kind of 'over-arching Northern European folkway', you may be wondering what this is - I know I was. Basically, it's the idea that "our Northern European ancestors shared a common over-arching world view, common language root, common gods, a common focus on ancestors and land spirits, and other commonalities" and that that is our link or something to the ancestors. We should follow those older ways to honour the ancestors.

This concept is problematic for me in a few ways. First is my definition of who I consider to be 'my' folk. For me, my folk are people in my community that have proven themselves to be valuable and trustworthy members of our community and nothing to do with their ethnic origins. Actions and deeds, not amount of melanin. Also just a quick note on the word 'folk'. I come from a place where it's used in common, everyday parlance with no racist overtones. It just means people - any people. People in a different country might be called 't'folk frum o'er thee'r' (the people from over there, meaning the sea).

Secondly, the biggest issue I have with the 'folkway' thing, is that this whole idea of an overarching folkway for a group of peoples as diverse as those of Northern Europe confuses the hell out of me. If there is just one big over-arching folkway with the Gods, ancestors and vaettir then what would it be? We're all kind of mixed in Northern Europe and you have all these different layers of different folk that intermarried and shared ideas with each other. For starters in England, there would be the Celtic gods and then the Romano-British gods, then the Roman gods and genus loci that are still knocking around, then there are the sets of gods that came with the various tribes collectively known as Anglo-Saxons and then there are the gods that came with the Vikings (but only really predominantly in the Northern areas). Now we're still discovering gods and goddesses from the Celtic and Romano-British period - we really have no idea how many there were but I once read a study that said that in Europe, evidence of more than 400 Celtic deities had been found to date. Just from the gods and beings that I know from my local area and upbringing (because it really is surprising how much has survived and just been absorbed into the church and local lore and customs) what I would consider to be my folkway would probably be very different to what others would consider theirs to be. My husband, an American Heathen and I see this all the time. I have different traditions that I follow and have followed for years that people from my area have followed before me. That to me is my folkway. That is the heritage of my folk passed down to me and kept alive by following all the different traditions. Sometimes I have to adapt those traditions because they're linked to a place in my local area but they are still kept.

So do I believe in an 'over-arching Northern European folkway'? No, I haven't a clue what that would be in any kind of real terms. However I do think that there is a folkway, a kind of 'universal language' of folkways that is the product of a few Northern European folkways that tends to be used by US Heathens. Kind of like how a bastardised form of wicca became the kind of universal format for a lot of Pagans and 'ecumenical' Pagan gatherings. Not saying this newer folkway is wrong or lesser, just that I think it's a product of, rather than an expression of some common thing.

Ok, I'm going to stop there. When I start using the word 'thing' when I *know* there's a perfectly good word for that concept and that normally I would know it, that is a signal to go to bed.


Tempest said...

I'm sorry to hear you have Lyme Disease; but I think it's really brave of you to choose to see in it possibilities, rather than automatic deniers.

I'm also very interested in your thoughts and experiences with Heathenry, and look forward to reading more of your blog as time permits. I am an American Heathen, my wife is a European Heathen, also living in Germany. Being bipolar, it could also be said that I have been touched by Odin's fire. I have also taught English in Germany. Any of this sounding vaguely familiar?

Birka said...

Dear Tempest,

Thank you for the kind words. Fortunately since the last course of treatment I haven't had any symptoms so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. :) As for being brave - nah not at all.

Might I ask whereabouts in Germany you're at? Is your wife German? I'm English but my husband is an Army boy and we're stationed in Germany.

I have to admit, a lot of your stuff does sound more than vaguely familiar.

Tempest said...

That's fortunate news, indeed - here's to hoping you stay symptom-free, then! :-)

As for where my wife and I live, we live in Bremerhaven. My wife is German, having ironically spent much of her life in a town called Heide (which means 'Heath' in German). But she also lived a few years in the US, which is where we met. I'm originally from West Texas; but I've lived all over the place, including southern Germany (Ramstein AFB - my father was Army). How long have y'all been in Germany? Do you like it here?

Birka said...

Ahh Bremerhaven, you're quite far North then.

Just as ironic - my surname is Heath :P.

I'm coming up for 2 years in Germany this June. I came over from Korea to meet up with my then-fiance and spend as much time with him as I could before he went to Iraq - we married 4 weeks before he shipped - lol typical army story right there. I stayed, got a job, and just kept myself busy until he came back :). As for if we like it - we love it! I wish my husband spoke more German so it wasn't just me having to take care of stuff but it's understandable. Not many German speakers in Iraq... but we both think Germany's awesome and can't wait until we get a new car so we can continue our explorations of this beautiful country.

Tempest said...

I'm glad y'all like it here in Germany :-) And a new car is definitely something to look forward to - my wife and I don't have a car, and we're not sure when we're going to get one. But a great thing about Germany is public transportation actually works.

Your story of moving to Germany does sound like a typical Army story! My mother didn't marry my father until after he came back from Vietnam ... but they were engaged beforehand. So only half-typical there ;-)

Did you already speak German before you moved here, or did you pick it up as you lived here? I spoke some German before moving here, which made it a little easier for me than some people have it. I'm sure your husband will pick up the language pretty quickly :-)