Friday, February 22, 2013


For those of you that know me in meatspace, haelu is something I talk about a lot. Seeing as it's a concept that permeates my worldview, this is only to be expected. For me, the concept that physical health is tied to qualities that are traditionally thought of as being 'spiritual' (such as 'holiness', 'wholeness', and 'luck'), is powerful.

No, scratch that, it's revolutionary.

Now I'm not going to bother going into the evidence for the term 'haelu', I already did that here. Today I want to discuss the reservations that I've seen when it comes to haelu and just why it's such a revolutionary term in terms of worldview.

If you grew up in the West, unless you have been living in a hole in the ground and never interacted with anything but wolves, you grew up influenced by Judeo-Christian culture. At this point, I don't want to hear any of that 'Oh but I grew up Pagan' or 'My family isn't really religious so you're wrong!' rubbish. Because it is rubbish. Judeo-Christian worldview permeates *everything* in the West. When it comes to matters of 'religion', or indeed the very concept of 'religion', it's especially dominant. No more so than when it comes to the question of what a 'god' is. For most people, be they Christians, Heathens, or Pagans, the gods aren't a part of this world and the main event is after death.

In such a worldview, the physical becomes useless,even something to be despised or punished. It doesn't matter if we foul up the only Midgard we've got, because this world isn't important either, right? Mmkay?

Well no, not if you're a Heathen. The gods are just as much of a part of the world as we are, and then there are the various wights to take into consideration...this Midgard is great, and our holy places are very much on her soil.

Most people are cool with those concepts, at least from what I've found. Occasionally, you still see some mentions of such-and-such talking about 'roid-raging' their way into Valhalla or whatever, but on the whole, the revolutionary idea of world-acceptance is spreading.

But what of body-acceptance?

In our society, there is the pervasive idea that the spiritual deny their bodies, that the human body is like some dirt pile of sin - part of the dross to be left behind when a person finally moves on to that 'better place'. In the Middle Ages, those wishing to become more holy and get closer to god would beat and starve themselves. Members of groups such as the Opus Dei continue to practice such privations with the same goals, with their veneers of modernity veiling their bloody cilice-adorned thighs and whip-kissed backs.

'Haelu' is the opposite of this mentality. Haelu encourages you to look after your body, to make it as strong as you can, and not engage in the escapism that is the mentality of the dirty body and the otherworldly salvation. The holy is in caring for yourself. The holy is in enjoying and accepting your body instead of hating and rejecting it. It's not just some skin suit, it's one of the most precious things you own.

Now I'm not saying that everyone has to have perfect bodies and perfect health, or that physical issues render a person invisible to the gods and useless to a community. Between my late stage lyme disease, asthma, carpal tunnel, and fat ass, I'd be condemning myself were that the case. And we know they didn't condemn people in this way or they wouldn't have even bothered to try healing people or continuing to care for the weaker members of society. It's about striving as opposed to just saying 'Oh well, the spirit is far more important anyway...'. It's about accepting who you are, what your limitations are, and then working with them.

I'm not saying go out and start some crazy fitness regime that hurts you, or start a crash diet. Neither of those things are good for anyone. Start simply, try to appreciate your body for what it can do for you more than what it can't. The human body really is amazing, from the ears that allow us to experience the most exquisite sounds, to the eyes that show us beauty that the most top of the line cameras struggle to capture, to the nerve endings that let us experience pleasure and pain alike - it's amazing. Look at what you eat, try to eat clean for the most part, and don't get upset if you have the odd treats. And *move*. Be that movement walking, dancing, armchair exercises (if your mobility is limited), or even skipping down the street like a big kid - do it. Go jump those puddles when it rains, have water gun fights, or play with your dog in the yard.

Don't be afraid to enjoy and experience your body.

And most importantly, live *in* it.


Johnthebarman said...

Just found your site again and this was fisrt piece I read. Refreshing. I do a lot of work in my garden and wood and cycle to work. Age,67, is however I think affecting the knees.

I've tried several times to populate my imagination with ancient gods but failed as I did with christianity years ago.

Glad you are there writing so well. Best wishes to you both.


Birka said...

Hiya John,

I'm glad you found your way back and that you're staying active :). As for trying to populate your imagination with ancient gods - don't try to force it, it's either there or not and there is plenty of wonder in the world to be 'spiritual' without gods coming into it, so if I were you, I wouldn't feel like it's something you have to do!

Take care,