Saturday, June 28, 2014


In today's post, I'm going to blog in a way I've never blogged before. I'm going to talk about something that I would generally only reserve for round a campfire with friends.

It was the spring of 2001 and I was in my first year of university. Like other students in the UK where the drinking age is a few years lower than in the US, I took advantage of the cheap club nights and cheap drinks offers that allowed the average student to go out and get steaming drunk on ten pounds or less. Cities are much more walkable in the UK, and so driving or even taxis weren't really a concern, most of us walked home, a method that we affectionately referred to as taking the 'beer scooter'. On this one night I'd been to a ska club night, and at some point over the course of the evening, I'd fallen over and royally twisted my ankle. Naturally I refused all offers to get me to the hospital and proceeded to self medicate with alcohol. In fact I'd self medicated so well, that I even recall the beer scooter going at far higher speeds than usual.

When I got home, I downed some water and crawled into bed. All was fine.

Until the next morning.

When I tried to stand up to go to the bathroom.

And failed.


Moreover, my ankle was more than double the size of its twin. So there I was, needing to go to the hospital, but how to get there when I could barely walk? My phone, a pay as you go, had no credit. My housemate though (who was getting ready for work), was kind enough to allow me to use her phone to call a friend I knew for a fact would be skipping lectures. And so I called, and waited, and there was no answer. I remembered my friend always put her phone on silence to sleep, so I thanked my housemate and hopped back to my bedroom thoroughly depressed at the prospect of being able to do nothing, having nothing but ramen to eat, and all the boredom that whole scenario would entail. My ankle also hurt like a motherfucker. I laid down and considered just crying for the hell of it.

When I heard this ruckus in the tree outside my window. Normally inhabited by coal tits, the small birds were being chased out by two huge ravens who, on clearing the tree, sat on branches and looked at me square on. There was a real sense of presence, of omen about the whole affair, and deep down I had a feeling that it would be fine, that I wouldn't be spending all day stuck waiting for help. At that same moment, my housemate's phone rang, it was the friend I'd tried to call who normally really doesn't call back numbers she doesn't recognise. But as she'd told me later, she'd woken up with the strongest urge to check her phone and call back the number. To this day, she still doesn't know why she suddenly woke up from her deeply hungover sleep with the urge to look at her phone, or why she called back. It was just this strong strong urge. Within half an hour, she was round to help me get to the hospital - a process that took about two hours even though normally you could walk there in less than five minutes.

At the time, although I considered myself heathen, I didn't understand the principles of do ut des, nor did I even really think much of it or worry about gods not giving out 'freebies'. At that time, I didn't even really have deities that I offered to more than others -luck-bringers if you will. But over the years, and many similar situations in which I believe Woden had brought me luck (if not always in the most immediately obvious ways), I came to consider him a luck-bringer.

There's a blog post doing the rounds at the moment about not trusting any one god, that it's better to worship pantheon rather than single deities. However I'm no henotheist, and I think it's entirely natural that over time, we feel more of a connection to some deities over others. After all, we know what it's like to get on better with some family members or groups of people than others.

The blog even referenced Odin as an example of how you couldn't trust gods, and cited one follower's ideas on who he is for her. But as always, whenever I read these descriptions of the Allfather, I am amazed at how different my experience of him has been.

Now I'm not doing the equivalent of portraying the Morrigan as a kindly old grandmother that rides a unicorn here, it's just that I guess I see different sides of him because my worldview is vastly different to someone with a more 'BDSM Dom' idea of Odin. And maybe we only see the sides of deities that benefit us in some way, or that reflect our own personalities?

Either way, for me, the Allfather (whom I call Woden), is the wanderer, he's the wise lore-giver that travels the land turning up in really unexpected ways. He's the word-smith, the lord of language even. He's also healer, magician, ecstatic, eternally curious and hungry for knowledge. And knowledge can be found in many places, not just in the halls of kings, burial mounds, or Urth's well. He is also a seer of sorts, and has the vision to be truly wise. Yes there is obfuscation, and the wearing of masks or personas. There's a feeling of never being able to quite pin down who he is, and that he has been many things to many people. But in all the years I've prayed and offered to him, I can honestly say he's brought me more luck than not, and even when it's seemed like the luck he brought was bad, that ill-luck has more often than not turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I was 10 or 11 when I first learned about the Allfather. As a child growing up in what was once the Danelaw, we spent a lot of time learning about 'the Vikings', but it was during the 'silent reading' section of our day that I learned the most. The book I kept the longest and read the most was a book of Norse myths. Then as now, the tales gripped me deep down.

And although I started out (as most do) very much inspired by the old Norse sources, my desire to see the 'bigger picture', to go down the layers of time and action, as an also eternally curious being, has seen me look more to those that started my nation and the land of their birth, and in turn has changed my perspective.

In my last post, I wrote about a bracteate I had been offered. A variant of a type C bracteate, the type that is purported to depict the scene of Uuodan healing the foal in the second Merseburg charm.

Although I initially turned it down, the man that offered it to me (completely out of the blue) insisted, and it now sits on a cord about my neck. I can only see luck in that.


An Cúglas Hiberniæ said...

Beautiful. I read the same article and felt the same curious disconnect from many people's impression of the Allfather. I am glad to read that he appears to have helped you out in a moment of true crisis (rather appropriate that it was a drunken injury, no?) and that you feel ...not intimacy, but solidarity? kinship? gratitude? with him. Not going to try to repackage your own thoughts, but I understand where you are coming from. He is the Allfather, is he not?

(Incidentally, I am still wary of An Mhorrígan after over a decade of making offerings and maintaining an altar for her, so it's not that I find deities cuddly.)

My own ...I hesitate to write relationship because I know people may think I find him an equal or that I'm on the "Odin's wife" wain, but my own interaction with the Allfather has been at times equally explicit; with the appearance of ravens, moments of pain and clarity, and inexplicable coincidences. Thank you for writing one of your encounters. Other people who have shared their stories around a campfire with me have also reported similar scenarios. As scary as Óðinn can be, he's also a central figure of the Norse for a reason and his taking care of his people (meaning people who make offerings to him) makes sense, even from a god of frenzy.

I hope you don't get any flak from daring to believe that when we talk to the gods, sometimes, they talk back.

Funny how I had no desire to blog today until I felt a sudden urge to write, and see what was fresh in my feed...

Birka said...

Thank you for your comment :-).

You know, I've often wondered why I have a plethora of weird experiences involving the Allfather, or things I'd associate with him (usually ravens, but one time in northern France, a wolf), after all, generally speaking people usually think they're special to have a deity...I dunno...chip in? I don't think I'm Woden's precious little snowflake or anything, not in the slightest. I haven't the foggiest why and to some degree I don't care. It is what it is. I just try to keep the relationship reciprocal.

It's funny, but I used to offer to the Morrigan when I was a bouncer :-).

As for getting flak, in all honesty the people I could think of that would (probably out of a desire to score points in whatever little cliques they're in), well I don't care much for. The people I hold to have worth in my life, those whose opinion counts to me know who and what I am.