"The Missing Piece"
As every child born of woman, I was born incomplete. My Ørlög was set, I had a job to do (probably a redundant assignment, in case I didn't get beyond the nursery), and I'd have to grow and toughen... and begin to collect my tools.
As a carpenter has his saws and hammers, as a surgeon has his scalpels and an author his pens, we all have to have things to fill our hands as we pitch in to go about that which is set for us to do. Furthermore, as a carpenter must have skills with wood and know a plumb angle from a badly pitched roof, and as a physician has to have his long years of training to know where to make the first cut, we have all to gather experience from life and from people to be able to succeed as individuals and to contribute with others to common goals.
I continued incomplete until I was twenty-nine, and only then did the pieces begin to fall into place. My life, it would seem, gives credence to Samuel Johnson's assertion that a man doesn't begin to think until he's thirty-five. At twenty-nine, I married, and it was the making of me. We began having children, and any parent knows that seeing life through the new eyes of a child gives one pause to reconsider ones own experiences.
For years afterwards, still, there was a missing piece.
The job was still there, the toolbox was bulging, but something was still lacking for me to proceed. It wasn't apparent, but nagged from the periphery.
A seeker for many years -- as were many of you -- I went in and out of doors my entire adult life. My wife's family's low-profile but firmly-held Native American religious practices were a fixture of our family's life for over a decade. I knew that I was close, but that I was still not there. A rich, fulfilling tradition, it was not *mine*.
Native American traditions -- and, there are *many* of them, as well as a more general pan-Indian tradition recognizing and celebrating the commonalities between the various Native American nations -- are strikingly similar to the Nordic Tradition. A respect for wisdom, for life on Earth, and an emphasis on individual spiritual experience among one's family and tribe all parallel the reappearing and evolving ethic we know to be our own.
...but, even tied by marriage, I was still on the outside looking in.
Then, I found Asatru, and time proved that all of the tools were assembled. It was time to get to work. Rather than an excuse to call attention to my own spiritual evolution, this is one feature of a wider story. All of you reading this have been along the same road, and many of you are still on it. Many of you, having found Asatru, are still missing an appropriate mate... or have a mate, and you both await children... or, having both wife and children, you need the range of specific experiences or type of company which will mold you into the person you need to be. Or, you may *not* need family to set about your life... simply put, you're still waiting to find *your* missing piece.
I bring this up, spurred on by things read on this list and elsewhere recently, as I've found that we, as a people, labored for years incomplete.
From the dry plains, the mountains and steppes of Central Asia, our ancestors, their names long forgotten, brought their families west, as some trekked east across the Bering ice. I believe their Gods, the same Gods we feel and hear today, gripped the harness of their cart animals and guided them from the dry brown plains to the foggy green forests. They traveled, meeting, fighting and gathering to themselves other, similar peoples... and standing up to and avoiding the threat of still other folk in turns. They met the Greeks, they fought the Romans, and they kept on the move, life not standing still.
We can only speculate about the religious lives of our early ancestors, speculations turning into arguments. We find hints and echoes, as one might find the setting but not the jewel. We try to make sense of divine hierarchies, distill myths left incomplete, and scratch our heads as we try to make sense of a rich patrimony.
Then, one day, they found that missing piece.
Perhaps it was the tribesmen the Romans knew among the German nations who found it. Perhaps it came later. With regard to the well-studied Viking Age, it's been suggested that Norseman came boiling south out of Scandinavia because of the pressures of population and weather. Maybe it was the the value of the keel, that of the Gokstad ship being distinct from that of the earlier Oseberg ship, which set them free to raid, seek and travel. Maybe it was a social or tribal structural "tweak". Maybe it was as simple as the epiphany that if you need to pursue what you desire, no matter who has what you desire now. We'll probably never know.
But, they found it, and their neighbors came to know it.
Then, for reasons ranging from a coincidental collection of power into the hands of kings to commercial restrictions and personal ambitions, a piece was stolen. Our people had evolved a culture since leaving the Indo-European homeland, and now it was raided. Many of their holidays were seized and reshaped, their Gods became demons, and their ethics were stood on their heads. What once was a dynamic, inquisitive and wisdom-centered culture, celebrated by a footloose and widely-traveled people, became in the span of a few generations a stay-at-home, "god fearing" and pliant population under the thrall of Church and king.
This is a simplification,but is easily demonstrable by even a cursory reading of history.
Our ancestors, for as many as fifteen hundred years in some cases, lived and died and had families, laboring through life incomplete up to the present day. Heirs to a faith and culture, long forbidden by papal bull and state edict, which had answered all of their years for as many as fifteen thousand years of social and cultural evolution, they were born and died and labored in someone else's "vineyard".
... and then, one day, the missing piece was once again found.
What I've come to call the First Generation Gothar found the faith again. The European heathen concepts of right and wrong were never that far away, even under the thumb of Rome and Luther. Social structures, under different names, remained in place. Villages heathen under Hengest or through which Hrolf Kraki might've traveled were still in place, in the shadow of a chapel or minster. But, almost simultaneously in Europe, Iceland, Britain and Vinland, that long-denied missing piece was again in place.
Once more, we had chieftains. Once more, we could call our Gods by name. Once more, our ancestors weren't starched, stiff patriarchs in yellowing snapshots but could be felt, walking among us still. By their sides we could sense those earlier grandfathers and grandmothers, long silent to us, whisper their wisdom as they had for thousands of years to ears deafened by the ghost stories of foreigners. All of them -- Gods, ancestors ancient, ancestors Christian, wights and unnamed spirits -- were alive again.
Once again, thanks to the First Generation Gothar, we had a culture, complete with its foundation.
It is the task of the rest of us -- the Second Generation Gothar, if you will -- to put that culture to work.
Asatru, I'm convinced, is *one* component of an overall whole. Without a spiritual grounding, our wider secular, practical, familial and tribal culture -- long disguised as Western Civilization, folded into the goings-on of Egyptians and Middle Eastern nomads, often attributed to Greeks and Roman imperialists -- foundered on the rocks of Christianity. People became interchangeable parts, produced in social factories, valued only for their devotion to state and an ungrateful god. With that spiritual grounding, it is possible to put the natural world into proper perspective, to deal more honestly with peoples of different races and traditions, and to understand those urges and aspirations coming as much from our breeding as from the dream-like inspirations of our spiritual family lines.
It is the task of the Second Generation to lay out the carpets, to dress the walls, to make the coffee, and to welcome the new arrivals as they stumble in. It is, I believe, their commission to ensure that there is a *Third* and *Fourth* Generation of ·Ásatrúar. What those generations are to do is beyond me. Standing between what has been and what will be, we can only try ensure that what will be will be constructive, having learned the lessons that what has been have to teach us.
But, Asatru, while a foundation, is only a single piece. We need to find the pattern which wove it into the fabric of our culture, and weave back in. We need to look at ourselves and at each other with the eyes of hawks, and ensure that we help those still seeking, so that they can complete themselves and pitch in. Furthermore, we need to keep ourselves focused on the task at hand.
The Nation of ”Oðinn is still newly reassembled, still tender. There is a lot of work to be done. Let's get to it.