“Spirit is the life that itself cuts life.” This Nietzchean statement puzzles and challenges. What might a spirituality that cuts life -- rather than just skimming over its surface ­-- look like?

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Henry Lauer

Henry Lauer

I have always been drawn to things mysterious. I am some kind of Heathen, fascinated by the cultures and mythologies of my ancestors ­ (and beyond, too). Deeply in love with the process of healing and its facilitation. A pretender to all manner of thrones, be they runic, music, chaotic, or philosophical. An Antipodean expatriate.

I have a few strings to my well-worn bow. I offer rune readings online via findrune.com. I co-edit Hex Magazine. I play music ­ sometimes folky, sometimes heavy, often times both. I write and dream. I live for traditional cuisine and food-made-from-scratch. I have two goals in life: to think lightly and to do the next right thing. Sometimes I feel the heavy hand of Woden tapping on my shoulder.

Blog entries categorized under Paths Blogs

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• Isa •

Old English Rune Poem
Is (Ice) is over-cold, extremely slippery;
It glistens glass-clear, most like gems;
It is a floor wrought by frost, fair to look upon

Old Icelandic Rune Poem
Iss (Ice) is a river’s bark
And a wave’s thatch
And doomed men’s downfall

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b2ap3_thumbnail_sixth-article-800px-Walhall_by_Emil_Doepler.jpg

Better alive (than lifeless be):
to the quick fall aye the cattle;
the hearth burned for the happy heir –
outdoors a dead man lay.

May the halt ride a horse, and the handless be herdsman,
the deaf man may doughtily fight,
a blind man is better than a burned one, ay:
of what gain is a good man dead?

– “Havamal” 70 & 71

These words warrant our reflection. They articulate, baldy and unambiguously, the high worth placed on human life among the Norse Heathens – for these sentiments are attributed to Odin himself.

We might say that they provide strong evidence for a kind of Heathen humanism. At the very least, they suggest that in premodern times folk were hesitant to dismiss any individual’s worth out of hand.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Henry, I'd like to republish this at HumanisticPaganism.com next month if you are amendable. Let me know. Thanks, John Halstead
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I've often found myself frustrated with some Heathens who refuse to take the heart of that line in the Havamal to heart. Rather th

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• Laguz •

Old English Rune Poem
Lagu (Sea) is by folk thought wide indeed,
If they should dare to go in a ship unsteady,
And the waves terribly frighten them,
And the sea-stallion heed not its bridle.

Old Icelandic Rune Poem
Logr (Sea) is a welling water
And a wide kettle
And a fish?s field

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  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    This is brilliant, and all the more so because so many Heathens shy away from concepts such as grace. It underscores quite nicely
  • Steven
    Steven says #
    The Well of Memory is deep. You evoke some deep memories, "The trick seems to be revisioning oneself as being part of the water,
  • Henry Lauer
    Henry Lauer says #
    Thanks for your kind words, Steven. Yes...Laguz seems to be bottomless. Every new perspective just raises more questions.

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Like most people, I have moments of feeling out of my depth, unable to contain myself in the face of frustration, disappointed expectation, physical or emotional pain, financial stress, or even just overwhelm at the onslaught of suffering and cruelty that floods this world. This tends to dismantle my ability to function effectively.

I am grateful for this flaw, this tendency to feel out of control, unable to cope with daily challenges, making epic drama out of what are in truth mostly very modest problems. Although this tendency has caused me pain, misfortune, lost opportunities, and so forth (and at times made me into a hypocrite), it has also made life into a creative challenge for me. And this leads me onto a path of growth, exploration, dedication to transformation.

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  • Steven
    Steven says #
    Such a timely post from my personal perspective. I suspect you have touched upon the essence of something that transcends the bou

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• Thurisaz •

Old English Rune Poem
Thorn (Thorn) is extremely sharp, for any warrior
to grab it, evil; excessively fierce
to any man who among them rests.

Old Icelandic Rune Poem
Thurs (Giant) is woman’s illness,
and a cliff-dweller
and a Vardhrun’s husband.

Old Norse Rune Poem
Thurs (Giants) cause women’s sickness;
few are made cheerful by adversity.

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Greed & Rapacity: Loki BoundIn my last article I proposed to discuss an expression of Loki which tries to avoid the pitfall of declaring to be either for or against this complex and provocative figure. Unfortunately this will entail a bit of self-promotion on my part, because I intend to present and discuss the lyrics to a musical release called Loki Bound, which was released by Milam Records earlier in 2012. Loki Bound was performed by Greed & Rapacity, a band of which I am one half.

Loki Bound is a one-song 30-minute funeral doom metal descent into Loki’s stream of consciousness during his imprisonment by the Aesir, the primary Norse pantheon, for misdeeds real and (possibly) imagined. He lies chained by his son’s intestines to a deeply buried boulder, while a serpent drips venom upon him. His loyal wife, Sigyn, catches the poison in a cup, but when she goes to empty the cup, the poison falls on Loki’s skin. His agonized convulsions are the root of earthquakes, and it is fair to say that Loki is a deity of psychological tectonics.

Loki Bound is not easy listening. Yet the project was born out of a spirit of empathy – not, it must be said, sympathy. Empathy.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Henry Lauer
    Henry Lauer says #
    Think of me as a perennial weed
  • Robin Clear
    Robin Clear says #
    Wow, Everywhere I go there you are.
  • Michele Briere
    Michele Briere says #
    Your thoughts on Loki are very interesting. My path is Sumerian (actual Sumerian, not that Sitchen-Necro crap), and I have always

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How is it with Loki? In a previous article I proposed that “part of the challenge [of life] is learning to be comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty.” And then I suggested that this challenge is connected to Loki. What did I mean by that?

Loki is a classic shadow figure – the bearer of everything disowned and rejected. He stands out as a challenge and a dare to each of us – can we accept the destructiveness, the chaos, within ourselves? Or do we deny it and blame it on some external figure or figures?

This is a basic test for every human being, and no one passes all the time. Some people fail dramatically, and in some cases these individuals cause war, hatred, and destruction on a mass scale.

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  • Torcyr Stormgull
    Torcyr Stormgull says #
    If you are truly interested in this you should read "Trickster makes this world" . You will gain a deeper understanding of this is
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    I've always identified with the "shake it up" Trickster archetype (and am an admitted Jesus lover, too). Those like Jesus who have
  • Henry Lauer
    Henry Lauer says #
    Thanks Anne and Steven for your kind words. Anne: I think your Loki-Jesus comparison is awesome! What fun! I hope you don't mind

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• Fehu •

Old English Rune Poem
Feoh (Money) is a comfort to humans all;
But each one should deal it out abundantly,
If he wants before the Lord to chance judgement.

Old Icelandic Rune Poem
Fe (Money) is kinsman’s quarrel
And flood-tide’s token
And necromancy’s road.

Old Norse Rune Poem
Fe (Money) causes kinsmen’s quarrel;
The wolf is reared in the forest.

~ Rune poem translations by Sweyn Plowright
http://www.mackaos.com.au/Rune-Net/Primer/

Money tends to be bound up with intense feeling – particularly anxiety. It is essentially a symbol after all, onto which we are free to project a vast array of significances. Its spectral touch can thread throughout lives, throughout history itself. It is the justification for an infinity of injustices, absurdities, and cowardice.

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In the first article for this blog I mentioned the Löwenmensch, a 32-35,000 year old mammoth tusk carving found in Germany. Archaeologists assembled this beautiful statuette of a lion-headed human from hundreds of fragments. And in recent years it has become the eye of a storm of debate about the gender politics of Stone Age shamanism.

Although heavily critiqued in the last forty years, the notion that Europe's first human denizens were socially and spiritually matriarchal is still popular. Some proponents of this view argue that the Löwenmensch is in fact a female, not a male. And inferring from this theory, a few of them have gone so far as to argue that shamanic practice in the distant European past was practiced exclusively by women.

This is an incredibly strained inference. To make a statement about thousands of years of spiritual culture based on a theory about the gender of a single archaeological find seems rather farfetched. After all, though it seems likely, we cannot even really know if it held a religious significance to its makers. Nor can we know whether it was in any way representative of broader trends or patterns, being as it is a unique find.

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“Spirit is the life that itself cuts life.” This Nietzchean statement puzzles and challenges. What does a spirituality that cuts life – rather than just skimming over its surface – look like?

In an era where stated beliefs and actual deeds tend to fall far apart, we are pressed by the question of a spirituality that finds purchase in the world’s flesh. Expansive though it is, the question is also personal. I propose to explore it through my own metaphors and filters: Heathenry, runes, chaos magic, alchemy, psychology, philosophy, music, history, art, and the gods only know what else.

I use words as a tool for transformation. They’re powerful things; Heidegger assures us that “language is the house of Being,” and the Old Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem advises that “[the divine] is the chief of speech.” So much of culture, belief, and action is possible only through the pre-figuring power of words, lending order and structure to our perception, telling us where to attend and how to act.

Yet we all too easy fall into an abyss, one which lies between speech and action. We need metaphors with flesh, sinew, bone, and blood – else be stranded in the drought-stricken plains of empty intention. The purpose of my writing for “Spirit Cuts Life” is, therefore, to arm myself with words that can propel me across the chasm of irony and hypocrisy, a chasm which doggedly haunts the human condition. In the process I hope to share sentiments that help others to do the same.

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