Stories, questions, and musings about Asatru, and one man's effort to see the modern world through an old lens.
Gods in a Dive Bar
Ever have one of those projects when every part required for success seems overly complicated or nearly impossible? I do not mean a single snag- that seems common enough in any process. I am referencing those endeavors where every person involved is uncooperative and inflexible, every supposed headway results in multiple setbacks, and it seems insurmountable. Even for a Type A personality like me who thrives under pressure and prefers challenging projects to menial or repetitive simple tasks, it can become frustrating.
Allow me to provide some vague but necessary back-story. I was recently offered an opportunity to travel overseas for a few months and serve in a position more important than any I have been assigned to in the past. If I am being completely honest, I was selected over people who are likely more qualified or experienced in the level of management I will be responsible for. Once I received my assignment, I began the process of preparing to depart- a process that, in the armed forces, has multiple checklists to be completed and offices to visit in order to confirm eligibility for the assignment. The process should be very straightforward- but of all the words in the English language, "should" is quite possibly my favorite because it doesn't actually mean anything. More on that in a later blog.
////At this point, some reader may be thinking, "blah blah blah where is the Heathen part of this blog. Please read my first post, and realize that I am getting there, but at no point in this story does Thor throw down a lightning bolt to clear my way. Back to the blog now.////
Every time I turned a corner, someone was determined to tell me, "no," or, "not yet." The medical folks who do vaccinations and blood draw wouldn't see me until my neurological assessment was done (even though they have nothing to do with each other). The neuro office refused to turn on the computer to complete my assessment because there are two times per week when it is done in a group setting and no other option was available (though the assessment is automated and I could have been left alone with it for 20 minutes to complete it)... and the two allowable points were 6 days away. The fellows down at legal were on limited hours and could only review powers of attorney and wills at one period during the week- which naturally overlapped with another appointment required in the process. This trend continued with the administrative side of lining up my paperwork, the operational side of obtaining transportation, and every other component of the process.
Exasperated and having some trouble maintaining my patience, I had a random thought pop into my head- maybe I'm not supposed to accept this assignment. With all the people, offices, and appointments that had mired my process in delays, was it possible that it was more than typical government inefficiency? Had I inadvertently found a strand in my web of wyrd that was pulled taut and unable to be redirected through my efforts?
////Never fear, gentle reader, this is the Heathen part////
I found a coffee shop, ordered a drink, sat down, and consulted my gods and wights. My method of doing so might seem outlandish, but my method of exploring the Heathen solution to a Midgard problem is somewhat imaginative- I visualize a dive bar. The walls are cadet-blue and need a coat of paint. The bar itself is dark brown with a dozen round stools down the left side, vinyl seats cracked and slashed. A pool table is in the back right corner, in need of re-felting and somewhat fitting with the tipless and unweighted cues. A stage is on the right wall, and the front wall hosts a smaller stage with a stripper pole and a shuffleboard table. The whole venue is dimly lit and the glasses look dirty.
//// Okay, yes, I am getting to it. ////
I visualize Tyr behind the bar in a plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up, using his one good hand to polish the bar with a rag. Freyja looks amazing in her cut-off jeans and her tank top, and she is playing pool with and a Valkyrie in classic biker-girl attire. Skadi is sitting next to Odin at the bar, wearing her fur-topped boots over dark jeans and a cold-weather parka. Odin is in worn out and stained jeans, old work boots, an olive-green Army jacket, and an eye patch. Freyr and Thor are sitting close to the stage, Freyr dressed like an off-duty cop in his khakis and tucked-in polo and Thor in a Carharts and a tight white tee shirt with a construction helmet sitting on the floor beside him, and the two are watching Loki do stand-up comedy. Loki wears jeans with embroidery down the seams to his knees, a tee shirt in the popular MMA style, and a flat-brimmed hat (because he knows I hate them, and this is my visualization after all).
I order a drink from Tyr and tell him my troubles while he listens quietly. I tell him about my complications, my concerns, and all of the little bumps I have run across. He mostly listens and says little aside from the occasional acknowledgement so I know he is still paying attention. When I finish he thinks on it, pours us both a shot of Wild Turkey 101, and says, "If you know the job is harder than your previous ones, why do you expect it to be easy to get ready for it? Just keep doing the right thing- you will end up exactly where you are supposed to be."
I thank him for his words, pay him and tip him well, and make my way over to the pool table. Freyja sets down her cue and leans against the table to face me, while the Valkyrie studies me with calculating eyes from across the table. I tell Freyja how I am feeling, my frustration and my exasperation, all the red emotions that go with this process I am finding so much resistance in. "F*ck 'em," she replies. "Use all that heat as fuel- get back in the ring and tear them apart. Turn the charm on way up high and see if that works. If not, crank up the aggression and show 'em why you got picked for this position." I thank her and turn to walk way, but the haunting voice of the Valkyrie behind me still reaches my ears, "Don't even think about quitting... I would be very, very disappointed if you opted out of this assignment."
With the message and it's implications loud and clear, I walk past Freyr and Thor towards Odin and Skadi. I am happy to see Thor and Freyr, but I'm not especially motivated to seek their counsel at this point and so I leave them to their show. Skadi turns to face me and gives me a warm hug. She tells me that she knows what it's like to walk up to the gates of people who are inherently not in her corner and have a list of demands that need to be satisfied. We commiserate for a moment and she recommends that I take a careful look at the rules of the game as she calls them. She tells me to look at the difference between problems with the procedures versus problems being created by the person in the office I happen to be interacting with. It's good advice, and I thank her for it.
Odin is my last stop in the bar, I think. He takes a long drink and listens as I tell my story again. His words come as no surprise- he advises me to use my head and be more wise than the sources of my complication, because knowledge will create a way forward even when I can't see one at first. He then tells me to use subterfuge if pure wisdom does not prevail, and that there is a time for blurred lines and shortcuts in any life situation. In parting, he reminds me to keep my temper under control and to remain objective, because I won't know the right time to switch from a cooperative approach to a confrontational one unless my head is clear.
I make my way towards the door, but hear my name through the mic from the stage- apparently Loki has some uninvited advice to give. I make my way back through the bar to talk to him and he sits on the edge of the stage so we are eye to eye. "You're never going to get it all done in time and even if you do, you're not good enough to do the job." I argue that I still have time and even time to spare, and I was picked for a reason so obviously someone thinks I have what it takes. "All of these people- Odin and Skadi and Tyr and Freyja- none of them are in your corner, or else you would be done already. None of them believe in you." I start to get angry and tell Loki that they have all given me great counsel and that I don't expect or want them to clear my way for me- I want to do that for myself because my actions will make them believe in me.
Only as I turn to walk away, pissed off with Loki as usual, do I realize what he was doing and how he helped.
The visualization falls apart, and I know my way ahead. Now, did I actually consult the gods? I don't know, maybe. I wasn't at my altar, and I made no offering. I wasn't in a trance in the traditional sense, and no tornado or thunderstorm or any such natural phenomenon punctuated my visualization. Maybe the gods had a hand in their replies to my questions, or maybe my subconscious generated their answers based on my conceptions of them. I don't know. What I *do* know is that I had a problem, I reached to my faith, I found answers, and I am moving forward.
This is a classic example of Heathenry in my life. Light on the runes and rituals, limited in Viking-Era symbolism, but heavy on results and a sense of home/comfort/belonging/strength/fortitude/dedication.
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