The Importance of Oral Tradition in European Paganism

 

In any pagan culture, the further back in time we go and the more we retreat from its modern civilised state, the closer we get to its oral tradition.

Often described by Christian scholars and those influenced by them as “illiterate” in order to promote and justify the Church’s past (and, in third world countries like Nepal and India, ongoing) missionary work, conversions and “literacy” programs, this is not the case. Such societies commonly knew runes – the futhark in the case of the Anglo-Saxons, the Ogham in the case of the Celts, and a hypothetical Slavic runic alphabet.

Essentially shorthand alphabets, these runes did have religious and symbolic significance as well (after all, like the Greek alphabet they largely derive from, they ultimately originate in the pictograms of Egyptian hieroglyphs). As a writing system, during pagan periods archaeological finds suggests they were used mainly for short passages, and to commemorate the Dead in runestone passages.

As partially literate people, we must understand that, as societies that practiced oral tradition, were more removed from civilisation and therefore had less of a need for formal historical, legal and financial records, these pagan cultures did not need to be fully literate.

The stories preserved through oral tradition rely on repetition, these epics, as well as political and legal speeches, all had to be remembered. Cultures that could remember everything, and had to, had little need for full literacy.

Oral tradition in our mythology:

Archaeological finds – sculptures, statues, temples, brooches, pendants – are highly significant and how much these have enriched and informed our understanding of our heritage, as well as acting as relics that keep us in touch with our ancestors, cannot be overstated.  However, the stories, the myths and the rituals, even the fairy tales, all originate in this oral tradition.

Once upon a time we remembered knowledge – we did not need libraries. Just as we remembered this history, this heritage, and passed it down to the next generation, our ancestors needed to remember their ancestors, and their past lives, and these memories and past lives were likewise unlocked and passed down to the next generation symbolically by the older generation, i.e. the priests, the druids, the sorcerers etc.

To understand our religion, its symbolism and the purpose of repetition, we need to understand how oral tradition works, the methodology and reasoning behind its use of repetitions, the structure of the recorded narratives, and how easy it is to overlook just how steeped in ritual and religious practices and beliefs these classic texts such as the Iliad, the Kalevala and the Poetic Edda are.

(Wikipedia) – “In Parry’s view, formulas were not individual and idiosyncratic devices of particular artists, but the shared inheritance of a tradition of singers. They were easily remembered, making it possible for the singer to execute an improvisational composition-in-performance.”

“..it is doubtful, to say the least, whether Oral-Formulaic Theory can be applied to any of the many fixed-phrase genres of folklore – for example, proverb or riddle. Proverbs are not composed anew each time they were uttered. Without the possibility of improvisation, it would appear that the Oral-Formulaic Theory would not be applicable… Still, even if Oral-Formulaic Theory were valid only for the epic genre, it would be of importance. The epic is unquestionably a major genre of folklore, and thus any theory proposed to deal with such a major genre would be significant. “ – Alan Dundes – p. xi, from the Forward to The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology by John Miles Foley

“…the key to an understanding of the Kalevala is the power of the word, the power of incantation and of the story that brings power. Its heroes are word-masters and wonder-workers.” – vii – Albert B. Lord, Forward to Kalevala translated by Keith Bosley

I might do a future video going into Oral-Formulaic Theory after studying it further, but it is clear that there was method in the structure and repetition to aid speakers (and singers) in remembering these passages.

Furthermore, though repetition undoubtedly served this simple purpose, the amount of repetitions – be it of verses, motifs, symbols or of similar characters – was no coincidence, and I would argue ultimately rooted in the reincarnation rituals that spawned these more elaborate folk tales and epic poems.

The significance of numbers in Oral Tradition:

3: We often see our heroes in oral tradition attempt something three times, be it challenging, physically attacking or charging, or approaching or entering something. Sometimes the third attempt triggers a change or revelation (or a failure) by itself, sometimes it is the fourth attempt that sees this metamorphosis or the breaking of the pattern occur. Examples include Patroklus (the foetus, literally “the glory of the father”) charging the wall of Troy three times, with great success, until the fourth attempt/the change triggered by the third attempt (or the third symbolic pregnancy) results in his death at the hands of Hektor that sets in motion the chain of events through the rest of Homer’s Iliad. It is also significant that Achilles chases Hektor (literally “to hold” – Hektor holds things together) around Troy three times before slaying him. There are also examples of this in the oral tradition of the Welsh Mabinogion. Another example of this can be seen in the number of stages of shapeshifting in Irish fairy tales, before the side in question reaches its final form, and the protagonist receives a revelation and/or solves the riddle.

7 – the amount of years between each rite of passage, the three stages of awakening – ages 7, 14 and 21. The amount of days in a week. In accounts of the Irish Sidhe (fairies/elves i.e. the ancestors) the sidhe are said to kidnap girls, and after seven years “when the girls grow old and ugly, they send them back to their kindred, giving them, however, as compensation, a knowledge of herbs and secret spells” (Lady Wilde). This could be interpreted as representing the period of religious service (to the ancestors) before girls reached adulthood and were returned to their family (and future husband). In the “Peredur son of Efrog” story in the Mabinogion his father the earl has seven sons. In this text at least 7 is more commonly the number of items or number of people  that appear in a scene, rather than the amount of repetitions of the protagonist’s action.

9 – The nine months of pregnancy (and, in reincarnation, 3 x 3 symbolic pregnancies), the nine realms of Yggdrasil. In Irish myth: “If you walk nine times round a fairy rath at the full of the moon, you will find the entrance to the Sifra; but if you enter, be wary of eating the fairy food, or drinking the fairy wine (Lady Wilde). In the Mabinogion Peredur encounters nine witches – “together with their father and mother”.

The integrity and reliability of recorded Oral tradition:

With any documented myths we need to be critical and know how to “filter out” the Christian elements. Unlike in the fictional histories, chronicles and other works by Christian scholars, I would argue it is considerably easier to recognise these distortions and anomalies worked into the texts of oral tradition documented by these predominately Christian scholars. We just need to understand how oral poetry worked, recognise the symbols and riddles that clearly predate Christianity, and recognise what are, to varying degrees, fairly obvious Christian distortions, and in some cases what even appear to be forced “disclaimers”, in parts of the text.

A particularly striking example of this is the Kalevala, Considering how late this record of Finnish and Karelian folk tradition was compiled, one might expect it to me riddled with anachronisms and heavily influenced by Christianity, but this is not quite the case. Though adopting a linear narrative and a consciously monotheist interpretation of a “chief god” and a “Great One”, with occasional references to the “Devil” and “evil”, unambiguously Christian and Biblical references are actually rare, unlike, for example, Beowulf and the Mabinogion.

When we focus on reading these original sources – the oral traditions, epic poems and rural folk tales that are at the centre of our cultural heritage – we come far closer to understanding their true essence and the burial and reincarnation rites they related to than we will by simply reading books “about paganism” or more specifically summaries/modern paraphrasing and collection of this or that pantheon and its myths. We need to reconnect with oral tradition.

Folk tales and customs belong in the countryside among the common folk, not in libraries gathering dust

Though books such as James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, Julius Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World and Marie Cachet’s The Secret of the She-Bear are invaluable, we need to train ourselves in our ability to follow these complex narratives and structures, recognise the patterns, symbols and riddles and to really enter the mindset of our forebear practitioners of the oral tradition, with the right method and the right “key” to unlock these secrets and make sense of it all.

I am still learning, and will do what little I can to guide people as my own knowledge grows.

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The True Meaning of Tribalism

fidus

Tribalism is usually only seen in one light these days, and is by default associated with notions of racial supremacy or even with a more “mystical” or cult-like philosophy built around the alleged superiority of one’s group. It is largely used as a derogatory term, predominately by the left and by liberals taking a stance against far right “nationalist” groups of the West and the Israeli government, for example.

Yet in an age when many nationalists are too cowardly, or just inconsistent with their worldview, or both, preferring to embrace terms like “alt-right” and “reactionary” instead, the idea of grass-roots “tribalism” should be providing us with a more optimistic yet cynical perspective, and when approached and promoted in the right way may even convince (some) people on the left that people who just want to protect their heritage really are not all that bad.  What does tribalism mean? What does nationalism mean? Are they the same thing? The word “nation” once just meant a people or folk, but it has for centuries, since antiquity even, in practice amounted to an expansionist, urbanised form of Statism. Despite the civic pride, continuation of pagan symbols and tradition, and the rhetoric being laden with apparent patriotism, this early model of nationalism served to strengthen the power of the state, further centralise it while devouring foreign “lebensraum”, under the false pretence of protecting the people and their city. This is the case with both Ancient Rome and 20th century fascism. Despite the appealing romanticism of the Third Reich and the preceeding völkisch movement, the Reich was primarily concerned with expansionism, industry and increasing the power of a heavily centralised and supremacist government, at the expense of both the native and neighbouring common populations.

In an age – this “Kali Yuga” – when both left and right want to keep feeding the system that keeps us in debt, keeps us dependent, keeps us domesticated and keeps us enslaved and sedated, we need to understand the nature of a “tribalist mentality” or a tribalist psyche, in both individuals and groups, and recognise these patterns among other tribes that are scarce seen in the modern West. With an increasingly fragile and uncertain economy, endless conflict in the middle east, endless guilt-tripping in the west, mounting tensions in the far east, what makes this or that nation more successful in the 21st century? Perhaps we can look to China for an example, and ask ourselves how they have overtaken us with such ease, despite experiencing mass starvation under communism just decades earlier. Much of this boils down to common interest, common values, shared cultural norms and a tribalist outlook.

Tribalism’s core component is paganism. Any kind of “traditional” Christianity is completely incompatible with tribalism, because without ancestor worship paganism is worthless, without this authentic paganism with ancestor worship as a core component, tribalism is also worthless. Pagan traditions have many meanings, multiple symbols and patterns observed throughout nature, human and non-human, but most if not all of them ultimately relate to both childbirth and the rebirth of the ancestor as a part of this, and we could theoretically explain the nature of consciousness and the belief in reincarnation in all pagan cultures as something that gradually crystallises and reassembles itself further down the generations. Realistically speaking, we are less likely to be the reincarnations of our grandparents or great-grandparents, but of these more distant ancestors, and when we embrace this primal ancestor worship, of distant ancestors we know nothing about, or have just completely forgotten about, we are talking  also about a shared tribal ancestry the further back we go in time. This at least in part explains the sanctity of marriage within the tribe, as both spouses should share the same ancestors further back in their family tree, and it also explains why Germanic tribes for instance all named Woden/Óðinn as the father of their tribe, because far back in time they all shared the same ancestors, or some of the same ancestors at least.

Another crucial aspect of tribalism we must grasp to understand both the practical purpose it serves and how it differs from any modern “nationalism” is that real tribalism should seek to preserve both ancient, pagan traditions and the sacred natural environment of our ancestral homeland(s), and to embrace our animal nature and recognise ourselves as part of nature, not above it. Civilisation is on its way out, the economy is ultimately doomed, fuel is running out, rare earth minerals are running out, some form of extreme climate change – be it another “mini-ice age” or global warming – seems to be approaching and will force us to adapt one way or the other. Now more than ever, now that urban expansion, industry and the monster that is capitalism have spiralled out of control, we must strive to remember, to learn and become self-sufficient as our ancestors did when oral tradition was the norm and essential life skills and folk traditions were passed down the generations.

This is for our benefit, for the environment’s benefit, and for the benefit of other tribes, and it’s important to care about what’s in the interest of other tribes, to apply a common standard and recognise what’s in the best interest of every group in order to secure their survival and protect their heritage. Because we all share the same enemy, and we need to not unite necessarily but see and accept this common ground and common interest, and fight and resist our mutual enemies among the elites of government, banking, the media and academics. The elites of the west want us to forgot our heritage and identity, and want to westernise (or globalise) everyone else, because it’s profitable to do so, or at least it appears to be. Despite the race-baiting and fear mongering in the media about Islam and the deeply repulsive and destructive nature of the likes of (western armed and funded) groups like ISIS, most Muslims are indeed just peaceful and normal people, not people we should be expected to welcome here en masse by any means, being at odds with our culture in so many ways, but in migrant communities we see enclosed, peaceful self-serving communities for the most part. The alt-right/modern nationalists are indeed reactionary in falling for this distraction, and show a glaring double-standard in their acceptance and support of western imperialism and its “benefits”, and the alleged superiority of western nations. I am not one to downplay the malevolent nature of any of the Abrahamic religions, and there are no doubt plenty of so-called refugees that are somewhat unsavoury characters not to mention cowards for abandoning their homeland in times of need, but these people are being used, lied to. If and when they cause problems over here and Europe it is likely upon realising Europe is far from the haven it was made out to be. We present ourselves in a better way if we find common ground with immigrants who are ultimately also being manipulated for political and financial gain into abandoning their heritage, as we are into abandoning ours.

Real tribalism is the opposite of imperialism, real tribalism recognises what is in a tribe’s best interest and that a tribe lives most happily and closer to their heritage when living the simple life, embracing primitivism and rejecting modern civilisations and its many luxuries and temptations. Jordan Petersen has been in the news a fair bit lately, he makes me more optimistic about modern (Jungian) psychology, and provides a good cynical, genuinely liberal perspective without being “libertarian”. However one issue he keeps returning to is that of the alt-right and as much of a joke this phenomenon is, he is rather preaching against “tribalism” and calling for its eradication. Peterson is right about ideologues, the cult-like tendencies, their tendency to dehumanise others, but he makes a sweeping generalisation about tribalism as if it will always lead toward some degree of Nazism/fascism. For him also it seems to be an issue of collectivism versus individualism, which is something I can relate to a lot more. Jordan Peterson and those like him who are against the left but also stress individualism will argue we aren’t successful or worthy because of our tribal background, and that our race means nothing essentially. But the point of tribalism isn’t that you worship your ancestors because you love your tribe, it is that you love your tribe because of its connections to your ancestry.

Individualism has been rather tarnished by its association with excessively egocentric libertarians or just selfish, apolitical and apathetic “centrists”. But tribalism places a lot of value on individual worth, high standards. A real European, and a real pagan, demands a lot from himself and others, and this applies to other traditional cultures worldwide as well. When likeminded individuals focus on individual worth, achievements and on following their own path to greatness and enlightenment, they are effectively working toward the same goal as a collective. We shouldn’t let geographic isolation bother us or distract us, and we shouldn’t be tempted to waste time with the collectivist, herdlike mentality of the alt-right instead. Tribalism doesn’t need to be a dogmatic cult of drones who can’t think for themselves, fend for themselves or survive by themselves. There is good individualism that can benefit the tribe as a whole by having high standards. It’s about self-improvement rather than self-indulgence, which is how many interpret individualism these days.

So what should we be doing in order to become worthy Europeans, to be able to call ourselves tribalists? To be able to call ourselves pagan, and to not even need to justify our worldviews? The alt-right reactionaries and nationalists make themselves easy targets, not having the honesty to just label themselves as nationalists, flirting with national socialist and fascist imagery, slogans, memes etc., and doing a lot of talking, ranting and protesting, but actually doing very little if anything at all to benefit their tribe, their local community, their family, their children (if they have any, which they rarely do). Our focus in the current climate should be on two things: Worthwhile, productive pursuits and making good use of our time, and working on becoming more self-sufficient. We need arts and crafts in our lives, we need beauty, we need spirituality, and we need knowledge and skills. Feed your mind, body and soul, aim to to a good job of balancing all three, gradually build on your understanding of the true nature of European religion, work on useful hobbies, join a martial arts or shooting club, or both. By all means pursue social circles, but try to make sure that at least some of those social circles relate to areas of interest. Become the hero you were in a past life, and you will attract a worthy spouse sooner or later. Don’t waste time on ideologues and cults that are just as bad as malevolent far-left movements.

Winter is Coming – The Invonvenient Truth of Anarcho-Primitivism

snow edit

Al Gore famously referred to global warming as the “inconvenient truth”, but like all wishy-washy soft environmentalists he was telling us to focus on a red herring, a phenomenon that probably is not happening, and which even if it is happening, is the least of our concerns. In a worst case scenario, if it is happening, then it is not necessarily man-made and simply further proves the need to adapt to changes in nature in general.

It is indesputable that we are wrecking the environment on a massive scale, and heading towards mass extinction, but climate change activists refuse to address the bigger issues, the brutal truths, such as overpopulation, the endless denand for housing, mass immigration, the dependence on modern medicine and the damage caused by modern farming practices, both organic and non-organic.

If we wish to rise from the ashes of the “Kali Yuga”, or “Ragnarok” if you like, after our current cycle of civilisation reaches its dramatic end, we must accept these harsh realities, learn to prioritise and to reduce our needs. We need to force ourselves to make do with less, and know how to make do with nothing. We need to reject weakness, mindless consumerism and hopeless dependance on governments and corporations to provide us with all our needs, and instead learn not only all the skills necessary to survive, but also the skills necessary to achieve our maximum physical, intellectual and spiritual potential.

Many potential causes of a complete collapse loom on the horizon – depletion of fuels, depletion of rare earth minerals, epidemics (potentially all the more disastrous due to adaptation and immunity to antibiotics), crop failures (again, now an alarming possibility due to the senseless destruction of bird and insect habitats, and in particular the declining bee populations), “World War Three” (which could happen as a direct result of any of the aforementioned reasons), huge solar flares that could affect or even completely knock out electricity, or a combination of these. Within a tiny fraction of our history, most rapidly within the last one hundred years, or even the last fifty years, we have seen a decline in our survival skillset, our knowledge of traditional crafts, our knowledge of our native religion, interest in and care for our natural environment, the ability to physically defend ourselves and the ability to find, hunt, fish and forage our own food. Prometheus gave man fire; in the twenty first century you are lucky if you can find someone who knows how to light a fire, without using modern lighters and dousing it in fuel. The “advanced” and “progressive” modern man, the civilised and domesticated man, can rarely master the simplest and most essential skills.

We need to revive and teach ourselves these skills, our cultural practices and the oral tradition that passes them down the generations. We need to live a simple life. We need to retreat from the rotting cesspit that is modern civilisation (which civilisation will literally be in the event of collapse – a starved, filthy graveyard breeding disease). We need to know how to adapt to changes in nature, and though it would be foolish and fanatical to reject all the good and truly beneficial technology and tools we have gathered over the centuries, we should know how to survive with literally nothing.

Following posts will be focusing on book reviews, reconstructing (and remembering) true paganism and bushcraft/survival skills and foraging to begin with. More articles will follow soon.

 

– S. 02/01/2018