Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Role of Asatru in the Modern World

How does our ancient faith fit into the modern world?  What does it do for us as individuals?

I believe the function of Asatru today can be summarized in terms of our connections, our the Gods and Goddesses, to Earth, to our ancestors, to our descendants, and to our living kin.

We need to cultivate certain qualities in ourselves to fulfill these relationships.  Some folks call these as the Nine Noble Virtues, others use other codifications, but anyone who is familiar with our traditional culture has a feel for the essentials.  We are to be strong, honorable, loyal, and so forth.  Thus we make ourselves worthy in regard to each of the groups listed above.

To the Holy Powers (the Gods and Goddesses) we owe might and main and troth.  In turn, we receive luck and victory and various qualities of mind and soul. 

To the Earth, the natural world, we owe respect and cooperation.  In turn, we are nourished and life is possible.

To the ancestors, we owe remembrance and maintenance of our lineage's honor.  In turn, we have received the gift of life and various physical, mental, and spiritual qualities.

To our descendants, we owe life, good family reputation, protection, and proper upbringing.  In turn, they give us joy, support in our old age, and someone to remember us when we are gone.

To our living kin, we owe loyalty and aid.  We receive the same from them.

In these bonds of gifts given and gifts returned, we have the blessings of Asatru in the modern world.

Steve McNallen

Asatru Folk Assembly

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Runic Divination: Does It Work?

People ask me whether I believe runic divination works.  I very seldom use runes for that purpose  -  an average of once every couple of years  -  but the results can be very interesting. During one period of personal crisis, I decided to draw one rune of the Elder Futhark out of a leather bag each day,  and read its significance.  The first day I shook the bag of rune staves and drew Perthro.  The next day, I pulled again  -  and again it was Perthro.  This continued three more days with Perthro coming up each time, for a total of five draws.  Each was done blindly, with the staves randomized by shaking.  There was nothing unusual or remarkable about the wood with Perthro carved on it; in size and texture it was like the others...The only thing different about it was that it insisted on coming up time after time!  The chance of this happening by coincidence is one in 7.96 million. 

It may be significant that particular rune kept appearing.  Years later, I read something by Freya Aswinn stating that if you kept drawing Perthro, the runes were telling you that you weren't supposed to know the answer to your question. 

Sure, I might have just hit that one chance in almost 8 million, but I don't think so.  Expressed one way, I am convinced that sometimes the universe (multiverse?) organizes things by Meaning rather than by Chance.  Or to put it another way (and here I am drawing on Thorsson's idea that the runes are a sacred script designed specifically for communication with the Gods) the Holy Powers did not think I was supposed to get an answer that was more definite. 

Make of it what you will. 

Steve McNallen

Asatru Folk Assembly

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Across Atlantic Ice: Kennewick Man's Context

Okay, last one on this topic for a while, I promise!

This book, by Dr. Dennis Stanford and Professor Bruce A. Bradley, is scholarly while still being approachable by the layman.

Dr. Stanford is an archaeologist and Director of the Paleoindian/Paleoecology Program at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution  -  hardly a lightweight in the academic world.  Professor Bradley is Professor of Prehistory and Director of the Experimental Archaeology Masters Programme at the University of Exeter, and has extensive experience with Stone Age technologies.

The authors apply rigorous scholarship to a hypothesis that places the technological antecedents of Clovis in Europe and posits that the first Americans crossed the Atlantic by boat and arrived earlier than previously thought. Supplying archaeological and oceanographic evidence to support this assertion, the book dismantles the old paradigm while persuasively linking Clovis technology with the culture of the Solutrean people who occupied France and Spain more than 20,000 years ago.

Steve McNallen

Asatru Folk Assembly

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Ice Age Columbus" and the Ancient European Migrations to America

To understand the enigma of Kennewick Man, and why the AFA gives a damn about him, it helps to have the larger context.  Like, if he was European, how did he end up along the banks of the Columbia River in Washington?

In regards to ancient European migrations to North America, please see the link below.  It is an excellent summary of the evidence for such movement during the ice age some 17,000 years ago, when an ice bridge connected Europe and North America.  That evidence includes distinctive projectile technology, identical caches of ritual (large, non-functional) spear points covered with ochre on both sides of the Atlantic, and a particular genetic marker called "haploid X."

Pre-Viking?  Definitely, as I have said all along. But, if it turned out he was from Europe, would be still be our kin and thus relevant to us?  Also definitely.

Steve McNallen

Asatru Folk Assembly

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Kennewick Man Remembered

Kennewick Man has hit the news lately, so this seems like a good time to remind everyone of the truth concerning our involvement in the controversy surrounding him.
Sensational press and online trolls notwithstanding, neither the AFA nor myself at any time claimed he was "a Viking," or anything of the sort.  But we very strongly believed that if he was European he should not be given over to non-Europeans for burial.  We reiterated our willingness to let science determine who Kennewick Man was, and to let that decision determine the fate of his remains. More important from a political standpoint, we stated that we supported the existing treaty rights of Native American tribes. (You can see me make this point at 35:54 in the video linked below.)

Boiled down to its essentials:  In the summer of 1996, a skeleton was discovered in the shallows of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington  -  hence the name "Kennewick Man."  Initially, it was thought that the bones were those of a modern Caucasian male.  Then things got really interesting, when carbon dating indicated the remains were more than 9,000 years old! 

At that point, local Native American tribes demanded he be turned over to them for reburial in accord with a federal law called the "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act." 

A group of scientists filed a law suit to prevent "repatriation" so that the remains could be studied.  The Asatru Folk Assembly likewise filed suit, saying that the bones should be examined to determine if Kennewick Man was more nearly related to Native Americans, or to Europeans.  If the former, we supported giving them to the Native American tribes after study.  If on the other hand he was more nearly related to Europeans, we wanted them studied and then reburied in accordance with pre-Christian European rites.

Then as now, we support Native Americans in their determination to continue the existence of their culture and people...which is exactly what we want for OUR people.

Take a look at this video, Equinox: Homocide in Kennewick  -  in particular, see the interview with Professor Katie MacMillan at 10:10, my comments at 35:54 and the immediately following ones by Vine Deloria regarding an unknown tall, red-haired people, and my comments at 40:52.

Steve McNallen

Asatru Folk Assembly

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Our Ancestors and Us

I am connected to all my ancestors in ways that transcend space and time.  They gave me the gift of life, and molded everything from the color of my hair to less tangible things like my temperament and personality and skills.  My ancestors, and yours, still speak through the thin veil of death, sending their love and luck as we go about our daily lives.  These are their gifts to us.

In return we remember them, honor them, tell their stories, visit their graves.  We continue the family line if we are sound.  We jealously guard the family honor, and add to its glory if we can. We are the latest representatives of our forefathers and foremothers in Midgard.  Someday we will join them.

In the meantime, we are all ancestors-in-training.

Steve McNallen  

Asatru Folk Assembly

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

AFA Labor Day Meetup in Dallas

Last Monday we met AFA members in Grapevine, Texas before boarding the airplane to return to California.  Despite the short notice, AFAers drove from as far away as Houston to be with us.  Others came from Abilene, two hours to the west, and some were from the immediate Dallas-Fort Worth area.

About half of those who came had never been to a blot or a sumbel before!  We pulled out a horn and some mead, explained how sumbels worked, and held one on the spot.  (We were in the private meeting room of a local restaurant.)

Texas is huge, and it's easy to be isolated from other AFAers, but the hours we spent with these awesome folks will help it be a little less lonely from now on!

Steve McNallen

Asatru Folk Assembly

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