By Wayne W AOR
The sky outside the window had darkened, and the snow was falling quickly now. The Old Man stood again and looked out the window. He could see no sign of his family, and the tree line just a few hundred feet away was barely visible through the falling snow. Far off he thought he heard the sound of thunder. Thunder! With snow that could only mean they were if for a rough few hours of weather. He hoped his family had turned for home. Daylight was fading and the weather was definitely turning. It was almost as if the weather reflected the anger he felt inside. It had been a long time since he had told the tale of the Great Theft, and it always made him angry to do so. He shook his head to clear such thoughts from his mind and returned to the chair. The Boy was adding a few more logs to the fire.
Each day is sacred for us, each day we do what we do and although we would never use such a word to describe such things our work becomes a kind of prayer. By doing our daily tasks well and with good intent they reaffirm our connection to each other and to the Gods. For our ancestors it was the same, but lived more immediately; if they failed at their daily tasks it could mean death. Not enough food would see people starve through winter, poorly build homes would see people exposed to the harshest of elements. Badly built boats could be the death of many. This immediacy is not so strong in the modern world; but it could quickly become so again.
But even we had days of extra special importance; days when we made extra special effort to affirm our relationship with the Gods and with Nature. Now some of these days changed depending on where you were, different Folk celebrate different days as important depending on local circumstances. A Folk living by the sea may have a special day to celebrate the return of the fish; a Folk in the Northern woodlands may celebrate the ripening of a certain berry. But the intent was the same, to thank Nature and the Gods for a fruitful harvest and to reaffirm the intrinsic connection between man and the land.
In Spring, at the time of the Spring Equinox, we celebrated the rite of Ostara-Summers-Dawn. It is a time of purification, of the rebirth of nature and it is a time sacred to the Goddess Frejya. As the warmth of the sun awakens that which has been sleeping the days grow longer giving more time for growth. As the world around us grows so do we, if we have been poor shepherds of the land at this time of year it will not bear enough fruits to see us through the winter later in the year. This is the core of our relationship with one another and the land. It is something we forget at our peril; but nonetheless many seem to have forgotten it in these modern times.
This time it was The Boy who got up to look out the window. While the weather had not worsened it was getting darker as the day was drawing to an end. The Boy looked slightly worried but was trying hard not to show it. After a minute of staring out in to the snow he turned and sat back in his chair by the fire.
In Summer we have the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year, the day on which the sun has the most influence upon the land. After this the days begin to shorten; but for now we celebrate the sun in all its glory and we celebrate Balder The Shining One. It is a time when we celebrate the promise of the future; when we come together to make binding oaths that will strengthen our Folk in the times yet to come. Balder’s death brought the first great winter, but here we celebrate the promise of his return and the reforging and rebirth of Northern Folkdom. We celebrate the bright future to come when we have completed our labours.
In the Autumn we have the Autumnal Equinox, the second day of the year when the day and night are of equal length. This is a crucial and pivotal time of year. The sun begins to lose its power over the land. Life rushes to maturity to gather strength for the coming winter, the fruits of the land ripen for harvest. To symbolise the sacrifice the land makes in giving up its bounty to us there were many varied rites and festivals. At some a Corn-Baby made from the previous year’s harvest would be buried in the corn field, returned to Mother Earth to thank her for her bounty and to lessen the pain of the coming harvest. As summer dies our thoughts again turn to The Shining One – Balder, and we honour him and the sacrifice he made. In some areas it may be that this was the time of year for formally dissolving oaths and contracts, so as to do so without bringing shame to your people.
Between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice we have, perhaps what was for many early Folk the most important of festivals. It was a time to remember our ancestors, those who had gone before us a shown us the way; those who had died in conflict, especially conflict to protect the Folk and preserve our ways. But not only do we honour the warrior; for the warrior is in many ways a meaningless concept unless he has something to love, to defend and to fight for; his wife, his children, his home, his Folk, his Faith and his way of life. All of these things are also honoured, for without them not only does the warrior have nothing to fight for but he would have never even existed.
In Winter we have Yule, this marks the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. It marks the shortest day of the year after which the days go from getting shorter to getting longer. It is symbolic of rebirth and through that association it is a sacred time for all mothers. Originally this festival spanned many days, at a time of year when little could be done in our ancestors’ time it was appropriate to have such a festival. It was a time for families and Folk to come together and exchange gifts as tokens of good faith with one another. We used to burn a Yule Log, a huge log that would last for days in the fire pits in our great halls. Nobles and common men would mix as equals; indeed many cultures saw this time of year as a time when normal social barriers were weakened; perhaps because at the harshest time of year everybody was dependent on the aid of everyone else as they all worked, and celebrated, together.
The Old Man again went to the window. He needed a few moments to still his mind. As always talk of the Old Ways had brought peace to his mind and to his heart. But he needed to temper that peace, to lock it away and hide it and not allow it to soften his heart as he told the last tale of The Great Theft.
Outside the storm has abated a bit, the snow was falling less heavily and the wind had dropped. The sun was almost hidden behind the trees and the light now had an almost unearthly splendour to it; the setting sun was bright and orange, barely visible between the clouds on the horizon and the nearby forest; what light there was reflected off a million snow flakes and the air itself seemed to glow. This was the calm before the storm, he hoped with all his heart that his family were close to home now, when the storm broke it would be dangerous to be caught out and exposed to it. From the mountains he heard a rumble of thunder, a deep grumble of anger, the storm was waking.
Before returning to his chair The Old Man lit a small oil lamp and stood it in the window; its light would guide his family home as the sun lost its battle with the night. The Boy was looking nervously at the weather outside, huddled in his chair as though the warmth from the fire would save him from the pent up anger waiting to be released outside. The Old Man knew deep down in his soul that it would not.
So, now you know of our five main festivals; four to mark the turning of the wheel of time, the passing of the seasons and the natural cycle of life and death, one to honour our ancestors and thank them for their sacrifices and wisdom. Almost all cultures had such festivals in the time before the Usurper God and his Slave-Priests.
There were hard times back then, and life was no easy journey; but individual integrity, community strength and an understanding of our relationship with the Earth and with the Gods saw people through more often than not. But the Slave-Priests, The Deceivers, were cunning, they were dishonest and over time they took these most special of days from us.
As I told earlier they slowly introduced rites of the Usurper God in to out rites, and then they slowly did away with our rites and we were left with nothing but the lies of the Slave-Priest and the rites to the Usurper God.
The Old Man could feel himself filling with anger, and a little shame as he told the final part of The Great Theft. The anger had an obvious source, but the shame was more complicated. Why should he feel shame at the actions of others? He had never felt shame when retelling the tale before. But did he not share in that shame to some degree? The blood of some of those who many years ago had turned away from the Old Ways was the same blood that ran through his veins. Must he not shoulder some of the burden of shame and guilt as well as the glory and integrity of those who stayed true? He felt the anger grow stronger at his frustration to understand this new feeling.
Outside the wind started to pick up, the snow fall gathered pace and almost as if from nowhere a blizzard struck. The strong winds almost hid the sound of thunder, and of something else; something more primal than thunder, something that called to every fibre in The Old man, it gave him a message he had always known would come; he hoped he had time to finish the tale, he hoped his family would find their way home.
The Deceivers made their strongest attack on our ways at the places and times that would cause the most pain, the most damage, the most disruption. They stole from us the Yule Festival, they claimed the son of the Usurper God – the Dying Carpenter – was born on our holy day. They stripped away the association between birth and mother to prevent us remembering that this is a festival to Mother Earth. In the modern age they added Father Christmas / Santa Claus, even this is likely based on Odin. They commercialised it in to a frenzy of spending and guilt; when the monetary cost of what we give as presents is far more important than their value. They stole from us a spiritual connection with Mother Earth, they stole a celebration of the turning of the years and the seasons; and this is indeed a part of The Great Theft.
The Old Man’s voice shook with anger, his hands trembled with rage and outside the storm grew in intensity. The Boy looked at the window with alarm; the wind howled through the roof and down the chimney bringing with it a scent of cold, of anger and of dread.
They stole from us the festival of Ostara-Summers-Dawn, claiming that at this time the Dying Carpenter rose from the dead to save the world; as if he was the only God ever to rise from the dead. They turned another time for veneration of the sacred cycle of life in to a travesty of itself. The modern age commercialised it, as it does with anything of true value, and sold our children bad health in the guise of treats. They stole from us a sacred time of fertility and purification and this was indeed a part of The Great Theft.
They tried to steal the Summer Solstice, but for almost all Folk the world over this was a major festival. It was hard for them to get their claws in to this time, none of their own lore, their own ways, held much of significance for this time of year. And so at the time when our ancestors would make binding oath to one another The Deceivers sought to make us remember those who had betrayed the Old Ways. They made June 22nd the day after the Summer Solstice the holy-day of St. Alban, the saint of converts, to remind us that the theft of our Folk Way would not have been possible if it were not for those who turned away from our Gods and knelt as slaves before the Usurper God. In this they stole a part of our pride, a part of our joy in our ancestry and this was a part of The Great Theft.
The Autumnal Equinox was often associated with festivals of the coming or completed harvest. The Deceivers tried to steal this from us too, and in some way they succeeded and in other ways they failed. They succeeded in having most harvest festivals become associated with the Usurper God, the rites carried out by his Slave-Priests; but even where they did this so much of it was just a continuation of the Old Ways and in this they left a foothold for the Old Ways to be remembered; but over time even that this was part of the Old Ways was forgotten by many people. Complacency stole our vigilance, time stole our memories and although this can not all be blamed on The Deceivers this too is a part of The Great Theft.
They stole our sacred places, they stole and corrupted our sacred rites, they stole our holy days, our pride, our honesty, they stole our money through taxation and gave it to other Deceivers to wreak more damage and destruction on the Old Ways; they stole so much, but for one thing they stole along with all these others we should thank them – our naivety.
Never again will we be naïve enough to believe that to allow even the smallest of compromises with Deceivers is acceptable. Each small compromise, each small concession was like a snow flake, individually they were almost imperceptible and so was their effect on our Folk Way; but together they were like an avalanche that swept our Folk Way before it and buried it beneath a mountain of deception and lies. The Deceivers of Usurper God had almost won; one more theft would complete The Great Theft.
As if the talk of snow and avalanche had been a catalyst the storm outside found another level of fury, a fury matched in The Old Man’s heart and soul. It was as if each snowflake was an ancestor, demanding redress for the crimes and betrayals that had gone before. The wind howled as if it were a great wolf signalling the pack to come to feast. Yet it carried other messages too, the thunder was deafening but even it did not hide the voice of his wife, it did not hide the call of his brothers. He knew he did not have long to complete the tale; he knew that he must complete the tale even if it meant he would not have time to go and search for his family out in the storm. He hoped the strength they had would be enough.
The last thing they tried to steal from us was our rite to remember the ancestors. The Deceivers knew full well that if they could break our link to the past, if they could sever the spiritual link to our ancestors then the Folk Memory would fade, we would lose the Old Ways forever – the Usurper God would have won. The horrible thing that we must all remember is that they came so very close to achieving this. For many generations the Old Ways were not even a distant memory for many of our Folk. They took part in rituals and festivals steeped in the Old Ways but that had been so well disguised as rituals to the Usurper God by the Slave-Priests that almost no-one knew their original meaning anymore.
They stole our connection to the past, and in doing so for many they also stole the desire for a simpler, but better life. They stole our understanding that a life lived in harmony with the natural cycles of not only the land, but also each other and the universe is a life we can be proud to pass to our children.
They stole our Folk Identity that had been handed down generation to generation, and this was indeed The Greatest Theft Of All.
The Old Man was truly angry now, not at The Boy but at The Deceivers; they had forced him to tell the story to The Boy and it might be to soon for him; the path they had set the world on many generations ago was coming to its end. The Time Of Troubles was upon him he, must finish the tale. His urgency gave fuel to his anger and his eyes reflected the light of the fire as if they were burning embers. He could see The Boy was worried, not only about his anger but also about his family, outside in the storm; a storm that seemed to grow angrier and angrier with each passing minute.
The Old Man forced himself to calm down, to let the anger flow over him; he must not scare The Boy or the tale might be lost and it was clear now it would be needed soon. The storm was here, now.
He reached for The Boy’s hand and held it between his own. He let the some of the energy within him flow to The Boy. The Boy relaxed as if that energy was an old friend shielding him, and it was. The Old Man continued.
In far flung corners of the world a few descendants of the ancestors may have kept a few of the Old Ways alive, or they may have begun to look for that deeper meaning that so many of us know is there but we can never quite reach. The web of lies spun by The Deceivers in service to the Usurper God has many strands. Many illusions must be shattered before you can step out from under the shadow of lies and see the world as our ancestors did; a world of majesty, beauty and wisdom, a world not to be taken for granted and not to be squandered. You must remember the Old Ways, not because they are a way back to a long forgotten past but because they are the way forward to a brighter, better future; a future where the Northern Folk can again live in harmony with Mother Earth, free from the lies of The Deceivers and the Slave-Priests of the Usurper God. You must carve for yourselves a future where new inventions serve you, not you them. Where a life lived in harmony with Mother Earth does not mean a life of poverty, but a life of bounty.
Only you can do this, we who have come before failed. The Great Theft robbed us of the Folk Wisdom we needed, and we did not recover it until too late. I tell you this tale and you must remember, for in the time after the troubles all must know it, only then will you be able to be free of the The Deceivers.
A gust of wind blew open the door to the room. It carried with it snow and a fell sound upon the wind. A sound The Old Man now recognised for what it was, he had always known what it was; a sound he had hoped not to hear yet, never to hear; but the tale had been told and his fate had been set many generations ago.
He could hear relieved voices in the hallway, his family had found their way home; the huffing and puffing of those worn out by exposure to the storm. But they had survived, they were strong enough. The Old Man went to the hallway and looked at his family, he saw they were all there shedding the winter clothes that had kept them safe in the storm. He looked back in to the room, The Boy was sat in the chair by the fire clearly worried at what might have come through the door, or what might not have come through the door, he stared at The Old Man waiting for a sign.
The Old Man smiled and nodded, and The Boy ran in to the hall to greet his family. He hugged his mother and father, his brothers and sister and aunts, uncles and cousins. They held him close as if it were he who had faced the storm; as if by instinct they knew he was different now, he had been changed in some way. They looked to The Old Man to explain.
The wind howled and the storm raged and in the time it takes to share a glance The Family knew The Old Man must go, he must leave them and go to his fate.
Again The Old man heard the sound, it called to every fibre of his being, every mote of his soul like nothing else could and in his heart he was happy and sad. Happy that he would soon fulfil his destiny; sad that his Family must now do without him, that he would not see The Boy fulfil a destiny that had been set for him. But he had completed his duty, the tale had been told, they were safe now from The Great Theft. He smiled and said “Listen to The Boy, he knows a great tale and it will protect you in the years to come; remember it and avoid our mistakes.”
He turned and went to the fireplace, reached above the fire and took down a weapon, his hammer, Mjollnir. The wind and thunder could no longer hide the sound of The Gjallarhorn; his brother called for his aid and he must answer that call. It was time to pay the final price of The Great Theft.
Resources & Inspiration
The Book of Blotar of the Odinic Rite (The Authentic Rituals of the Odinic Rite)
The Odinic Rite Online Articles: http://www.odinic-rite.org/articles.html
The song ”Green and Grey” by The New Model Army for the line “go running to the land of gold and poison that beckons to us all.”
John T. Mainer for his work on Odinist.net