By Ulfhethnar Odinsen AOR
The tree is a common motif in our sacred mythology as well as in that of various cultures world-wide. Yet nowhere does it seem to have left such an indelible mark as it has in the Nordic cultures of Europe. From the mighty ash tree Yggdrasil to our progenitors Askr and Embla, the Ash and Elm. We are told of how the roots of Yggdrasil lie within the three wells of ancestral memory and are coated daily by the healing clay of Urd’s Well. The other two wells being of course Mimir’s and that of Hvergelmir. The roots of Yggdrasil likewise serve as a protective sanctuary for Lif and Lifthrasir during dreaded Ragnarok protecting them from the all-consuming flames of Surt! Those same roots that are gnawed upon constantly by the serpent Nithogg while Yggdrasil’s boughs and bark are likewise gnawed upon by the goat Heidrun and the hart Eikthyrnir.
Our connection to the tree from ages passed has never quite left us despite the attempts of Christian zealots and hundreds of years of foreign indoctrination. The legacy of our ancestors has yet to be erased, nor has their wisdom lost its vitality or relevance in the modern age. The legacy is still there waiting to be fully revealed. It is more than a symbol. It is a rune in its own right, a mystery to be unraveled. Whether poetic kenning or sacred allegory, it is deserving of being investigated and of having its secrets re-discovered. The existence of our folk may very well depend upon our willingness to do just that. To reconnect once more to that life giving source and cease being a branch slowly withering away to nothingness.
It is with a deep reverence and respect that I consider the many layers and examples most clearly set by the world tree as well as the reflection of which that resides within each and every one of us. There is the trunk, that which sustains the individual branches, through the nutrients drawn up by way of its roots. They themselves drawing from the well, the life giving or destructive essences of the deeds of Midgard. Along the branches are the nodes and green leaves, the nodes growing into new sub-branches while the leaves bask in the sun’s embrace. Eventually like generations of Midgard born, they lose their vibrant color and fall to be reclaimed, poisoning or sustaining the tree. Like any eco-system the health of all of its various elements is as important as the whole, for its overall health is dependent upon its sum parts. We are both like the nodes and the leaves. If we are following our natural inclinations we are reaching upwards, being revitalized and inspired, and as such we are green and healthy. We pass on that vitality to the nodes which continue to grow and branch out in new directions creating space for more leaves. Drawing life force and inspiration from the roots through our branches, by way of the trunk as well as from the lofty heights we are constantly striving towards in our ceaseless quest. A separation from either would be disastrous for both.
We are like those leaves in the sense that if we do not follow our natural function the nodes do not receive the necessary nutrients to grow and no new branches are created. The tree ceases to grow, stagnates and eventually weakens and dies. It is a network depending on the sum of its parts. Only a sick and diseased tree experiences this process. As such, any leaves that fall are likewise sick or diseased and as such further poisons the well. Similarly we as a folk are healthy and vital as long as we follow our natural function. By this same process we insure the health and survival of our following generations through the foundation we leave behind.
Jung spoke widely upon the idea of synchronicity, the interrelationship between all actions and subsequent events. Much like the concept that “a butterfly flutters its wings here today and tomorrow a building collapses in China,” all of our choices have far reaching consequences beyond our understanding. The thought that the choices of our earliest ancestors are still being felt today is something many will find hard to swallow yet like dominoes their actions and choices set off a chain of events that still haven’t ended. The reverberations throughout the web may be hard to discern, but the harder we look the clearer they become. Likewise when we attempt to consider ourselves as separate from the whole we are not only deluding ourselves but putting the health and the existence of the whole in peril. We as a part of that whole bear certain responsibilities toward its continuance and health. To our lines/branches, ensuring healthy roots and generations of new and vibrant leaves as well as nurturing the nodes for new branches.
A sign of a sick tree/line can be clearly seen today in the once healthy and vibrant colony in South Africa. We have attacked ourselves in favor of creeping vines and choking shrubs effectively cutting off life to a node/colony. We have failed to identify and support our own and have hindered the growth of our tree. We are told in the Eddas of how the roots are constantly being gnawed upon by Nithogg as well as the boughs being attacked by the hart and the goat. Clear indicators that even without our own betrayals we are in a life and death struggle as a whole. Survival of the fittest means just that. We can’t afford to fall prey to social engineering when it’s nothing but detrimental to our survival. Whenever we take any course of action, make any choice, it should be with a full consideration of its potential effect upon the whole. Will our actions and choices weaken the whole or strengthen it? Are we ensuring our health and vitality or becoming diseased? These should be our considerations or else we fall prey to selfish egos and will cease to be.
Had those who came before us neglected their natural inclinations in favor of purely selfish endeavors we would not have any reason to venerate them. Most likely we would have ceased to be or fallen so low we would have only felt contempt for them. Thankfully they were neither that selfish, nor that short sighted. It has become our responsibility to insure that it doesn’t end with us. That we do not blindly sever our branches to graft upon weeds, delivering a death blow as severe as any woodsman’s axe. We must insure that we do not cease drawing life from that folk tree, condemning it to a lingering death, ignoring the health of our roots and the storehouse of folk knowledge contained therein. The catastrophic results of which we have already clearly seen repeatedly throughout the ages and which is abundantly clear today. The reality is that when we sever ourselves from our folk, choosing instead to align ourselves with another, we are committing an act of murder as well as suicide! We are denying life to the potential offspring of those branches that would have been. We are in reality choosing death, not only for ourselves but for those who are dependent upon us for life. Who would choose this course of action willingly? No rational creature with any instinct for survival or sense of self would follow such an obvious symptom of insanity and brainwashing. Any tree whose sum parts refused to do their duty out of preference to another would in short order wither and die. Has Yggdrasil become such a tree? Have we forgotten what the tree of life is there to remind us of? Of our interconnectedness and interdependency upon the beneficial and responsible decisions of all of our branches and the individual leaves and nodes?
Any of us who look can see that our tree has been around for countless ages. That it’s branches have lived, thrived, and spread across the great expanse of Mother Jorth. That it’s branches likewise withered and died in lands long ago claimed by the tides and foreign hordes through indifference and neglect as well as through selfish and thoughtless choices. Rarely was it at the whim of the Norns. The traces of our tree can be seen and heard of in every corner of the globe. Within every culture’s legends the stories abound and upon every continent the traces of ancient aviators, seafarers, and monument builders still awe and mystify the world. A tree that was once lofty and lush. Even still it is impressive enough though a shade of its former glory. Many were its branches lost with the shifting sands, the rising tides, warfare, and through famine; others from careless breeding as well as through something more insidious. A purposeful plan of social engineering by enemies of the sacred ash. Weeds and shrubs seeking to topple the great tree. Full of envy and petty jealousy, seeking to take its place. What could not be naturally accomplished is sought through unnatural means. Such is the description given in the Eddas. Ever has it been and only through the health of the waters within the well is the destruction halted and the vitality of the tree sustained. Failure to ensure its health is what has led us to this place where our own survival has become uncertain at best. To think we can continue pretending otherwise is insane. We would only be deluding ourselves. We cannot continue pretending that we are not beholden to those who came before nor responsible to those who shall follow us. It is our responsibility to see that they have their day and that it be one full of health and vitality. We are a part of, and connected to, something greater than ourselves. Without which we are nothing, with no future, without identity. When we sever ourselves we cease to be sustained.
Havamal Stanza 50: (Coulter translation):
“A fir tree will die as it stands alone on a field
with no bark or needles to shield it‑
So too the man that no-one loves; he has
no reason to live”
Much like Dr. Frankenstein who gave little real thought to the creature he was creating his end was tragic, villainized and hated. The one question the creature asked was,” why did you create me, a monster?” We venerate our progenitors because of the simple fact that they thought of us long before we ever were. They were a noble folk.
We are clear proof of that belief. It is likewise true that any hybrids created through grafts to weeds or shrubs will become competitors and antagonists to the tree of the folk. Those who were more conscientious and their offspring will be the focus of brutal attacks by hybrids attempting to eradicate them. When we show a lack of fidelity we show a lack of regard concerning ourselves and all that is truly sacred. It is likewise true that we find sanctuary and solace when we retreat to the roots of the great tree. Symbolic of returning to traditions in the face of turmoil, similar to Lif and Lifthrasir seeking shelter from Surt’s all-consuming fire. Through this return to our roots we protect ourselves from the flames and overcome its potential destruction by insulating ourselves from violence, addiction etc. A return to our pristine origins!
The tree is symbolic of man himself and the nine worlds, the various states of being; spiritual, materialistic, aggressive, stagnant, etc. Muspellheim (active aggression, passionate, driven), Niflheim (cold and stagnant, consistent and firm). The complete tree is one of total balance. The point is not to eradicate any “world” but to bring them into harmony. Each serves a purpose in its proper time and place whose eradication would lead to an imbalance. An imbalance leads to disharmony and sickness which we cannot afford to suffer. A greater awareness insures our health and vitality and ultimately our survival through healthy instincts.
There is much we can learn from our lore and from an investigation of the great tree. Upon the Great Ash Odin sought the mysteries of the multiverse and thrived. We as Odinists can likewise emulate Odin and expand our awareness, return to our roots, and like Lif and Lifthrasir insure the waters of Urd’s Well are clear and full of life. We cannot do this if we refuse to acknowledge our dependence upon the tree and each other and continue to sever ourselves through selfish endeavors obliterating forever the path back to our origins. We owe much more than that to our ancestors and to our descendants.
Hail the Odinic Rite!
Hail Blod Tru Hearth!
Hail Clan Magni!