This is a follow-up to this post: https://facingthefireswithin.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/emotional-alchemy/
I had promised to discuss some longer term approaches as time progressed and now is the time to talk about one I personally used tying to my child and my own anger and fears. From last summer and before, I was struggling with tremendous anger and frustrations. I have hesitated to discuss this on a public blog post and will still keep most details to myself but will focus on the fact that I WAS raging in very destructive ways which, at one point, nearly affected my child.
I have had no greater fear in my life than harming someone I love. This has been with me since childhood and is not something I have a desire to completely resolve but, when my child might feel threatened, that hurt me terribly. There were other, internally destructive, issues to face but part of dealing with my rage was finding a way to soften that terrible anger to my child while still maintaining anger as legitimate and not hiding the emotions. I firmly believe that ignoring such feelings, hiding them or “stuffing them down” is a serious mistake.
Without covering all the details, I reached the point that I was raging in one room while my daughter was in another room. The power of it was terrible, and something I could not allow to continue. At the beginning, I had not looked into anger from a heathen perspective and started with Stoic meditation. In time, when I realized that no longer worked well enough, I began to research the history of the berserks and related elements that led to where I am now. Now, the storytelling piece I am about to mention was not initially a conscious thing but flowed from the need to entertain my child at bedtime but also became a way to soften the effects of my rage and anger.
I began to tell the story of a friendly berserk warrior who loved children and drew his power from a gentler form of bear spirit that other berserks would not waste their time with. The story started with an origin, saving children in the forest and then proceeded into fighting a dragon rather like the end of Beowulf (and earning his sword in the process) and onto many stories since then. At first, I saw them as stories to entertain my child but over time I realized that they really served to soften my own anger to myself. By telling the story of a friendly berserk who would never harm a child, I also programmed and reassured myself that I would do no harm either. From there, I found ways to talk to my child about my anger and what I called “little Fenris” (that inner Fenrir that represents our own beast but can be controlled, with effort). I introduced the concept to her in a story where the friendly berserk encountered Fenris in a dream realm but became partially possessed and has to sometimes fight the little Fenris inside so that his anger does not harm others.
I know this worked in several ways:
1) My child has said to me more than once since: “Daddy, does he have a little Fenris in him?” when watching a film or other presentation.
2) She has been around my angry boxing workouts without it bothering her or me. I can even tell her it is how I deal with “little Fenris”.
3) We have worked together on breathing exercises together as part of dealing with our emotions.
4) I have shown her other elements of my practice, including symbols and altar elements without any worry on my part.
5) I have no fear of my anger harming my child.
Emotional alchemy can come in many forms. This is a long term transformation involving the power of story to change our internal narrative. While I had not read the book during this process, I do recommend this one: http://www.amazon.com/Storytelling-Animal-Stories-Make-Human/dp/0547391404/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356482208&sr=1-1&keywords=storytelling+animal. It talks about the importance of storytelling and internal story to the human condition. I highly recommend the book. It also refers to some of the neurology involved.
So, in the end, remember that we can determine many elements of our own story and that story telling has tremendous power to affect and change us. Try a bit yourself, it might take you places you never realized possible.
I wrote this sometime back after a previous rampage killing:
I firmly believe, as part of my calling, that we must do more to honor the millions of men who face their demons inside everyday and DO NO HARM. Their Gleipnir, whatever it may be forged from, holds and the terrible things they feel and the Fires inside them burn no one else.
In this Yule season, honor the bonds that help us stay controlled and nod to those around you as their chains HOLD. If you see someone who is struggling, see if you can help or listen. Long ago, those who failed to restrain a berserk were penalized in the same way as the berserk. Let us remember, as we talk about the darkness without, not to forget the darkness within.
Joyous Yule and Holidays to all. The light inside us can always illuminate the darkness. Let Kenaz, the torch of wisdom, be with you in the long nights.
Back in September, I wrote this blog post for Hermod: https://facingthefireswithin.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/hermod/
He is my most recent deity interest and even more obscure than Heimdall. We have only one story and yet I find that story strangely compelling currently. It is worth noting that I am not someone who really “hears” deity. Mostly, I honor deity and take inspiration from it but I never perceive deity directly. I have had a few guided meditations but those felt very internal and the closest I have come was what I call a spiritual gut punch once that made me ill for two days. If pressed, I can generally give a non-spiritual interpretation as well. In a case like Hermod, who is very obscure and rarely referred to by other practitioners, I scour what I can and then spent a lot of time in contemplation and speculative thought. In doing that, the deity often grows on me and I find new ways of looking/perceiving that deity and some deeper meanings. More recently, I also consider poetry although I am not very good at verse yet.
So, first, a few more thoughts:
1) His ability to ride Sleipnir shows great courage, great worth or some particular skill with a very difficult animal and possibly all three. I therefore see him as the brave rider and traveler, possibly with a talent for whatever method is necessary to reach somewhere.
2) Not only does he function as an ambassador but he is the only character in Norse myth who actually reaches Hel AND strikes a bargain. Again, we combine worthiness with a talent for diplomacy and an understanding of hospitality.
3) The only picture I could find is from an 18th century Icelandic piece but it clearly shows him armed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Treated_NKS_hermodr.jpg Like the other Aesir, he seems to have been some level of warrior even if that was not his strongest suit.
As to poetry, friends have been helping me. The songs I find most strongly suit Hermod seem to be AC/DC’s: Highway to Hell and Warren Zevon’s: The Envoy
This first poetry fragment from a friend matches the chorus of The Envoy:
“When way is woeful or deep in doubt,
Ask the Hel-farer, Hermod.
To bargain with beasts or baleful beings,
Call the Hel-farer, Hermod.”
“Hail the Hel-farer, far-traveled Hermod
Sleipnir’s bold rider, brave seeker of Baldr”
I find the chant that comes most easily for me while running or being active (I often worship at exercise) is:
Hermod… Hel rider (repeat as need but I find 9 times for the 9 nights he rode to be good)
I have a wonderful friend whose blog can be found here with some samples:
This was his gift to me. From left to right:
Heimdall, Freya, Hermod, Fenris
I was not aware that it was a gift and was going to buy it, as I have a friend in dear need of spiritual support and wanted a portable altar to prepare for that. When I asked last night, he and his wife gave it to me as a gift.
He also does very good knife and other metal work as well as sharpening services. I just had him sharpen a number of knives for me.
If you are heathen or pagan, I recommend this portable altar concept. It is easily portable and durable. If I get something more strongly from it in time, I will write about that as well.
A comic illustrated version of an old story that a friend sent me today. I have not seen a convincing origin for the actual story although I have seen a lot attributions. One could argue that the black wolf in the page looks a bit like Fenrir.
My difficulty with the story is the rather stark dualism. It assumes pure good fighting pure evil. If the black wolf includes so called negative traits such as Anger, Fear (added), Greed and Ego; we assume that these traits are never positive. It is a major part of my Work to argue that this is a false and potentially dangerous dichotomy. Sometimes, you HAVE to feed the black wolf or at least acknowledge it.
Are there risks? Of course there are. I would argue that if you think you are just feeding the white one, that is Arrogance as well. In this case, Yin/Yang and concepts of balance are a good thing to consider.