The Scottish Highlands. The very thought stirs romantic images within one’s mind. Not far from the truth. Cold, wet, windswept moors and rolling hills. Lonely mountains and sharp cliffs. Jagged coasts and misty forests. A quiet haunting feeling, of loneliness and sadness if you listen. Lost pipes upon the wind and hilltop fires summoning men. There is a sense of lethargy there, of time moving somewhat slower. A sense of emptiness, for the highlands are still empty as to what they once were. This spirit saturates the air. A people always on the “outside” of history. From the mysterious Picts of the ancient world, to the last of the Jacobite clansmen. In a way, the “Gaels” are history’s “Last Barbarians”. Living a simpler, materialistically poorer life than “civilization”. Warlike and proud. Destined to lose… This is what we feel of the Highlands, what we want to see. As an artist, there is half of me that desires the loneliness of solitude (my wife the exception of course). The desire of feeling as a passing ghost. To be lost in a poem of romance. To drink strong whisky and eat hearty meat. The sound of haunting music, shadowy fires, and the folkloric tales of faeries and heroes. For indeed there are many ghosts upon this land. The Highlands were a wellspring of folklore and myth. The combination of Gaelic, Nordic, Pictish, Welsh and Saxon folklore. A wealth of inspiration and longing. On a very real note, Scotland could arguably be one of the most active centers of folkloric belief during such an era. The folkloric belief in this land was rich and swayed into the lives of many. Far greater than that of other realms, due to this “backwater” culture. Fairy (ghost/spirit) belief and interference, folk healing, curses, and other supernatural encounters being an everyday aspect of life. Many of the witchcraft trials here speak highly of this, with many very unique. The Highlands seemed to be a nesting ground for such a thing, whether accused or not, recorded or not. The commonality of folklore causing many sincere beliefs to slip through uncorrupted by threatened interrogators, as opposed to other lands. The Highlands are a place to explore our mind and imagination, regardless of the dirty truth of past reality, the landscape demands a level of introspection. Many of those in America, especially the mid east coast have ancestry directly from these lands. The high level of this is due to the Highland clearances. The failures of the Jacobites, and the consequences of such action. This is the sadness that saturates the land, this lonely loss of life and noise. My matrilineal side being German, my patrilineal direct “son of” Scottish line came after the failings of the second uprising, settling the land of the Tennessee frontier. A new beginning from an old loss.
It is of these Jacobites and contemporaries, that we have the passing of a martial art. A form of Swordsmanship. A multitude of manual’s and instructions on the topic of many weapons, with a strong emphasis of the broadsword and targe. An interesting note of the Jacobites was their preference for close combat. A romantic yet outdated battlefield approach. Yet this is an image that has endured, and rightfully so. The Scottish Swordsman and duels of honour. This style takes us there. While on the modern battlefield the “Highland Charge” brought defeat. While once feared, Technology always replaces Prowess…
The combat style is quite the array of weapons when fully equipped. A broadsword in one hand, the hand clearly protected, not the wrist. A targe in the other, a spike sprouting from the middle of the shield, and a long dirk held downwards. That is, three points and locking locations. Unique in appearance. The image of the two handed claymore, although the single handed sword was also a claymore, stands clear in our minds. Yet the sword and shield are more relevant to the martial art and time. The twohander an archaic weapon, although there is evidence of the twohander being used in the last Jacobite uprising. Of the art, there is much to study, mainly of the finer aspects the technology grants after basic mastery. Something to explore on your own then any text specifically. The foundation is the same as any sword art. Of note is the aiming of the wrists, in that it is directly focused on again and again. To mainly strike at from underneath. This is were a downward pointed dirk is of great importance in deflection. Yet this form is not touched upon deeply. The projecting shield spike offers a great way of snagging and displacing a sword or bayonet. All the while counter attacking. Just as the backward step to protect the leg. The style is actually similar to the very early I.33, especially in “stepping” or lack of. Yet it is not I.33, as the two are clearly recognizable to witness stylisticly. It is said there might even had been clan styles, this is a tangible thought, yet probably leads more directly to training methods than clear differences in the appearance of fighting.
When I was younger, my father, brother and I visited an aloof antique dealer and collector that was a friend of my fathers. He lived in a very old house atop a hill, with absolutely everything within antique. Everything. Owned arguably the largest personable collection of American Revolutionary War arms in the world, whole armoury rooms under lock and key. As well a a creator of reproductions. Buried money in antique ceramics in his backyard. Million dollar quilt in an old chest the Smithsonian wanted to purchase, wouldn’t sell. A hole you could see the road on his van floor, etc. He also had an array of Scottish broadswords and targets, as well as some renaissance arms. Not to mention any other form of antique you could imagine. The basement the kind of place only goblins and ghosts could live in, and who knows of the attic above the third floor. Sleeping in an antique bed, surrounded by antiques and such a setting, enflamed the imagination, yet often into dark places for a young one. I will always remember the arms and such. As such a thing is more personal than any museum could be. The old shields and broadswords an inspiring memory, one can almost hear the pipes and see the fires.
While this style is something I have trained in and feel very confident with. A next training cycle is falling completly under this style. The practice of a smaller twohander (60”), almost completed in oak. As well as the broadsword (longer than my single handed sword), a stout targe with a nail through the middle (filed and wrapped in leather tip for “safety”), and a strong dirk. To all match technology more appropriately as opposed to the “close enough” items I have used. Although the bare footed training will be somewhat coming to a close in a couple months, as my yard is four acres in the middle of literally thousands of acres of forest. Not suburb forest, untouched ever forest. Nature wants to kill you not hug you, that kind. Bloody, oozy, itchy feet that appear diseased are not preferred, although I am sure to suffer at some point this season. I will miss the cold burning toes of winter training.
Artwork: Highland Swordsman 2012
‘There is only one art of the sword.’
When studying the art of the longsword, one must begin and end with the one High Master. Johannes Liechtenauer, as recorded by ‘Hanko Döbringer’. The words attributed to this man hold the upmost importance. As the art builds through time, one can argue that the tower has been built too high to stand firm. As later masters within the tradition compile new material, new forms, techniques and so forth. We are immediately attracted to this for it seems exclusive, complicated knowledge, these multitudes of guards, strikes, etc. This must be seen through. Just as the modern, and very old, curse of “fencing around”, another aspect to be touched upon that is a bane of the true art, that has flooded the internet and the fallacy of solo video drills. While the videos of worth reveal too much to those who should not freely learn. Words allow purposeful misunderstandings, something to understand when learning from the old masters. Only flesh to flesh dealings hold any worth, in all things. The internet is a strange thing, many strengths, many weaknesses.
Approaching combat from an advanced perspective, basics bound within body, there are many things to do away with in your mind. This will be a focus of the guards, for it is moving through such that all attacks present themselves, and all protection is guaranteed. The strikes are important, yet as water. As the Sword Saint stated, combat is simply striking your opponent down. While at the same time he continues to speak of complexities that have little substance save the sake of art and artful writing. The aspects of Before, After, Feeling, Just As (reading intent before ones action), this is the heart of combat, everything else aside. Only bound within free form. Writing of this is redundant and encircling… Striking is striking, learning to separate the four openings, with both edges and knowing which opening opens the next. The “twitch hit” is the beginning of all… With the basics embedded you will strike as you must. Most importantly master the guards, that offer strikes and defense, the forms in which your body moves through. Most importantly the guards mean little when compared to the other principles. This is the beauty of Liechtenauer, there are only four “main” stances. Ox, Plough, Fool and Roof. Ox, you find yourself in often when one displaces the opponents blade, at the same time attacking, this should happen often. Roof is were the majority of all strikes come from, once again upon displaced sword. Fool, you are a fool if you believe killing blows do not come from here. This snaps to barrier in less than an eye blink. Fool techniques are anything you find yourself in when point is downward of the horizontal line, while not in a movement weakening side position. One should recover in offense. Plough is open to interpretation. Meyers plough? I say not. The original seems to be the one true opening stance, arms ‘extended’ and high, point towards one enemy. The beginning of any other form you may find yourself in. Later traditions do not give a name to this stance, and plough becomes this strange low thing. An enigma that makes sense. While other stances exist, one moves through them very rapidly and less often, or are small variants of one of the four, thus these four are the core.
A curse of swordsmanship is as the High master calls: “Fencing Around”. That is when ones sword makes circular movements. This is just silly. Imagine a boxer who performs circular punches, a comedy. The High master instructs that one should fight as if there is a string attached to the tip of your sword and your opponent. For literal sake, actually do this and understand. When ones sword begins to circle, it often appears more as a fishing pole pulling in a catch. The string immediately shows that nearly everything is a thrust and cut combo. For when fencing a skilled man, a thrust is often displaced, thus becoming a small strike/cut. A strike is often impossible, being intercepted and becoming a thrust. An intercepted thrust towards empty space followed by cutting is a beautiful thing… You will only see such movements in some, some, sparring demonstrations. When both opponents understand. ‘Fencing around’ is a curse. Yet it is attractive to those who do not understand, students of the art and outsiders. One believes he is watching fluidity and skill, when in fact he is watching theatrics, and saddles with no strap. This is written of for centuries, from Döbringer, onward. Yet even many “masters” stand guilty when put on trial. Certainly this day of internet videos stand of guilt, for it is truly the only thing attractive to look at. Watching one actually train solo for true combat is not as pretty. All martial arts stand guilty. While one may still train in “fencing around”, as it increases handling ability, the masters agree, one should never fight this way, or claim the art appears this way. Thus every Way has misdirection. Not ‘fencing around’ means one must have complete control. One must be able to stop his strike on a dime, and begin again with no need for momentum. This is why I train so heavily with the greatsword. The longsword teaches one to wield anything properly, the greatsword takes this to the extreme. ‘Fencing around’ the greatsword is the only thing you see done, a great shortcoming to pigeon hole this weapon, yet understandable if the opponents weapon has less length. Or the opponent is obviously limp of guard, or strong of guard depending, for this weapon will break guards. Combat against formations is something else to be touched upon entirely. For I write of the duel. Once again control on the dime, this amount of control causes the longsword to feel as if it floating in front of you, with a breath changing path, truly a feather. The greatsword causes all weapons to feel this controllable. While fighting with the great sword is simply a very long path to push into, a very long blade, eager to cut. The cross of any sword acting as a “round shield”. Swordsmanship is a vortex, not a sphere.
The rest of combat: footwork, moving, crossing, the fundamentals of what immediately happens, are more important then the multitude of mid range techniques. Pulsation in and out, never be “jousting knights” with long razor blades and no armour, this is stupid. Stay away from mimicking these men who act modernly without fear for their life. Cuts are extremely bad to experience, your body flays open with nothing but a gentle caress. The blood loss, the immediate effect of causing inability, etc. Stay away from the men who care more about how hard they strike as opposed to how easily they cut, because everyone is padded and using blunt swords. The fallacy of sports combat. Metaphorically, all combative sports included.
Thus the High Master is the beginning and end. Beginning with the basics, learning the complications, and ending with the basics. When you train in martial arts daily, never look at daily progress, there is no such thing. I choose three month intervals of a specific weapon, and overload on it. With some variation, and always maintaining unarmed combat preparation. Day in and day out is extremely repetitive. Yet at the end of three months you truly realize how tall you have grown. Not daily, not weekly, even monthly can be difficult to tell. Feel the burn of the shoulders and thighs. Guard always up, never around…
Artwork: Portrait of Liechtenauer 2012, inspired by a medieval manuscript.
The path of martial arts brings one’s sight towards warriors of old. Inspirations, so to speak, of past men. Whether Samurai of Japan, Knights of Europe, etc, there is always an archetype lingering over the traditions. Yet when viewing these past men, it is important to see truth, and understand ones inspiration. Understand ones time. The truth is, that as modern men, true modern practitioners of martial arts, we are often above these past men in quality of character. Yet what of ability? This is up to the practitioner. You must sift through the fantasy and truth. Understand the archetype of the art.
When studying history, one must understand the truth and quality of men. That is the disgust of mankind and our behavior, if you choose to learn the details. A perfect example is the modern obsession with vikings. This is so lost and disconnected from reality to be laughable. The vikings were horrible people on average. I speak of the mob. They were not unique, everyone at this time, on average, was a horrible person. The knowledge that we have of their true religious rites, later mythology recordings aside, are quite disgusting and unneccesary. Acts of social dominance and fear that have little place within an enlightened society. Yes, the old laws of Christianity were often horrendous, yet the ways of paganism were often far worse. This goes hand in hand with the false aspect of feminism and viking times. This may be the most ignorant romance of modern minds and history. Sexism within norse society was extreme. The idea of a shield maiden is one of mythology. The pagan truth of mythological woman attendants in the hall is a representation of the actual countless sex slaves held by chieftains, shared with his warriors, serving the mens food. Funeral rites when such chieftains died were disgusting, slaves recorded to be raped and sacrificed, sent alongside their chieftains. This was not a society that valued women as you would wish to believe. Women fighting in old war is a romantic and fantasy driven concept. I speak of the warfield. Women can become great combatants/duelers with blades, thus perhaps the true shield maiden, the extreme rarity. Yet, within the shield wall, or any formation of close combat, this falls apart. This is simply nature at work, there were no sports supplements then. Most modern minds can not even properly imagine close combat in a reality based sense. Therefor are not envisioning what I speak of. Many examples could be given. The viking romance is only a romance. They are not unique, so many cultures through history are this way. This is the end perspective of history, to be completely jaded and disgusted by it all. Samurai of Japan are similarly lost in romance. The qualities of these men, their actions. The laws of Samurai Japan when one understands, there is nothing romantic here. Nor nothing too unique, regardless of religion or not, men will always be monsters. The same can be said of Knights of Europe, on and on.
So, what is it that inspires us? Truthfully it often comes down to artistic style and idealism. Idealism, in the sense that very few strove to high standards as human beings. That some men were worthy of respect. That “these” Knights truly followed chivalry to the grave. That “these” Samurai truly followed Bushido in a righteous way. Vikings who embodied the higher aspects of the later recorded Thor, I want to believe. These men are worth inspiration. One must always remember, the “average”, was nothing but disgust. Artistic style drives much of what humans partake in. What it is we are attracted to. For example, I really enjoy the style of medieval and renaissance Ireland and Scotland. The arms and styles of the Gallowglass. From the early Scottish “aristocratic” warriors, to the later native Irish “recruitment ” fighters. Am I inspired by the average Gallowglass. Of course not. The average was an ignorant brute, destined to live a short life, trained “quickly”(especially of the later), and cared nothing of right from wrong. His life was valued equally to his equipment. He was replaceable. It is up to command, and the veteran/clansmen immediately surrounding him, to be the intelligent ones (hopefully), this is why they filter into command. Are there a few that lived worthy of respect of character and true skill? Yes. Were most simple idiots, meat to fill armour and form a wall of axes? Yes. Therefore the old style appeals, simply as a modern perspective. This is the ideal of vikings for instance. It is the appeal of the artistic style that holds sway over us. Not the appeal of their truths. The romance of their mythologies, which were romantically recorded at the time of writing. Never facts of a religion and ritual. In the sense of artistic appeal, the Vendels are far more inspiring, the “pre-vikings”. The same I would say of the Landsknechts, and their great swords. Inspiring artistically, yet most falling short in truth. The Doppelsoldner being the backbone of skill amongst them. Same words to write of as the Gallowglass.
As modern martial artists, we are above most of these men. Our minds, our intelligence, our creativity, our diets, our fitness, and oftentimes, our martial ability. Does this make us greater combatants, that is up to you. For ones martial arts ability does not always translate into the ability to quickly win. This is the ability of the man. For this day, men are weaker in this sense, far weaker. The success of society has broken us. We have become limp and incapable on a mass scale, not all, simply many. Ever decreasing generation from generation. The strange hormonal exposure found within commercialized diets have affected all humans eating such a way. The combinations of such factors are taking a heavy toll on natural balances or lack of. Partake as you wish. Yet equally, we are still the same monsters. Controlled, hidden, veiled. Kept in line with just law. What would happen if such law was lifted? Well, horrible things would happen. For it is our natural behavior to act with disgust and hate. To dominate those weaker and create pain. This is the nature of the mob. Never to be trusted. The mob is always low and ignorant. It is the responsibility of righteous men, leaders and higher examples who stand above the mob, to control the mob. Therefore the control exerted upon society is a necessary one. Humanity does not deserve anything else.
Thus in this world of martial archetypes, understand the truth. Most importantly, create your own archetype. Take the greatest aspects of everything that inspires you. Everything that stands true and tall. Combine it all into a pillar of higher humanity and conciousness. Will it stand as unique and new? Of course not, there is not such thing. We only continue to build and develop what was. Therefore choose with honour. Truly become. Become your own Archetype.
Art: Gallowglass Concept, 2011
How does one begin to write of spirituality? Perhaps at the end. Perhaps staying at the surface. Writing about anything in a spiritual nature is truly an impossible task. To openly speak or write of it is fallacy. Without consuming myself, or perhaps because I have consumed myself, there are breadcrumbs to write of, yet never gather. This is why true spiritual texts are written in poetic form, difficult to understand, woven within myth, a combination of history and story. Esoteric in an abstract sense, until more easily defined for the masses. Yet when approaching the word esoteric in a modern perspective, you enter into a world of fraud, lost minds, delusional concepts, and overall comedy. When studying the realms of mythology outside of the major world religions, held within a spiritual perspective, you are met with fantasy and chaos of the modern mind. Therefore, I write of modern esotericism.
When someone wishes to teach of such a thing, one only teaches of the self. A path that works for one person, attempting to capture it within whatever symbolism or mythology inspiring one. All religious paths dwelve into the self. Something is esoteric, known by few, as it typically pertains to very few. As each is seeking self understanding. Just as every religious teaching that has any worth to self improvement can be explained entirely within the realm of psychology, or entirely within the realm of the spirit. The goal is to find the balance.
My deep interest lies within spiritual western traditions. Perhaps tradition is not the right word. What tradition? My deep interest lies within western mythology. It is within these mythologies that we have an insight, an inspiration into western spirituality, yet only an insight. Pagan mythology is always recorded by the hands of “early” western Christianity. That is Catholicism. It is not that teachings within Christianity have been changed to be corrupted. As with all religions, teachings are manifested to inspire the culture and lands containing them. Therefore Christianity is westernized, as opposed to other Abrahamic traditions. Cast upon a pagan land, the forms of religion become somewhat pagan in approach. These are the saints and paths of Catholicism, leading towards God. Just as no pagan god recorded actually fits the role of an all encompassing God. Thus this is the western tradition that is cast in stone, these mythologies. All else is lost in mist. To believe otherwise is dillusion. There is an attempt at casting such pagan mythologies as a true form of religion. This is a complicated concept to delve into. For the closest thing one can grab unto is the past, that left very little, and that what it left, be very careful of… The idea of modern Norse or Celtic paganism is vastly one wrapped in romance. Throughout the century, from victorian era onward, you have theatrical fakes, projecting out “magic” and such western unorthodox and “surface universal” systems unto this mythological timeline. When looking at these mens works and acts, it is easy to see that there is nothing to respect or listen to. Simply an act of rebellion within society to cause an effect pleasing to few.
Thus we walk into terms such as shamanism, magic, witchcraft, etc. If one can openly speak of such a thing in spiritual objectiveness, one has missed the point and should not speak. For there is little to say. Rehashing the ideas of new books means little. Putting western mythologies atop eastern spiritual beliefs does not create the term you speak of. There are many eastern beliefs of warrant, that have similarities, as we are all humans. Shinto is a good example, yet stands alone as Shinto. The aestic paths of the Hindu’s another, yet the watered down perspective of such cults in the western modern understanding is worth little mention. Hinduism while a mixture of an Indo-European mythology combined with native Indian mythology, is still an “Eastern” mythology. Shamanism of Siberia, as this is what Shamanism is. We use the term shamanism modernly, to apply to an understanding of many cultures. While similar “practice” can be seen in many lands, the terms would vary vastly throughout culture, as well as the expression of ritual. While all of these offer insights into the world of spirituality, they still stand as what they are, within their own culture. While many cultures may seek the same “thing” as humans, the expression of art belongs to said culture. Inspiring, yes. To be called a different term, no.
Historic Witchcraft is a sub section of European Christianity. A form of Folk Christianity and magical beliefs combined with medieval/renaissance/modern era folklore and evolved from Pagan influences. With variation across lands. Having many similarities, such as fairy belief, yet no set “way”. Many folk of the land would know more about local folklore than the mythology of the Bible. In a sense their “Folk Christianity” could be considered a sub section of Folklore and magic. Typical history is always written from the viewpoint and about the aristocracy. When studying the religion of Europe, one often studies the religion of the upper and “middle” class. This is an extremely small percentage of the spiritual understanding of a land. This is something to deeply understand in all aspects of historical and anthropological study… Some lands are far closer to their pagan timeline than others. There is “folkloric” healing,cursing, charming, protection, visions, shape shifting, projection, familiars, etc. existent in “backwater” regions of Europe during the past centuries from medieval to modern era, yet this is not necessarily witchcraft, as witchcraft is only such when accused or able to be accused. Therefore there is no set “way” of witchcraft. A multitude of folkloric elements and true beliefs that become demonized by Christian authorities, or sometimes demonized by practitioners. Witchcraft as a true term is only relevant to Europe, the “Europeans” of It’s colonies and Christianity, other cultures and lands falling under something different. Just as North American native priests were described by the English as being similar to witches, never witches themselves. Which also brings forth the insight that “witches” were doing something distinct and recognizable for such comparison. Too much to be written of here. Many folkloric elements of “witchcraft lands” are vastly gone, save common “things” that are found even in modern western society, such as ghosts, folk medicine, many abrahamic religious beliefs, etc. Yet at the same time in some “remote” lands in Europe there are still many “witch like” practices, if such authorities existed modernly and wished to accuse. Folkloric beliefs and aspects that involve animal sacrifice, herbal practices, protections, etc. These are all aspects of Folk Christianity, just as historic witchcraft was a form of Folk Christianity, inspired by evolved European Pagan folklore and ways. There is so much overlap, so much grey… To be inspired through a personal path of western pagan mythology modernly is not witchcraft. There is no such thing as systematic ritual magic, as in one plus one equals two. As the projection and empowerment of ones intent varies with each individual, alongside ever changing meanings and inspirations(empowerment) of various “ingredients.” Save technical substances with technically true aspects. The ritual is only for the self or those viewing and/or participating in the result of performance art. There are acts of social and solitude empowerment that each must find for themselves. Is one spiritually able to influence the world around them? Or is one forming a powerful course of action before action, thus influencing the world around them? Perhaps both? Ask oneself? Trance/Altered states open up a complicated web of understanding. Able to be viewed from the realms of psychology to the realms of spirituality and magic. Both seeking to express the same actual act, whether the trance itself or ‘spiritual projection’. This leads into the study of psychics and energy, whether old or new as is typically the case, whether from psychology or magic. This is the “foundation” of any magic use, attempts and results within all cultures, if viewing psychics and energy as cultureless. Such a belief, real magic, matters nothing of the opinions of others.
Modern witchcraft is what it is, yet equally is what it is not. There is large variation within such an expression. From those seeking to pull from historic understanding to those claiming expression from entirely different continents. From a liberal safe place of anything goes, to a conservative approach of secrecy and source seeking. What the neo-creators of many such paths created, has spun into something entirely different over the decades, to become a liberal movement that was never intended. There are inspirations from victorian theatrics in nearly all these paths that have nothing to do with any sort of continuation of real historic expression. Although victorian artistic expression is also an expression of past folklore, folklore an extension of past influences. Thus, whatever neo witchcraft is, it is also not. Just as the old, there is no set “way”. Nor a set expression of self. Neo witchcraft is a free for all of anything goes, recently pulling a modern political approach of liberality. Many practitioners expressing a practice of self empowering theatrics and artistic symbolism of others, that left to their own right carry no power. Another subject is of Hermeticism, what it was historically and everything it was not. Hermeticism (Hermes is not Wotan), Alchemy and Kabbalahish practices have nothing to do with Historic Witchcraft, and for the most part have little to do with the historic versions of themselves. As one will grasp unto the neo/victorian forms of such things, seeking continuation. A side note, the fantasy genre is not an expansion of folklore or mythology, it is the rape and butchery of folklore and mythology. On another end of the spectrum you have the “black mass” types. Who seek the past accusations cast from christianity, whether past accusations sometimes real or often pulled from tortured tongues. Simply seeking short lasting rebellion. For they believe the black metal they listen to, being a satanist, etc, is intimidating or powerful. A reminder of a few theatrical victorian fakes in an abstract way. Regardless, “some” of the neo-witchcraft spectrum. Not an extension of the historic.
There are many aspects of history continued through time, artistic and spiritual expression, cultural expression, etc. that have a place of timelessness. There are many that do not. As humans one must decide for themselves, time will decide the rest.
There is no such thing as modern Norse Paganism continued from were the old left off, especially the word Norse Shamanism people strangely use today. We know very little of real Norse Paganism, and what we do know, well, be careful. You are not viking, not even close. If you truly believe you are dealing with Odin, you may wish to take off the costume before viewing the mirror. This is not victorian fantasy. Celtic Paganism is even more lost. The word Druid that is used is strange. Having an earth centered spirituality is a very common and respectable thing within the world, nothing new, overlapping it atop celtic mythologies does not create Druidism. Yet it does create something new. This can go on and on. There are a multitude of “Eastern” European neo-pagan beliefs. While many of the spiritualities fall closer upon the timeline of paganism, especially the Baltic states, the same aspects of the west apply to the east. What you will find in many Eastern European countries is a closer relationship with folkloric beliefs far into the modern era, especially amongst the peasants as as opposed to many of the lands of western Europe. Although many lands of Western Europe were equally rooted in folkloric belief. This is not a continuation of paganism, it is folkloric belief, developed from paganism, combined with Christianity, the embodiment of development and time. A form of Folk Christianity. There is much to be explored in this understanding of Eastern European folklore and spirituality.
The modern esoteric paths are ripe and many. Many are falsehoods and fantasy, manipulations of history. Do the gods, ancestral spirits, psychological concepts, cultural values, embodiments of nature, whatever you desire to view, exist? Existence is never to be defined by human words. Men and women do seek this existence modernly. And therefore there is a “way” that exist because of this, if only a misguided trend for many. This is something new, disconnected from the old term, the old way. One must always understand this. There is no gap to be bridged of time, for a bridge requires sight of two sides. Yet in this newness there is existence. In existence it is to stay.
This is not to cast down the European myths, folklore and spirituality. This is to upbuild it with truth and stone. For there is great power within such ways. Great power to understand. To inspire, to move, to create. One must first take off the costume, the ignorance, the fantasy. Understand what is true of the world. Personal growth and enlightenment is something all men must find. Objective teaching and speaking of such a thing will forever be misunderstood, gaining respect from no one. For words do not create such a thing. As in every spiritual tradition, One must first consume ones self.
Art: Norse Shield Concept 2009
As human beings it is important that each may have a safe space. Both physically and spiritually. This is not a place of escape, for there is no such thing in this world. This is not a place of weakness, for strength most be given to others at all times. This is a place of regeneration and peace. As a martial artist, there are only two such places one may find. This must be one’s home and one’s training hall.
The world we live in is not a safe place for anyone. To believe this will only bring hurt upon your path. This is due to the innate instinct of the human. There is no such thing as community. The world is directly one of competition. The world wishes to see you fall. This is found in professional relationships, close relationships, and everyday passings throughout the day. Without armour, one is to be harmed. Therefore, it is your responsibility to wear the armour, especially when others can not. To give respect and honour to those who carry high morals. For this is a rare thing to find.
Of the home, one can say I am a “traditionalist”. I care nothing of debate as to how anyone wishes to live their life, as long as it brings harm to no one. It is the responsibility of a man to make his house a safe place for his wife and family. To be both the foundation and the roof. To give the support, guidance and protection. The security that there is no anxiety to feel in this ever chaotic world. Thus allowing your wife to give the care and love that a man and his children desires and needs. To make the house a safe place for him. For it is easy to fall into hatred and warlike perspectives when left to ones masculine self. This is a topic that can be wrote of extensively. The modern quality of men, and the lack of many qualities we now face.
Next is the safe place of the training hall. This is to be a place to both cultivate the body and spirit. A place of safety, to prepare for the world of hate. Mutual respect, alongside constant forward development, and what the entails. A place of training and ever testing. Inner self exposure to reveal paths of growth. A place to inspire the heart to greater acts of courage and dedication to a noble cause. Yes, a place of romantic idealism, for both the child and the elder. I have no training hall. Yet, one day I wish to have such a place, one not a public entity. Not all halls are created equal. Both in quality of leadership and atmosphere.
In leadership, we are in an ever losing world. I stand behind traditional martial arts behavior and teaching when it comes to leadership, and man to man dealings. In a world were sports gyms are ripe, and behavioral desires have fallen to the absolute lowest examples, we are in need of noble Tradition. We are in need of respect and true spirit. We are in need of humility veiling a true Dragon. There are many types of leaders. The highest position, must be willing of completing the lowest task, else he is unworthy of leadership. The highest ranked must still be able to place himself upon his knees to replace floor boards alongside the white belt… Mankind’s desire for importance of position, and the insecurity that brings if ones spirit is undeserving is a disease this day. “Leaders” who are desperate and embarrassed of their true personal traits, ever seeking dominance in insecure ways. These men are many and one of true spirit can easily see such men. These are the pitfalls and relationships to be avoided. I have experienced first hand the lowness of leaders, insecurities and self hatred that manifest into the hall, upon students. From sporting gyms, to traditional arts. Every man must live in the solitude of their own home, for the qualities they bring to the hall they take home. Every man that walks, travels towards an end, unfortunately dragging others alongside the way. Some men never create a safe place, for themselves or others, for their armour is unforged. Therefore understand what you take part in, with who you choose to associate, with who you give and take…
In the training hall, the current lowest, must be able to see himself in the current highest, and vice versa. A relationship were all can meet in the middle, with the respect that we are here together. This is the heart of the Training hall. Yet this is were the discipline of the hall comes into play. Ritual, and the importance to always maintain such a thing. A safe place is not about the classes being full of laughter and uncontrolled smiles. This is giving out a shortcoming. It is not about belts given too rapidly. It is not about pretending to be in the modern military and such breaking abuse. This is not the legacy of the martial arts. Not what is being created. Not about massive classes to pull profit. For a teacher is to be as selective of students, as a student is to be of a teacher. It is about ritual, past legacy and spirit, the maintenance of such a thing. For only here and in ones home is such a thing possible. It is to find the sage and the warrior. It is about the atmosphere, the temple. I am an artist, it is called martial “arts”. The spirit should be tangible in the setting. A place to inspire in silence. The setting, the floors, the countless weapons and decor. It must be an inspiring place, the spirit saturating the walls. Respect for tradition and guide, a separate world momentarily, a world of empowerment and safety. It is in this empowerment, that one will then bring forth this spirit into a spiritless world. And thus righteous ritual and tradition will live that much longer. It is my desire to one day create such a place. A training hall that when one steps into, they have entered through a portal, a portal closed to many. Into a time long past, or perhaps a time that never existed. Were the rare ideals of chivalry may still be harnessed. A safe place, not of ease and relaxation, of empowerment and ever striving. To carry this forth into a deadening world. For it is these ideals that build our houses, or businesses, our world, our legacy. Our place of silence in this world of noise. It is carrying such tradition that the great masters of old smile down upon us. That in a world of darkness, some men still carry a torch.