Safe Space: The Concentric Circles Of The Innangard & Utangard

In attempting to understand the various customs of Asatru, both old and new, some of the underlying cosmological models must first be understood. Previously, I introduced the idea of progression versus regression as one way of determining right and wrong actions. Here I will attempt to delve a bit further into where these customary laws, or thews, come from.

Cosmologically and psychologically speaking, existence itself may be divided into two categories. That which belongs to the realm of the Innangard and that of the Utangard.

In medieval Germanic societies, physical boundaries such as fences and walls were erected around certain enclosures for more than one purpose. As an example of the obvious, one might build a fence around livestock as a means, not only to keep the livestock in, but also to keep potentially harmful things out. This erecting of barricades may be extended beyond physical, geographical locations to that of the mental and spiritual realms, as well. Most of us carry a sense of personal space within our psyche. The size of that personal space is usually rooted within our experiences in life. Physically speaking, if we or someone we are close to, has previously been physically harmed by another, we usually carry a smaller “bubble” of personal space. Especially, in the unfortunate encounter with the known aggressor. What this means precisely, is that our Innangard is a little smaller. The space around us that we feel safe in, is a tight fit. If a stranger is to approach us, we may be quicker to enter the “fight or flight” state of being. To put it another way, the Innangard represents that which is known to us; that which we can reasonably rely on. The examples above are fairly simple to comprehend, but where the idea of concentric circles comes into play, it may become a little more complex.

Consider your household. From the entrance of your driveway, to the walls that make up your bedroom. Hopefully this is a physical place that you can consider to be safe and known. You can experience things within these confines with a reasonably, reliable outcome in mind. Now, consider you enter your car. In your car, in your driveway, you more than likely, easily maintain a certain level of comfort. What things might you encounter while in your car, speeding down the freeway? Though the personal space of body and mind are still there with you, you are now placing yourself within the realm of the unknown, or the Utangard. This is one way to illustrate how your Innangard intertwines with that of the Utangard.

To expand upon this even further, consider ones family, friends, neighbors, church, community, place of business, etc.

How many times do we hear on the daily news about the nice, quiet neighbor who turns out to enjoy the occasional meal of little boys with a nice chianti? Though, many may have considered this Lectorish character to be harmless, the evidence shows through his meal choices, that this assumption was evidently unwarranted.

To Asatruar, little is assumed to be known based upon outward appearances, or the casual, chance encounters we share with others. Rather, we construct our Innangard with the utmost care, paying close attention to consistency and reputation among other things. This is true, not only of people and places, but of our gods, as well.

To the ancient Germanic tribes, the Innangard was a place of survival. This was the place where the codes of conduct were communally relied upon for safety, both individually and as a whole. If and when these codes were infringed upon to a significant degree, one may have been banished or cast into the Utangard. This is where the outlaw comes from. Those who live outside of the Innangard, or outside of the law, belong to the Utangard and are not to be trusted until proven otherwise. This too, lends to the perception that Asatru is a religion of separatism and elitism. While I do not support this as an accurate summary, there is some truth to it. With family and folk being held as extremely precious to Asatruar, the continuity of such a collective is highly guarded. This may have much to do with why today there are relatively few temples or hofs to be visited by interested parties. We are not necessarily a religion of separatism, but we are far removed from an open door, all inclusive one. To simplify my point, just because you wear certain symbols around your neck and proclaim Asatru as your faith or troth, does not mean that you are part of the collective community, you may very well stand alone. Your belonging is to be found within your deeds, or as it may be said, “what you bring to the table.”

If your reputation and deeds are proven to be conducive with what has become customary law for the collective, through rigorous trial and error, your acceptance into the Innangard and the support thereof, will prove to be fruitful. Though it may seem that this is a system of guilty until proven innocent, more accurately, it is a system of unknown until known.

It is through the understanding and careful maintenance of the Innangard, as contrasted with the often times dangerous intrusion of the Utangard, that Asatru remains a strength to its adherents.

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Clarification: What This Blog IS And IS NOT

I’ve decided that it may be beneficial to revisit and attempt to clarify my first post and introduction to you, the reader.

First and foremost, let it be known that I am not an authority on anything but me. There are many things that I have studied and experienced in my 36 years and will freely admit that I have stumbled and fallen plenty of times before. I certainly expect that more missteps are around the corner for me. This is not to say that I have not learned highly valuable lessons along the way. Irminsulblog is but one outlet for me to attempt to share some of what I have experienced and internalized.

The fact is…I’m a writer…I have always written and always will. Most of what I have written throughout my life has never been viewed by others and this is probably because there has been little purpose in the words aside from trying to preserve my own sanity. It is just my way of releasing things that often get stuck in this head of mine, not unlike cleaning the lint trap out on the dryer.

Recently, after years of being told by countless people from all walks of life that I should be writing, I decided that blogging (at this point in time) would probably be the best platform for me to do so.

So, what to blog about?

Well, abstract poetry has always been my thing, but there’s oh, so many reasons not to put my poetry out in the world for others interpretations, starting with just that: misinterpretations and psychoanalysis. Not to mention, its the extremities of positive and negative emotional experiences in my life that usually inspire me to dabble in poetry. I don’t live my daily life within these highly sensitive emotional states, therefore the blog would probably get one or two posts every couple of months or so.

Politics? No thanks, too much of that already exists, I’m not a firm believer in the political correctness that is in full operation amongst Americans, and I’m full of my own misinformation.
Family? Too precious to put into words or expose to the unknowns of cyberspace.

The possibilities of what to blog about are endless, but for me I came to the conclusion that blogging about Asatru would prove to be the most fruitful. I have had discussions in the past with fellow Asatruar about how we as a diverse religion are represented to “outsiders” and that when we are asked what we are about, it happens more often than not that most of us fall way short of coherent statements, to say the least.

This happens for many reasons including the fact that we are a minority, alternative religion viewed by the eyes and minds of those whose predisposition within the majority, mainstream religions, most often holds disdain for “others“. This, coupled with the facts that we do not ascribe to proselytization of any sort, and at the heart of the matter are usually not concerned with how those outside of Asatru conduct their lives, except when it comes to how their actions may infringe upon our rights to conduct ours as we see fit.

So, Irmisulblog… Yes, there are many sites on the web that contain this or that bit of information about the ins and outs of Asatru, BUTNone of them are mine…Like any group of like minded people, Asatru is made up of differing opinions and I have yet to find the one piece of info out there that I can say represents my own opinion to the fullest. So, here I am, speaking for me.

What Irminsulblog IS NOT. As already stated, it is not an authority on Asatru or any other religion. It is not an attempt to persuade or convert any free thinking individual’s hearts or minds. And finally, it IS NOT an invitation to those who would ignore my individual rights to exercise my mind, body and spirit in the manner of my choosing, to derail me, preach, convert or proselytize.

I am fully aware that your mind may work differently. In fact, I have spent the better part of my adult life, enthusiastically searching out materials pertaining to “other” ways of thought and behavior. I have read and still read the Bible. I engage myself with intelligent people from as many varied philosophies and spiritual natures as can be imagined. Asatru is MY identity.

I respect the diversity of mankind, all I ask is for you to do the same.

For those that now understand or have already understood this and still want to hang around, stay tuned for my upcoming post pertaining to “safe space” and the “unknown” within the framework of Asatruar culture:

The Concentric Circles Of The Inangard &Utangard

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Asatru is not what may be called a revealed religion. We have no book of dogmatic laws, no Pope and no thou shalt nots.

“So, you make it up as you please?”

Not exactly…

Today Asatruar study what is commonly referred to as the “lore” of our folk, as well as the studies of historical accounts  and archeology. The lore consists of Northern Mythology, Folk and Fairy Tales, Law Books and Sagas, etc… Surprisingly, there is a vast amount of recorded information out there, though much of it must be separated from false witnesses, biased propaganda and imaginations of the Christian monks who wrote it down thousands of years after the conversion times.

Through close and careful studies of such lore, one begins to grasp the essence of an ancient culture. Within this essence we find that our ancestors conducted their lives based on what worked and what did not work for the healthy continuity of the community. This understanding of right and wrong, good and bad is not difficult to comprehend. There are no abstract rules of conduct, spiritual or mundane, begging the questions of “why?” The “whys” are clearly implied through implementation: Because it’s good for you and your kin, dummy.

So, while there are many traditional customs and rites that are practiced as authentically as possible by today’s Asatruar as a nod of respect to our past, it is this mindset  of construction and progress versus destruction and regression that keeps Asatru ever present and ever evolving.

As an example of how a rule of conduct that is held as divine law may stagnate and eventually leave common sense to the wayside, see Leviticus 19:19

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle  gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen  come upon thee.”

While I am certain that this passage may very well have held some great significance to a specific time, region and people of the world, I do not and cannot see how the wearing of a garment made of blended fabrics ( barring allergies, of course ) could be said to hold spiritual relevance for anyone today, let alone to be revered as a statute or commandment from on high.

This is not to pick on biblical scripture, rather it is used here to illustrate one of the many stark differences in models of moral conduct in relation to revealed religion and indigenous, folk religion.

One of the most popular models of proper conduct that many Asatruar ascribe to uphold according to various situations, as deemed appropriate in their daily lives ( culled from the lore ) may be summarized in what is known as The Nine Noble Virtues or the NNV. The NNV in no particular order, are as follows:

  1. Courage
  2. Truth
  3. Honor
  4. Fidelity
  5. Hospitality
  6. Discipline
  7. Industriousness
  8. Self Reliance
  9. Perseverance

These virtues, as one can see, are not the kind of ethics that are bound to time and space and thus they are still seen as relevant to our consciously, active evolution. Similarly, those customary actions that may be viewed as belonging to a specific time and space that may no longer hold relevance due to things such as advancements in technology, etc. may be discarded as is seen fit by todays standards without fear of eternally negative repercussions.

The contrasts between how we view religion at large and how Asatru is implemented in followers lives are vast and complex. On the most basic level of understanding, revealed religions such as the Judeo-Christian variants are adhered to ( or not, as the case may often be ) with the acceptance that the rules of action and inaction commanded by God may or may not always be clearly and readily understood; rather they may be blindly followed as “Gods will” or  his mysterious ways. While folk religions conduct their deeds as implied: of the folk, by the folk, and for the folk.

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…Umm, Wait….Asa-wha?…

So, what the heck is Asatru? Right?

Simple question, but not exactly…I’ll do my best to give you the short and skinny here, and maybe it will become more clear with future postings.

 Asatru ( pronounced: Au-suh-troo or Ah-suh-troo ) is the modern term used to describe the spiritual “folk-ways” of the pre-Christian Europeans that are actively being revived the world over.

These organic traditions that were the cultural lifeblood of the native peoples of Scandinavia, England, Germany, France, the Netherlands as well as other countries were all but stamped out with the coming of Christianity, with Iceland being the last to reluctantly convert as late as the year 1000.

Although history tells us that there was a resurgence of paganism during the Renaissance, this was not a rebirth in the sense of a religious revival, but that of science, philosophy and art. There would not be any open and honest efforts for a revival of this nature until the early 1970’s, due in large part to the many abuses of Germanic ideals and holy symbols by the Nazi Party in their efforts to rouse the populous in support of their national socialist agendas.

However; in spite of Hitler’s atrocities, the banner of the Northern spirit was lifted again, rather spontaneously in several parts of the world. The first incarnation of The Odinist Fellowship was founded in Canada by Else Christensen and her husband Alex Christensen in 1969. In 1971 the Asatru Free Assembly ( later to become the Asatru Folk Assembly ) was founded in America by Stephen McNallen and Robert Stine. In Iceland, The Ásatrúarfélagið ( Asatru Association ) was founded by farmer and poet Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson. In 1973 The Ásatrúarfélagið is granted recognition as a registered religious organization. That same year John Gibbs-Bailey and John Yeowell found the Committee for the Restoration of the Odinic Rite, now known as The Odinic Rite in England.

These humble beginnings, unconnected to one another, planted the seeds for what can today be said to be one of the fastest growing religions there is, though this is difficult to document due to the many sects or denominations ( for lack of better terms ) that have branched out since then. And so it would seem that the notion of our European ancestors being little more than savage and blood-thirsty barbarians may very well miss the mark entirely. Especially when one considers the scale of turmoil and warfare that continues to rage in the middle east ( not the homeland of Asatru, I might add ). Rather, it would appear that the gaining momentum of Asatru tells us that there is much to be gained from the strength and wisdom of our roots. Many today ( myself included ) have grown up with a sense of loss in relation to our dominant society and the culture of non-culture and have turned to those who came before us, and the gods that they were intricately bonded to. And what have we found there?……..HOME

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Blogging: Round 2 ( An Advanced Warning To The Readers )

Welcome to my 2nd attempt @ the world of blogging!

Before I get started, I wanted to give you, the reader, a heads up on what the focus of this blog will likely consist of so as to avoid any unnecessary confusion, anger, fear or maybe even heart palpitations.

 I am fully aware of the fact that many of us in the world today carry an ego in the head upon our shoulders. This ego often times tells us that we are right  about most everything we think and do and that those who see things through different eyes and interpret life’s experiences in a way that may be in direct opposition to our own are therefore wrong (to put it lightly). This may be true in seeing our own musical preferences or fashion choices as superior to those of another but is most strongly illustrated when the subject matter pertains to that of political ideologies or religious beliefs and practices.

The difference is that while some people may consider the rhythmic babbling of Kanye West to be modern Shakespearian musical brilliance while another finds deep emotional significance in the wordless psychedelic rock of Ozric Tentacles, both of these hypothetical music fans will most often be able to easily see and work past their differences.

The hypothetical I present to you as an example of what is NOT commonly  an easy obstacle for people to work around is that of religious differences. While speaking in abstract terms of spiritual matters most people are able to come to some sort of middle ground. As an example: Speaking with anyone about the action of murder, most people can agree that the implications of such an act is ultimately “bad” regardless of their spiritual leanings or religious background. To take it a step further, most people would agree that it is a morally “good” thing to help your neighbor in times of need, such as loaning a garden tool (assuming the hypothetical neighbor is not a murderer). With me so far?

 Again, this is a word of WARNING, so back to the matter at hand.

 I have had MANY a discussion with people from various spiritual/religious backgrounds and I have found that most of the time when the conversations are left fairly abstract, the participants (myself included) are able to walk away with a mutual respect and maybe even a better understanding of each other and the topic that was discussed. However if & when the discussion becomes more detail oriented, such as when questions about what church one belongs to, what Christian denomination one claims (as if to assume that the ONLY denominations are Christian ones) or when scripture starts being quoted, this is when the conversations almost always diverge into a strong disagreement, maybe even an argument, and the participants usually walk away  with a loss of respect, disdain, pity, disgust and even sometimes fear of one another.

Admittedly, I do not know the answer to this communication breakdown, nor will I commit myself to abstinence of potentially great conversations.

And so, it is here on this blog that I set out to discuss MY religious beliefs, practices, ambitions etc WITHOUT the abstracts in fear of offending those who may not see things the way I do.

Like a scrotum, here it is in a nutshell: I am not Christian. Contrary to many peoples beliefs, this is NOT because I am “unenlightened”. This is NOT because I am evil. This is NOT because I am an Atheist. This is NOT because I am a member of some freakish brainwashing occult movement. It IS because I knowingly choose not to be. It IS because I am a polytheist. It IS because I am Asatruar. To some of you, I have simply stated the obvious, to others I just dumped a bucket of cold water over your heads, others just made the decision to read no further, and yet some of you may be intrigued. Those of you shrieking in fear or disgust, understand this, I am who I have always been and nothing new has just taken place with these words. Maybe we’ve had the abstract conversations I mentioned above and you assumed I was Christian because we both think “murder is bad”, but Im telling you that I have considered myself Asatru for at least 15 years and this is not something that is going to change.

So, there it is…My first post, a lengthy introduction to a blog that will prove to be heavily drenched in one mans spiritual ramblings. If you plan to stick around, welcome, enjoy and give me feedback.

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