Legendary FeastsTyr- Myth Culture and Tradition Volume 1, 2002. Edited by Joshua Buckley, Colin Cleary & Michael Moynihan. Paperback. 286pp. ISBN 0-9720292-0-6. Available from Ultra, P.O Box 11736, Atlanta, GA 30355, USA.
CONTAINING NO FEWER THAN TWELVE ESSAYS two interviews, thirty-eight book and music reviews, and contributions from the likes of Alain de Benoist, Stephen Edred Flowers, Joscelyn Godwin and Nigel Pennick, this bright and refreshing publication is a veritable feast of pre-Christian heritage all served up on a platter of radical traditionalism. Taking its name from the Norse deity who sacrificed his own hand in order to quell the ferocity of Fenris the wolf, TYR aims a volkisch thunderbolt at the mass society and everything it stands for. In The Idea of Integral Culture: A Model for Revolt Against the Modern World, Flowers explains that culture has long been defined within the four-fold confines of a disappointingly static grid. This, he contends, is made up of the ethnic, the ethical, the material and the linguistic. His proposal for the re-integralisation of society, however, relies upon the inter-dependence of these facets, although the process of collective unification must first begin in the heart of the individual. Once man has learnt to reacquaint himself with these factors, the community as a whole can be invigorated in the same harmonious manner. Isolation, he argues, must be superseded by human contact. Furthermore, "the most effective revolt would be one which challenged the modernistic atomisation - the splitting up of all integrated units into their smallest parts for the sake of homogenising them politically and/or economically - promoting a reintegration of cultural elements or categories in a harmonious and authentic whole." [p.19] The men and women of action, therefore, must align themselves with an individual tradition of their own which can correspond with the wider tradition of the community. This is the only way that a new revival of culture can achieve the longevity that it requires.
In accordance with Evola, Colin Cleary's Knowing the Gods advocates a new acceptance of the spiritual by retaining the intellect through non-subjectivity. But what sounds like a contradiction in terms is soon explained. Specific aspects of nature can be interpreted as Norse deities in themselves, without having to assume the modern tendency to both quantify and ridicule that which fails to accord with scientific materialism. Indeed, this refusal to become entrenched in the process of analytical modernity is described by Cleary as an 'openness to being'. Not a blind acceptance that mythological aspects are truly real in a fully tangible sense, but 'through a kind of naive and non-reflective openness, and through total immersion.' [p.25] In other words, to lay to one side the conditioning of the school-room and to begin from the perspective of the curious infant. Cleary's thoughts remind me of a conversation I had with an old friend several years ago, during which I surprised him by describing the path of the sun as though it revolved around the earth. But this little faux-pas was not calculated to impress, it was a purely spontaneous comment and the result of teaching ancient mythology to my children over a period of several months. Looking back, it was undoubtedly an act of child-like immersion, naivity and 'openness'. Cleary then goes on to account for the struggle between the individual will and man's willing capitulation to that which he knows to be the truth. This is the furious battle 'twixt ignorance (unrestrained will) and the trans-human (knowledge of the good). Monotheism is also perceived as the result of the uncontrollable self, one example being the philosophical charlatanism of the Christian Church and its refusal to adopt a trans-human attitude towards defining the alleged supremacy of a single god. This, says Cleary, with Nietzsche's help, is precisely why the scientist eventually pushed aside the theologian. His conclusion is that religion is part of human nature, with the solution being the gradual erosion of technology, ruralism and a healthy scepticism towards all things scientific. In short, it is a return to the traditional values of home and hearth.
Steve Pollington's brief Odinic interlude, From Lore-Giver to Law-Giver: The Tale of Woden, examines the linguistic origins of this one-eyed magician and charts his militaristic progress through the ranks of the Germanic and Gallic heartlands. Woden is portrayed as a model for the aspiring warrior king, intent on retaining a form of decentralised authority in the face of imperial Roman power.
No traditional journal would be complete without a study of our Eurasian origins, and Alby Stone's Indo-European Trifunctional Elements in Celtic Foundation Myths finds interesting similarities between the trinitarian aspects of Celtic society and those of Vedic India. Indeed, this link between myth and society forms the very basis of his essay. It was Georges Dumezil who first used the term 'functional' in relation to one of the three key areas of sociology, these being contained within a hierarchical structure incorporating the priestly (later priest-king), warrior and peasant castes and thus corresponding to the head, arms and genitals of the human body. Stone demonstrates, by way of Julius Caesar, that the original Arya system was retained by the Gauls, although apart from the Welsh there is no evidence that it prevailed amongst the Ancient Britons. The Irish, on the other hand, had a tripartite system involving nobles, combatants and those of the 'trough'. On occasion the Irish also divided their land into three parts, often distributed between three of the king's sons.
Michael Moynihan's 32-page article on Germanic mythology, Divine Traces in the Nibelungenlied, or Whose Heart Beats in Hagen's Chest?, concerns the legends which have been popularised to some extent by The Ring Cycle of Richard Wagner. Composed by an unknown Bavarian poet, I have always found Das Nibelungenlied rather similar to Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, in that it represents a collection of ancient legends set within a decidedly medieval context. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Das Nibelungenlied is comparatively more modern than most other epic sagas, such as those which appear in the Eddas. Indeed, rather than appear in his more traditional role as practitioner of the runes and worshipper of Odin, Siegfried is depicted as a knightly figure who slays the dragon in return for invincibility. But Michael argues that Siegfried's character in Das Nibelungenlied is far too simplistic and naive, causing many interpreters of the tale to fundamentally miscalculate the deeper role played by his dark assassin, Hagen The Grim. Using one or two visual props borrowed from Fritz Lang's impressive 1924 adaptations of Siegfried and Die Nibelungen, Michael makes a fine job of getting to grips with Hagen's personality and appearance, examining his motives and the prelude to the act of murder itself.
Hagen is presented as a kind of nemesis, someone who is inevitably predisposed to the brutal slaying of his rival. For those who haven't read Das Nibelungenlied, Michael's narrative is an entertaining summary of the entire saga.
By killing Siegfried, Hagen manages to replenish the whole structure of German society, a feat which actually raises the Burgundian Nibelungs to a mystical status and thus even transcends the supernatural deeds of Siegfried himself. Michael points out that Hagen and Siegfried have quite different roles to play in this affair: 'Whereas Siegfried is a rather two-dimensional embodiment of pure warrior strength but little intelligence, Hagen is the most canny and keenly perceptive figure in the entire epic.' [pp.92-3]
So Hagen is far more aware of what is going on. His is the conscious realisation that such events are being played out on the stage of history, like a drama within a drama. Hagen's role is that of a demonic annihilator who possesses the Bakuninist urge to destroy and create anew. His own consequent downfall, however, is used to convey the inevitability of fate. This is where Michael makes the useful comparison between the divine and the timely phasing-out of the seemingly indestructible. Odin's heroism, of course, was eventually followed by his earthly demise at the time of Ragnorok. Fate always seems to arrive in order to claim those who have fulfilled their divine purpose.
A short essay on The Goddess Zisa follows, with Nigel Pennick introducing us to the Swabian equivalent of the Virgin Mary. Zisa inspired her Bavarian devotees to such an extent that they earned a memorable victory against the Romans, and her legacy still prevails today amid the Christian churches which were constructed upon the foundations of her temples. She is now the Protector of Augsburg and often appears beside the altar as the Mother of Christ in a flowing red dress. In her more traditional role, however, Zisa is shown holding a pine cone: 'The cone, protector of the seeds within it, denotes Zisa's role as protectress of the city and its inhabitants. Zisa is a perfect example of the continuity that underpins the European Tradition, appearing when she is needed, in whatever form is appropriate to the age.' [p.109]
Like a present-day Alexandra David-Neel, Annabel Lee's penchant for the world of climbing and its traditionalist implications is laid bare in The Dark Side of the Mountain. Influenced by Evola's superb Meditations on the Peaks (Inner Traditions, 1998), Annabel's essay offers the reader an insight into the inhospitably cruel and 'dramatic landscapes of granite and glaciers' [p.111].
These essential hardships obviously prevent most people from experiencing or surviving in such conditions, a factor which has led to the idealisation of the mountainous domain itself. These fascinating and unfathomable peaks are invariably said to represent the seat of the gods, the home of the hidden masters, and the centre of tradition: 'Mountains are dense and impenetrable, mysterious and unknowable, even to those who live directly beneath them. They are merciless and vast to the human form, easily devouring it, easily thwarting success.' [pp.113-4]
Annabel's point about the cosmic balance that exists between the heights of the peaks and the depths of the sea is a perfect analogy of Northern man's eternal quest to conquer the extremities of his world. As valley is to peak, she contends, so feminine is to masculine as eternal life is to basic mortality.
In On the Spiritual Arts and Crafts: Practising the Ancient Skills and Wisdom of Europe, Nigel Pennick returns to offer his thoughts on the spiritual aesthetics of creative beauty. John Nicolson was among the first to recognise that there is a spiritual element to artistic creativity, something which I believe accords with Evola's description of vocational craftsmanship and the traditional artisan in Revolt Against the Modern World (Inner Traditions, 1995). The process of creating beauty, Pennick explains, involves taking a natural object to a far higher level and bestowing upon it that which it apparently lacks. This idea of going beyond mere imitation was developed by Plotinus in the third century, with Auguste Rodin taking things one step further several centuries later by suggesting that art has a perpetual life all of its own. But what of the question of form?
Pennick, like Plotinus before him, believes that formlessness is essential to the concept of artistic beauty. This is due to the fact that, when it is traced to an original source, beauty simply become little more than a part. For Plotinus, however, formlessness is not without shape, it represents the fundamental basis of shape itself. Art creates life and can thus assume a uniquely soulful quality. On the other hand, of course,
'[f]orgetting that humans are involved in the creative process of bringing the idea into physical reality, as Baillie Scott warns us against, is compounded by he practise of not crediting those who have made essential contribution to the work.' [p.123] In a world of industrial mechanisation, the application of a revived spiritual pragmatism may be the only chance we have of offering people a genuine alternative to the soulless materialism and hideous uniformity which characterises our age.
The inclusion of Joscelyn Godwin's Julius Evola: A Philosopher for the Age of the Titans is a welcome addition to any traditionalist journal, and this is one of the more fascinating articles TYR has to offer. Godwin's 'elementary introduction' [p.138] is particularly useful for those readers who are unfamiliar with Evolian thought, especially in light of the fact that the publication's whole ethos is to combine Norse mythology and culture with the broader world of tradition. Here we are presented with an overview of the Baron and his achievements, ranging from his obscure Sicilian origins and youthful forays into the artistic realms of Dadaism, right through to his alleged flirtations with Italian Fascism and the ability to interpret and develop his own inimitable school of traditionalist philosophy. This enduring strand of anti-modernist thought led to a vast array of literary outpourings on issues such as - amongst others the sovereign individual (Theory of the Absolute Individual), occultism (a collection of essays originally published in Ur and Krur magazines and now available as Introduction to Magic), pagan imperialism (Imperialismo Pagano), Eastern tradition (The Doctrine of Awakening and The Yoga of Power), spiritual questing (Meditations on the Peaks, The Hermetic Tradition and The Mystery of the Grail), politics (Men Among the Ruins), sexuality and ritual (The Metaphysics of Sex), individual strength and elitism (Riding the Tiger) and the struggle between the ancient and the modern (Revolt Against the Modern World). Joscelyn Godwin portrays Evola as one of the giants of modern esotericism, a man who was always comparable to the more well-known personalities who gravitated towards the Golden Dawn.
Finally, we come to Markus Wolff's Hermann Loens: An Introduction to His Life and Work. I had never heard of Loens prior to reading this essay, so I'm naturally very grateful to Markus for bringing him to the attention of the English-speaking world on what must surely rank as one of the very few occasions.
Loens was an Austrian who was part of a profound reaction against the soullessness of encroaching industrialisation, big city life, and cultural and economic materialism. This reaction started in the 1890s and continued into the 1920s and can loosely be named volkisch. A deep love for his Heimat, or homeland, fuelled Loens's wide-ranging activities as a scientist, journalist, novelist, and poet.' [p.159] His poetic talents were probably inherited from one of his ancestors, the famous Romantic poet, Moritz Bachofen. An immense love of nature and rural peasant life led him to become a student of natural science and, in his spare time, an amateur ornithologist. Inspired by the poetry of Annette Droste-Hulshoff and Detlev von Liliencron, Loens soon began to turn his thoughts to philosophy and Nietzsche. After moving to a new home in Hanover and working as a journalist for a local newspaper, Loens became interested in symbolist art and folklore. In 1901 he published Mein goldenes Buch, a collection of poetry about hunting and life in the country. Then, with the publication of Mein braunes Buch in 1907, which was a collection of short stories, Loens displayed a flair for combining nature and local mythology. He even designed his own personalised symbol, a variation of the runic Wolfsangel, and soon built up a reputation as a dedicated conservationist and ecologist. After moving to the small town of Buckeburg, Loens wrote two peasant novels (Der letze Hansbur and Der Wehrwolf), the second of which was much admired by Ernst Jünger and 'even inspired some groups of the German youth movement to adopt the Wolfsangel as insignia.' [p.151] But when Loens went off to fight in the First World War, however, he despised the modern trench warfare which was so vastly different to the hand-to-hand combat and grassroots heroism described in his own novels about Charlemagne and Widukind. In September 1914 a bullet entered his left shoulder and pierced his heart. Loens died instantly. Markus Wolff relates how an eyewitness described Loens as looking 'deeply peaceful ... calm and handsome.' [p.152] At the same time, whilst many people see him as one of the pioneers of the blood and soil movement, Wolff rightly points out that his 'peasant novels are rooted in an organic sense of community and fierce independence that is far removed from the centralised planning and stilted pageantry of the National Socialist state.' [p.153].
With ingredients such as these, this succulent first issue may well prove to be a very hard act to follow. On the other hand, of course, if the editorial triumverate can pull another white rabbit from Odin's wide-brimmed hat which is well within their capabilities - then we're all set for another banquet.
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