By Ardbrand (written 2008)
It is often asked how Asatruars, or Odinists, view our relationship to the Aesir and Vanir and to what degree do we have control over our own lives and destinies. Are we merely playing pieces in a cosmic game of chess or are we free to pursue our own courses of success and failure?
The concept of fate is a very old one for our people and one that has, perhaps in the modern cultural climate of anything-goes hedonism, gained a negative light. We see that even our Gods and Goddesses are bound by fate, and for many it is to die in Ragnarok. This concept seems alien to many of us now, as we have been saturated with the judaic view of god as omnipotent and everlasting. This is not so alien, however, and reflects an organic wisdom that all things must go through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth rather than the immature and unnatural concept of non-change. The confusion arises from the fact that we, again, have been saturated with the foreign concept of death as an “evil” or as a failing. Death and Life are two parts to the balanced equation and both are to be embraced. Death propels life on an upward trajectory, as Charles Darwin has eloquently pointed out; without death there can be no growth and only stagnation remains.
Our Gods fulfill their duties, die and grow, just as we must. The key here is that they are reborn and are not annihilated. Annihilation is not a natural concept to the Western Mind, attuned to seasonal patterns, and is one we should strive against vehemently. Our own racial and cultural extinction is one such struggle we must win. For in the course of our failure, no growth can occur. The seeds of rebirth and growth would be completely destroyed.
So then, are we as people fated as well? First let me dispel the notion of fate as a negative idea. That is largely psychological debris from the medieval mind which saw man strapped to the Rota Fortuna, bound by the whim of the heavens (and the strict social stratification which he or she was born into). The idea of fate as a negative concept is now propounded by the fact that, as modern citizens, we have all been led to believe that only through rigorous individualism and indulgence without consequence can we arrive at happiness.
But fate is not something to be afraid of. We are not worms on a hook, but craftsmen of the great web of life as blueprinted by Wyrd. Our fates are threads in that web which lend it strength. The overall pattern we cannot see, even the Gods do not see, but yet they (and we, should) embrace, and be proud of the fact that we have that part to play.
So we are fated, yet that leaves the question of exactly how much of our lives is scripted and how much control do the Gods and Wyrd have of our destinies? It is assured that our Germanic ancestors believed that our end was fated by Wyrd. We cannot die before our time, nor can we prolong our lives beyond that time. If you are fated to die in a car crash then thats that. You could wear your seatbelt and drive defensively your entire life but if that is how you are fated then it is not for you to decide how you meet your end. That said, it IS up to you how you FACE your end. This concept was extremely important to our ancestors and we would do wise to reconnect with it. You can die cowering and living your life trying to avoid your end, or you can meet it honorably and fighting your hardest. Dying on your feet, as they say.
In the Saxon story of Beowulf this is a central concept. Beowulf strips off his armor before he faces Grendel so that it will be a fair and honorable fight. Who cares if not having armor increases his chances of death? To Beowulf, Wyrd has already decided if he will die at that time or not. That story perfectly illustrates our folk view and we desperately need to reconnect with that. On a practical level, that belief benefits us in two ways: first we are freed of most of the fear of meeting our end and we conduct our lives more fully, and secondly it instills in us the almost extinct values of honour and courage in the face of turmoil.
I also want to make it clear that our ancestors were not stupid. They did not toy with their lives unnecessarily and they did not arrogantly “tempt fate”. Do not jump out of a plane with no parachute and say “Wyrd will save me!”. That is an arrogant and cowardly christian concept that you can do stupid things and force god to prove himself: “god will save me!”….
Our end is in the hands of Wyrd, and yet what part do the Gods play in our lifetimes? If you are open to the Gods and behave in a manner congruent with the Gods then their influence will bless you and they will draw near to you. They are your guide and will often times show you what you need to be shown or open within you a source of power, but they will not force your hand. Opportunity is the currency of the Gods. You must not squander their gifts and your successes and failures are your own responsibility. They want you to succeed and they want you to overcome. They never want you to submit to their will or leave it in their hands. They gave you a fraction of their strength and it is an insult to not use it or to use it unjustly or dishonorably. You must conduct yourself with industry and always be open to their signs which lead you down paths well traveled and sometimes well hidden.
Do not blame them when you have hardship. It is not “gods will” that you should fail completely. It is that you have not made well for yourself with the bounteous gifts that they have bestowed!