Brute Norse Podcast Ep. 20: The Antenna on the Holy Mountain

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The natural sciences talk avidly about the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and so on. Less so about the noösphere. The noösphere is the sphere of mind. A term that allows us to conceive of consciousness and information exchange, not just as abstract philosophical notions, but as a massively tangible cosmic force with a concrete, observable influence on the physical world.

In this episode Eirik reads his essay "The Antenna on the Holy Mountain: Noöspheric meditations on the Norse cargo cult", originally commissioned by the Canadian artist Erin Sexton for the 2018 Noöspherics conference at Lydgalleriet in Bergen, where it formed the introductory chapter to the conference book.

Written in the shadow of Norway's decision to abandon FM radio for new, digital solutions, this essay explores the noöspheric proposition that our intelligence extends beyond our physical bodies, drawing on crisis, technological collapse, extraterrestrial exploration, and religious ritual, and the noösphere's implications for Eirik's own experience of the antiquarian sciences, and his alienated yearning towards a better understanding of the pre-Christian Scandinavian worldview.

- Erin Sexton's homepage:
erinsexton.com
- Topos Publications:
topospublications.com

Support Brute Norse on patreon.com/brutenorse or sweeten my coffee by purchasing a piece of fresh BN merch on teespring.com/stores/brute-norse!

Barbarian Beverages: The Bitter Viking

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A little known fact about Brute Norse is that I also take submissions for cocktail recipes according to a set of vague, cultural historical criteria. Basically, anything goes as long as it combines old and new in accordance with my idiosyncratic Scandifuturist ethos.

The following concoction, the “Bitter Viking”, comes to me from M. N. Walker of Thrym & Ellen via my pal Michael. This is essentially a Nordic spin on the classic gin and tonic, but swaps the gin for akvavit, and the lime wedge for a more ethereal grapefruit presence. Akvavit is a muscular category of liquor often associated with holidays in Scandinavia, and yuletide in particular. But, you know, I’m a card carrying lobbyist for the year-round consumption of akvavit, so they didn’t exactly have to ask me twice about passing on the recipe. Besides, it’s rather refreshing!

Bitter Viking

1.5 oz. traditional Akvavit (with caraway)
9 drops of grapefruit bitters

Add ice, Fever Tree tonic and zest of grapefruit


As for food pairings, I don’t know - a wedge of strong cheese, maybe? I had it with some fancy sardines straight out of the can, but “recommend” is a loaded word. As for music pairings, distant gunshots, or anything with a jaw harp or a fiddle in it goes without saying. But the real listening combo is obviously episode 14 of the Brute Norse Podcast, which just happened to be released this week!

If you liked this piece you might also enjoy:
Summers are for Mead Spritzers: A Scandifuturist cocktail manifesto
Olde English Malt Liquor: 24 Ounces of Anglo Saxon Glory
Barbarian Beverages: The Noble Savage - a simple cocktail with an archaeological twist
Seaweed: An Authentic Viking Age Beer Snack

Got a good recipe? Why don’t you drop me a line and I just might try it out.
And as always, support Brute Norse on
Patreon or treat yourself to some berserker themed power-socks.

The Fourth Spell: A Hymn to the God of Secrets

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The fourth spell i know:
If men bind my limbs,
I chant so I may walk.
Fetters spring off my ankles,
and chains off my wrists.

– Hávamál st. 148


The grit of life. Our foreheads strain, our fingers bleed, and kneecaps burst with obstacles and hindrances. But ask not for the source of this adversity. Since time began it’s all been fuss and misery. How often are you complicit in the bondage that ties you down. Standing idly by, writhing in the lashes of your own slave morality, fearing the reprisals of an unseen captor.


Listen! He is gone.
Why have not your fetters sprung, now that the door is wide open?

The coast is clear.
Leg it! Run!


And let every taste of blood in your mouth be a communion. And may every tear and drool roping from your lips be poured libations of the sweetest wine. Every gasp of air, fresh or stale, let it be an ode. From self to oneself.

Meditate upon Gagnráðr, lord of tricks and no excuses. Blindr, oh Blind One! Tvíblindi, the Twice Blind! Báleygr, fire-eyed cæsar! Once a serpent, soon an eagle, and often a man where least expected. Master of the blindest bats and sonars. Lord of uncounted secret names, flaneur of the heavens! Cheers to you Æsirian barman, king of the bums! Lord of hosts and feasts, and unwanted guests. Slithering as snake within the mountain, and as a man inside Gunnlǫð, full of deceit. And his lips did slither thrice over the rim of the richest Mead of Poetry, that wellspring of arts, stirrer of minds! Swiftly, then as an eagle across the ranges and canyons. Swift, while the giant Suttung lay chase, eager to repay an ill bargain.



I give that you may give:
A lie for a lie,
promise for promise.

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To the fool a king, and to kings a fool, Odin stalks lands far and wide! The Óðr, whose name is craze, wit, and poem. Negotiator of opposites, who knows every border like the back of his hand, and every stepping stone across the steam, and every secret passage, and every buried treasure, and every untold confession a human heart can hide. Pour one out for Odin, that chief transgressor who shamelessly moves across and conquers. To every secret lock there is a key, and to every key he holds a copy. For every hushed wisper is a secret told to him in confidence.

Among his animals are those that stalk. There are those that crawl below, and those that soar. Those that are blessed with grace, and those who delight and flourish in hunting. And just as much he is the master of bottom feeders, those who take to carrion and feast on the dead, his name is uttered through the lips human life itself. Fear and awe, and reserved contempt. Odin, ferret of the chicken coop, and the lord that hunts the ferret.

Most mistrusted wolverine god, small and narrow. Scarecrow, flexible and pliable, stepping seamlessly and elegant between rooms like a ghost. Olgr! Fizzing One! Master of leaders and idiots, and captives and captors. Patron of slayers and the slain, who swims with delight in Campbell's sea of madness, whose bottom is the drowned psychotic. Who knows those that do not know him. Who compels drowning to swim, and the sinking to float, the living to die and the dying to live.


The fetters have sprung.
The only way out, is the way out.
But of course it hurts when buds are breaking.


Art by Stig Kristiansen @makroverset
Support Brute Norse on
Patreon.com

Related:

The Trollish Theory of Art


Thor at the court of Utgarda-Loki: a lesson in Trollish tactics by Jens Bjørneboe (1955)

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Most of you have heard about Thor's journey to Utgard-Loki's fortress, when they were bid inside to prove their worth in the feats that each knew best. But they lost in all of them. For all their efforts, they managed so badly that Utgard-Loki's retinue laughed loudly at them. Everything went badly. They lost at everything, they did everything wrong. Even Thor, the strongest of the gods, turned out really badly, and when they left the Utgard fortress, they were were certain that they would never win over Loki's men.

It was only later that they came to know, that the results might have been different from how things seemed in there. When Thor failed the test of might that was to empty Utgarda-Loki's drinking horn, it was because the horn reached all the way down into the sea, and that it was the great oceans Thor had drunk from, and that he drank so much in the third sip that the ocean had sunk several inches across the whole world, and the people of Utgard were pale with fright.

When Thor had wrestled with the old wench Elli and only managed to force her to down on one knee, it was age itself he had been fighting. And when Thor only managed to lift Utgarda-Loki's cat so high that it barely raised a single paw from the floor, in reality it was none other than the Midgard Serpent he had lifted, and it was so that it almost lost the grip it has around the Earth. And the laughter the gods had heard from the Utgard people had not been laughter at all, but in reality it was Loki's people that screamed with fear.

So it happened that every time Thor's people won a victory, they believed for themselves that they had lost. And the Midgard Serpent is the biggest and last and most horrible of all dragons, and it has coiled itself tightly around the Earth.

Now it is the same way with humans when they try to do something that is good and right: Utgarda-Loki, the king of the Utgard fortress, uses his witchery to make us think that we have lost, or to believe that what a human can manage is so little that there nothing gained in doing it. Because Utgarda-Loki knows that if only humanity loses its courage, then he will be victorious.

But in reality it is so that when the humans lose without losing courage, then Utgarda-Loki's people scream with fear.


Excerpt from the novel Jonas (1955) by Jens Bjørneboe.
Translated and adapted by Eirik Storesund.
Wassail to Kulturverk for the reminder.

Support Brute Norse on Patreon.

Associated reading:

The Trollish Theory of Art
No Better than the Gods
Fimbulwinter 536 AD

Summers Are For Mead Spritzers: A Scandifuturist Cocktail Manifesto

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A cornerstone of the Scandifuturist way of life is the normalization of anything and all that belongs in the uncanny valley of archaism. Whenever the modern Scandinavian looks at him or herself in the mirror, I see it as the role of the Scandifuturist to be that exact mirror image they are observing, but one that reaches out of the mirror and grabs the viewer by the collar of their shirt. It is the role of the Scandifuturist to play the role of the vengeful ancestor that never died or went away, but stepped into the modern world as if returning from a long and slothful holiday, invigorated and drunk on life.

Cultural elements that are broadly recognized as part of the Nordic heritage, yet are somehow still neglected (or even avoided), drop effortlessly from the trashcan of history and into the shopping basket of the Scandifuturist, who is not afraid of seeming out of step with his time. On the contrary! Scandifuturism, in a sense, represents a left-handed approach to intangible heritage. In the secular nation of Norway, a Scandifuturist goes to church with glee, though he sold his soul at the crossroads years ago. For like their pagan ancestors, Scandifuturists want life to live.

Case in point: Puritan heretics against a more primordial Nordic self-image, as well as the cheaper-or-exotic-is-better mentality of the Industrial Era has long since laid waste to much of the drinking culture that was. I for one lament the loss of a time when not drinking in front of the freshly deceased was an offense towards their living relatives. Don't even get me started on communal drinking bowls and village doctors.

Let's cut to the chase: It is only reasonable that mead, once the drink of kings, is restored to its former position as the house god of the drinking cabinet. Yet the mere mention of this golden beverage will make the modern-minded Norwegian recoil in chronophobic disgust, as I have seen for myself on many occasions, and why so? In reality it is a versatile and tasteful drink, well suited for a number of foods and culinary experiments. None the less, mead today is served as a spectacle, a carnevalesque test of valor. Pot-bellied executives drink it with a grimace in viking themed team-building exercises, where it is served up for the sake of entertainment ridiculing the rustic delights of a more primitive age. In short: Only in the bizarro world of Scandinavian pilsner tyranny could mead be envisioned as an inferior product.

While it is tempting to say that all of these idiots should be drowned in vats of mead, like the mythic king Fjǫlnir before them, Scandifuturism is not a vengeful philosophy, but holds that there is hope for all who keep an open mind and maintain a curious disposition, and so it would be better to send them of to re-education camps. Ones where they are taught to enjoy the manifold delights of an obscure and insulted ancestral beverage, and beyond this there should be room for reinvention not only in the serving of mead, but also farmhouse ales, akevit, berry wine, ciders, and moonshine! For now this simple, but tasteful recipe will suffice.

Scandifuturist Mead Spritzer

You'll need:
1 part mead
2 parts seltzer
3-8 violent dashes of orange bitters
lemon wedge

1. Fill a glass with ice. For the true experience, the glass should be slightly too small for comfort. This drink will sooner be finished, but you will keep making cold ones.
2. By measure of eye, add your "one parts" mead, whispering underbreath a silent prayer to a god blind and deaf.
3. Run the lemon wedge along the rim of the tiny glass and give it a good squeeze for the sake of acidity.
4. Ample dashes of bitters.
5. Add your two parts of seltzer, drink and repeat.

Pairs well with saltine crackers and hot mustard as you gaze into the midnight sun.
And don't forget to tip your server.

By the way, have you ever noticed the abundance of runes in the video for Q Lazzarus' Goodbye Horses?

"Wodwo", Ted Hughes (1967)

What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river's edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air? Why do I find
this frog so interesting as I inspect its most secret
interior and make it my own? Do these weeds
know me and name me to each other have they
seen me before do I fit in their world? I seem
separate from the ground and not rooted but dropped
out of nothing casually I've no threads
fastening me to anything I can go anywhere
I seem to have been given the freedom
of this place what am I then? And picking
bits of bark off this rotten stump gives me
no pleasure and it's no use so why do I do it
me and doing that have coincided very queerly
But what shall I be called am I the first
have I an owner what shape am I what
shape am I am I huge if I go
to the end on this way past these trees and past these trees
till I get tired that's touching one wall of me
for the moment if I sit still how everything
stops to watch me I suppose I am the exact centre
but there's all this what is it roots
roots roots roots and here's the water
again very queer but I'll go on looking

 

Related:
Wild men and bearded women of the Medieval North

Hyperboreans in Hyperspace: Postcards from the Noöspherics Conference in Bergen

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Radio waves, catastrophe survivalism, rave culture, extended mind theory, UFOs, time travel, hyperdimensional geometry, ritual, ecstasy, divine communication, Norse myths, ancient monuments, religion as technology, and technology as religion. I have struggled to put into words the full spectrum covered by the Noöspherics conference and club night, hosted and orchestrated by the Canadian-born artist Erin Sexton at Lydgalleriet in Bergen, April 23-24, 2018. On this rainy spring weekend, one of the most eclectic line-ups I have ever seen came together for two days of art and speculation, a two-stage rocket arranged as a follow up to Erin's 2017 exhibit NOÖSPHERE in the same space. With these two events, Erin had pieced together a project exploring communication, crisis, and implicitly humanity's place in the universe, heavily based in the medium of supposedly "reduntant" radio technology, warning of the perils of putting too much trust in the promises of ever more complex, high-maintenance technologies. She set up a rudimentary radio transmitter by Svartediket in Bergen, and established communications with a local radio tower, where the brainwaves of two artists were scanned and broadcast over the city of Bergen. The signal bounced off the ionosphere and darted into space at the speed of light. Somewhere in outer space their brainwaves are travelling still, and will be for lightyears to come.

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

The noösphere is a term meaning "sphere of mind". Interestingly, this term was born by the joint intelligence of Pierre Chardin, Edouard Le Roy, and Vladimir Vernadsky in the early 20th century, in an attempt to describe how the conscious human mind engages in reciprocal information exchange with the world around it. Just like humanity is not merely a collection of individuals, but a sprawling blob, that through its cognition imparts massive footprints upon the physical world, the noösphere is not so much a collection of minds as it is the sum of mind itself. A consciousness index.

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

Owing to the over-obvious fact that humans are organisms, noösphere seems presupposed by biosphere - the sphere of organic life. In turn, the biosphere owes much of its existence to the geosphere - the sphere of inanimate matter. It is only natural that there should be a term covering the sphere of conscious information exchange. Turned on its head, however, there is no apparent reason why an organism should develop sentience as it is normally understood, and when we look to the stars it is quite apparent that even organisms do not logically follow in the footsteps of geology. So far, the only example is us. This invites us to question the absolute relationship between life and inanimate matter, and if consciousness can't be detached from our physical bodies. If not by some spiritual technique, as our ancestors believed (and really, many still do), then perhaps through some technological solution.

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

So what does any of this have to do with Norse culture? As we have previously covered here on Brute Norse, the Norse were just some of many archaic societies operating under the general suspicion that the mind is, at the very least, semi-detatchable from the body. Norse culture assumed that unseen things existed all around us, and it operated with a cosmological model that allowed its gods and heroes to dive through portals to the otherworld, sometimes open, sometimes closed, as if space-time itself was being folded. If there is even as much as a symbolic truth to this, as one might argue, the future technologies may encourage humans to catch up with the metaphors of their ancestors.

I was asked to write the opening essay for the gem that is the Noöspherics conference book (Topos Bokforlag 2018), called "The Antenna on the Holy Mountain: Noöspheric meditations on the Norse Cargo cult". This was no easy task, but I used the opportunity to explore the oftentimes wistful inadequacies of scholarship, when faced with penetrating the mind and experiences of humans long since dead. Other subjects included the wastefully short attention span of contemporary society, and the chronopobia it exhibits when comparing its own achievements to those of our technologically "primitive" ancestors, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

The conference began with a brief presentation by Erin, our aforementioned hostess, before she passed the microphone to a delegation from Bergen Kringkaster. They are an association of radio amateurs volunteering to maintain a local radio transmitter, who besides explaining their history and efforts, broadcast the entire conference live on FM radio. Next up was the musicologist and neuroscientist Dr. Maria Witek with an interesting presentation about extended mind theory in the context of rave culture, which seemed to spark quite an interest with the audience, leading to discussions on everything from musical subcultures, to the "hive mind" observed in in colonies of certain insects. This in turn was followed by the Japanese independent brainwave researcher Masahiro Kahata, who shared the history of his work, and the development of his own open-source brainwave interface, while also touching upon his research on hyperdimensional intelligences and UFOs. This was certainly one of the more extraordinary contributions to an already extraordinary conference.

Finally, I had the pleasure of giving the closing presentation, which was a brief lament on ironies and frustrations that fuel my work, using radio as a metaphor in the context of pre-Christian sacred sites, finding my main example in the 3000 year old bronze age mound at Tjernagel in West Norway, destroyed in 1983 to facilitate a short wave transmitter, which in turn was torn down two decades later. Looking back, I can hardly think of a time where the term "interdisciplinary" was more appropriately applied.

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

Photo: Rasmus Hungnes

I was rather winded by the time I stepped up to talk, something I can partially attribute to the party of the evening before, where I performed poetic recital based on the rúnatals þáttr section of the Hávamál, wearing a noose necktie, and performing rites, strapped up with electrodes that scanned my brain like some scandifuturist hypostasis of Hangatýr himself. Mr. Kahata was the star of the show, as the attached exhibit represented his artistic debut, displaying alongside Erin Sexton various installations on the theme of communication and hyperdimensionality. Remarkably a prismatic laser sculpture in the form of a double pentagram, which was apparently a symbol for planet Earth in some xenoculture, revealed to one of his test subjects in dialogue with a hyperdimensional being. The dancefloor was issued contraptions of his own making, electrode headgear was handed out to clubbers, who eagerly passed them around to see their brainwaves visualized and projected on the walls, strobes flashing like a David Cronenberg movie. Because this was an open event in a venue known to switch seamlessly between art space and techno club, most of the audience had no idea what they were walking in to, and seemed genuinely perplexed. I hope it stuck with them. It certainly did to me.

...
A video of my presentation is available to my patrons.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting Brute Norse on Patreon.

"The Viking Factor": An Entry from the Personal Journal of Mircea Eliade

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Oslo, 23 August 1970

. . . we head towards the Viking Museum on the other side of the road. The spacious, well-lit rooms house boats dating from the ninth century and admirably decorated four-wheeled wagons. What to say about this head of a man from which emanates such an expression of suffering that one might believe he had just been tortured? Every time I try, for my own interest, to understand the Viking phenomenon, I can't help experiencing a feeling of frustration. There is in that phenomenon an enigma that no historian has yet succeeded in solving. But what is most serious is that this enigma resides in the Vikings' destiny. They loomed up in history at the end of the eighth century, went from conquest to conquest, pillaged, destroyed, founded dynasties, swarmed into Iceland and Greenland, and discovered North America.

The Viking era lasted for two centuries. Aboard ships similar to the one I am contemplating, they launched themselves into all the seas of the North, attacked England, Ireland, France, crushing the kings and princes who attempted to resist them, taking their places, establishing the kingdoms of Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. For a time they dominated England, carved out a fief in Normandy, extended as far as Spain, and made their way into the Mediterranean. Eventually, those in Normandy went as far as Sicily, where they encountered the descendants of other Vikings, the Varangians, who, having left the Baltic, headed toward the east, conquered a portion of the Slavs, established the kingdom of Gardarike with the two famous cities of Kiev and Novgorod, and then traveled down south on the great Russian rivers. Some of them reached as far as the Caspian Sea and had dealings with the caliphate of Baghdad. Others, in greater number, headed towards Constantinople, where they joined the armies of the Byzantine emperor. It was from there that they ventured as far as Sicily.

Photo: UiO

Photo: UiO

Around the year 1000 all their leaders were converted to Christianity. Some of them returned to their respective lands, imposed the new religion on their subjects, reclaimed their thrones or devoted themselves to trade. By 1030, the Viking era had met its end.

Quite obviously, the spirit, the institutions, and all that the Vikings had brought about had a profound impact on all medieval Nordic culture, and the Viking era is an integral part of the history of all Nordic nations. This heroic and orgiastic exuberance, this debauchery of bloody violence, energy, and creative genius such as were known from 800 to 1000, never again reached such heights. After 1030, the "Viking factor" disappeared from history. Under the circumstances one can't help thinking of the Mongol era, except that the followers of Genghis Khan succeeded in remaining in the empire of the steppes that they had carved out for themselves, whereas the Vikings dissipated their efforts in multiple unique, disordered, or eccentric undertakings. Their adventure brings to mind that of the Polynesians, who in a few centuries swarmed onto all the islands of the Pacific, bringing their civilization with them.

Photo: UiS

Photo: UiS

In the Viking adventure that stands out most clearly is the omnipresence and the weight of destiny. It is sufficient to recall that in the year 1002 the famous Leif Erikson discovered and colonized a territory he called Vinland, and which was most probably none other than the present-day Newfoundland, for recent archaeological digs there have brought to light vestiges of Viking establishments. Some of the colonists then traveled south and went as far as the region of Rhode Island. The connection between Vinland and Greenland persisted up until around the middle of the fourteenth century. What eventually happened, we don't know. The fact remains that at the end of the fifteenth century there was no longer any trace of Norwegians, descendants of the Vikings, on American shores.

It would be useless to wonder, or to imagine "what would have happened if...": If, for example, Leif Erikson had landed on the same shores, not between Labrador and Virginia, but several hundred kilometers further south and had thus discovered the rich territories that six or seven hundred years later would feed the dreams of thousands upon thousands of colonists from England. How would world history itself have evolved if the discovery and the colonization of North America had taken place before the discovery of firearms, and in an age, therefore, when it wouldn't have been as easy to get rid of the autochthonous populations by displacing or exterminating them, a confrontation and a symbiosis between the two civilizations still being possible.

When I was young my friends and I had endless discussions on the fatality inherent in minor, provincial civilizations, a fatality which willed that their creative genius would be exercised to no purpose in rediscovering ideas or technical developments that had already been discovered and had been in use elsewhere for a long time. Just as if someone reinvented the bicycle twenty or thirty years after it had begun to be mass produced in the West. But even more tragic is the destiny of individuals or nations whose unique genius is wasted on creations and discoveries before their time, and much too early. Thus the apparent futility of the efforts, sacrifices, courage, and intelligence of a Leif Erikson, who only needed to discover America three or four centuries later and three or four hundred kilometers farther south...

Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) was a Romanian author, philosopher and historian of religions. Though heavily criticized in recent decades, Eliade's theories and work on the nature and history of religions changed the face of religious studies. His books The Sacred and the Profane (1961) and The Myth of the Eternal Return (1971) remain classics in the field of comparative religion.

Work Cited:

  • Eliade, Mircea. 1989. Journal III, 1970-1978. Translated from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan, The University of Chicago Press: Chicago

Migratory Meditations: Leaving a Homeland in the Hard Iron Age

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"It is sad to leave your homeland", an Afghan woman told me. Over the last nine months, I have had countless conversations with people about my intended migration from Norway to America. It is one of those things you can't help but mention. When every day is filled with soul-sucking bureaucracy, forms to fill, and the grueling uncertainty of the wait, the sum of obsession with all possible outcomes becomes an inevitable subject of conversation. You dream about it, and every waking hour it walks in on your trail of thought.

To her it seemed like an odd choice to make, that I would leave Norway. If she could, she would gladly sacrifice the saline shores of Norway to live with her loved ones in the valleys of Afghanistan.  War and persecution ruled that possibility out for the time being. No bombs have fallen over Norway since 1945, no mines haunt my childhood trails. The sad and happy difference, of course, is that I have a choice. My migration is a luxury, but that's not what she said. She said: It is sad to leave your homeland.

And I agree. Her statement stuck with me, not due to the contrast of our respective situations, but due to the skin in the game she displayed within it. She knew what she was talking about. Among the countless people who either cheered me on enthusiastically, or questioned my choice based on a general suspicion towards the American model, this comment came across as most sincere.

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Landscape is a core element of our identities. People are born, live, and die without ever leaving New York state. Many Americans have never seen the ocean. The landscape and traditions I was born into differ, sometimes drastically, from that of the big city in the New World. I was born in an ancestral homeland, with an ethnic, cultural, and linguistic affinity stretching back thousands of years. The single recorded instance of my line of descent ever migrating to or from Norway was a temporary stint in North Dakota that only lasted a generation, before my "squarehead" forebears - ethnic Norwegians both - married and decided, in spite of any promise of opportunity, to return to the old country.

Whenever I looked out the window, I have always felt backed up by countless generations of ancestors. People who changed only as slowly as the landscape, whose looks and traits I carry with me from cradle to grave, and that I may give to prospective children in the future. My paternal line of descent has not, at least to my knowledge, made any drastic choices in terms of landscape and identity since the Bronze Age. The Hindus place us in the dark Kali Yuga, the age of darkness and confusion. Hesiod might say we still live in the hard Iron Age of fuss and misery. To most Westerners it suffices to say the word "modernism" to conjure what seems to be an odd mix of alienation and prosperity. There is no shortage of either, but I believe it that even if all of the above is true, our age of cyberfuss is raised by the girders of some sardonic fate beyond direct control. The gods delight as much as they fear.

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My childhood landscape was filled with mysteries, vernacular traditions, and ancient sites, but if there is any truth and merit to what I have done in my work so far, the recipe should work also here. The Norse Vinland colony collapsed due to understimulation, starvation, and exposure. The cosmos they created in the wake of Leifr Eiríksson's landing collapsed under its own weight, and the Vinland landscape I look upon from my apartment is different. This is a strange world, and nobody really knows what the hell I am talking about if I mention my background. But then again, not everybody did in Norway either. I don't think I have ever been closer to what I believe to be the logical conclusions of the cosmology of the Eddas. When cosmogenitors of the legendary sagas break from society, it is never to live within nature itself, but to lay flat the forests, and to timber houses. Nowhere is the inevitable imbalance of the battle of culture versus nature better exemplified than in a metropolis like New York, a city with a population greater than the entirety of my home country. In a nation whose Norwegian diaspora outnumber the Norwegians of Norway itself.

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People talk about the lightning speed of the proverbial New York minute. Before I decided to move to New York I lived in a marshland cabin off the municipal water supply, often isolated during heavy snowfall or storms. It was fantastic, and I hope to live like that again. Time moves slow in that sort of scenery. A maturing experience for certain, but a life without hustle soon grows stale. In this swamplike landscape I was quite literally wallowing, waiting for the wind to blow in my direction, and it took some time for me to realize that nobody was waiting for me to be ready. I found my Will, and found my way. It only took me a while to realize.

It took only four days between my landing and my marriage to my wife, which was the object of my migration. Things move quickly when the ball starts rolling. Now I wake up in a landscape where every tree is planted by a human hand. Where the surface is peeled down to its granite bedrock, skyscrapers soar so high they go unnoticed on street level, and unsuspecting pedestrians walk on levels of surfaces hundreds of meters above the deepest tunnels and recesses of this Swiss cheese city. Trees are kept behind fences, like cages, and not even the wildlife behaves naturally, but in perfect accordance with the human compulsion towards order. Though the disorder of nature - naturally - oozes through the woodwork. Cruel Mother Nature always will. This is Moondog's city, the blind and visionary artist who never quite belonged in any urban center, yet could never have developed anywhere else. Where thousands like myself passed through, who walked up and down the old Brooklyn ghetto they affectionately called "Lapskaus Boulevard", where the psychic advised Johannes Hansen to return home to Oseberg, resulting in that famous ship find.

I don't know how this process will affect Brute Norse, but I will not be the first writer to leave that homeland.

These are speedy days, but so is the hard Iron Age.

GINNUNGAGAP, The Boundless Enclosure: An Animated Scandinavian Art Creation Myth

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It is integral to Brute Norse's vision to try and present novel contexts and uses for intangible heritage and Norse literature. This includes presenting Norse art and mythology beyond the rampant "viking kitsch" aesthetic commonly seen in, well, just about any popular depiction of Norse culture. On the baseline, this is certainly a question of aesthetic preference. I am personally not very interested in most modern manifestations of artistic "norseness", beyond my role as a commentator or observer.

Imitations of viking era aesthetics rarely pay a fitting tribute to the quality of the Norse originals. When I curated the art show Coincidence of Opposites in 2016, the basis for the exhibition was thoroughly based on Norse mythology and poetics, but I was also inspired by the symbolism of alchemy and ancient mystery cults to create a participatory mystical experience for the audience.

Throughout the creative process I put a lot of stress on the fact that me and the other artists involved should avoid giving in to the laziest expectations of what a "viking" inspired art show should look like. The whole point was to put create a more dynamic and symbolic expression of Norse myth, entirely detached from the surface-level expectations. Admittedly, this was made a little easier by headhunting artists who were already working independently involved with subjects I considered fitting. For example, a sound piece about entropy, the heat-death of the universe, served as a fitting meditation on Norse eschatology and Ragnarok.

Continuing in that same vein, I attempted to make this video relatable to a modern audience. I set out to demonstrate a synchronized interpretation of Norse cosmogony. A sort of contemporary creation myth within the metaphorical framework of an ancient, pagan past. Listeners of the Brute Norse podcast will recognize the narration from episode 6, which is ultimately adapted from my essay The Trollish Theory of Art, where I outline some of my key perspectives on art and society.

Credits:
Written, narrated, and animated by Eirik Storesund
Sounds by Eirik Storesund, Helge Taksdal, and KB Hus

Barbarian Beverages: The Noble Savage - a simple cocktail with an archaeological twist

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While recording the latest, third, episode of the Brute Norse Podcast, me and my guest Aksel Klausen strayed into a long digression about one of our favorite subjects: Drinking culture in the past. The act of drinking is, as I've mentioned elsewhere, a deeply symbolic act. What, where, and how we drink unveils our identities, and often our taboos. Drinking correctly can earn you social prestige, but drinking inappropriately has a wider range of possible outcomes, from the carnivalesque to the abhorrent. Next time you go to a party, bring wine and drink it out of a ceramic mug, or a jar. It will raise questions.

Drinking is socially stratified: For example drinking beer was considered somewhat antithetical to drinking wine, historically. I am thinking of my own, native Norwegian society, but it could apply to many other places too. Beer was unpretentious, but also not "cultured". Today, it does not always make sense to talk about beer in broad terms: It's been accepted as the rich culinary expression it is.

With this came an admittance that beer is also culture - obviously, there was never a point where it wasn't. Even the archetype of the village drunk is a saturated cultural expression. What we're really talking about, is shifting perceptions of what constitutes high and low culture.

Anyway, the dichotomy of beer against wine has ancient roots: Wine drinking cultures, such as ancient Rome and Greece, have tended to perceive beer drinking as barbarian, or at the very least vulgar. Bavarians obviously see no stigma in the consumption of beer, while prohibition era Iceland eventually made exceptions for wine and hard liquor (you might say that Nordic drinking culture was spiritual, wink wink), but they made no exception for beer which , unbelievable as it may sound, was illegal until 1989. It was branded a gateway drug, which can be compared to legalizing cocaine, but not cannabis. A poignant metaphor given Rekjavík's past (?) reputation as a safe harbor for yuppies, who were all drinking prosecco anyway.

Beer drinking cultures have tended to be less judgmental, though there are certainly examples where proponents of beer culture have accused wine of promoting decadence and snobbery, both today and in the ancient past. In Norse and Germanic society, there seems to have been a social hierarchy of beverages: Beer is good, and mead is excellent, but wine is the stuff of legend. Heroic poems like Atlakvi­ða passionately refer to the glory of the feasting hall, where champions take deep sips from "wine-heavy ale bowls". Talk about hedonism. 

 

at juellinge in denmark, this roman era woman was laid to rest with roman drinking vessels and a strange concoction.

at juellinge in denmark, this roman era woman was laid to rest with roman drinking vessels and a strange concoction.

Under the Roman Influence

A proverbial dip into some of the archaeological evidence for Bronze and Iron Age Nordic beverages, primarily in the form of residue on the inside of drinking vessels and containers, suggest that these Nordic cultures were far from purists when it came to what they drank. The residue bears witness to the spectral presence of berries, malt from beer, and pollen and wax from honey mead. There are also occasional traces of wine, and pitch that could either be used to flavor the beverages, but probably as a sealant for the vessels. Wine, of course, being telltale of contact with the mediterranean.

While it is impossible to tell whether or not all of this was contained in the vessels at once, there are enough of these examples to suggest that people living in prehistoric, Bronze Age, and Iron and Dark Age Northern Europe, consumed mixed beverages, often referred to as Nordic grog by the venerable professor Patrick McGovern, who refers to them in such classics as Ancient Wine, Uncorking the Past, and lastly, Ancient Brews - the most recent addition to his bibliography.

I've not read that last one, but you should definitely read the former if you're interested in history, fermented beverages, the history of fermented beverages, or the fermented beverages of history. Let me rephrase that: If you are culturally conscious person person who eats and drinks, then you should read at least one of these books, or die. If you are a scholar, you should buy Uncorking the Past, sit down with a typewriter, and retype every word of it. You will have grown as an educator by the end of it.

There are a lot of opinions about what constitutes a so-called serious academic. I believe it is one who takes his or her material so seriously, that they cannot help but reach out to the public. Who are unafraid of breaking the mold. McGovern is just that, as his impassioned, amiable writing style demonstrates. His books achieve to be both pioneering academic text books, and page turners.

Anyway, my friend and I were chatting. We were already somewhat tipsy on his homemade Roman inspired mulled wine. An earthy, spicy beverage he had fashioned from amphora-fermented Sicilian nectar. As it ran out we decided to return to our barbarian roots and recreate a drink we'd enjoyed many times before, usually by an open fire under the blushing sky of long Norwegian summer nights. This simple, contemporary interpretation of Nordic grog requires only two ingredients: Red wine and lager beer. 

Our choice of ingredients was unpretentious, in true barbarian fashion. The wine came from a Shetland duty free, apparently branded by the store itself. If I recall, I found it somewhat dry and earthy, yet not too heavy on the tannins. Online reviews absolutely slaughter it. We topped it off with Faxe Premium. This Danish pilsner was a no brainer given the horned viking adorning the can.

The result was, according to the words of my companion, the best of both worlds: A drink that achieves to be both diluted wine, and fortified beer, satisfying Roman, as well as barbarian thirsts in equal measure! Like a patrician in the gutter in the final days of Rome. Mind you, the wine provides a better complement to the beer than the beer does to the wine, leaving a wine-heavy product laced with the light head and tapered fizz of the danish pilsner. While both ingredients matter as they need to balance each other, don't go overboard with the choice of wine. Save your wallet. Even then it feels significantly fancier to drink than the beer would have felt on its own, as it proved to be quite silky and easy on the tongue. 

Recipe: The noble Savage

1 parts dry, young red wine

1 parts pilsner or similar lager beer

Preparation:

1. Chill the ingredients slightly

2. Pour stoically into a glass drinking bowl,

(Alternately: a highball glass)

3. Mix carefully, don't spill a drop!

4. Sip medio-slowly

Suggested pairings:

Cured ham, gift exchange and blood oaths.

If you would like to hear Aksel's favorite recipe for Roman spiced wine, pledge your support over at the Brute Norse Patreon page.

No Better Than The Gods: Divine Incompetence in Norse Mythology and the Shortcomings of Humanity

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The gods have made terrible mistakes, it's nothing short of a divine tragedy. We came late in the movie, but the story goes, that by the time man entered the world scene, whether it was as a corrective measure, a supplement to the divine plan, or an act of cosmic love, the world had already started its downward tumble. You see, Norse cosmology describes a world plunged into a dramatic, continuous crisis that will outlast the universe.

As the senile resembles a newborn child, the end must necessarily reflect the beginning. Before the world that you and I live in, there was something else – a non-ambitious chaotic expanse where the giant Ymir lived. But he had to die to accommodate creation. And though the gods were happy for a while, it could not last. The golden age came and went. A world must end for things to return to what they were. A process nobody would survive. The gods of Norse mythology are flawed, like us. And like us they struggle to come to terms with things beyond their control. Incompetent beyond their talents, predestined to fail, doomed to drop cosmic turds where they eat.

It's frequently said that the gods of polytheistic ethnic religions have human qualities. But within the internal logic of these belief systems, it's really the other way around. It's mankind that resembles the gods. What does that imply about us in the context of Norse cosmology, where the gods are aware of future outcomes, yet try and fail to change them? I believe there are indeed a few profound philosophical takeaways.

It seems a certain wistfulness and ambiguity permeated the latter stages of the pre-Christian worldview. It could also be that these sources were curated by medieval Christian scholars who took the introspective, self-critical implications of pagan cosmology as a sign of weakness. We don't know why some eddic poems survived, and others did not, but in many of them the ghost of future doom looms, while ironic tragedy sits at the root of all. Then again, I am prone to sentimental gloom. I have my biases.

The Norse physical cosmos was imperfect, but unlike transcendent religions such as Christianity, there was no heaven, no immaculate and immaterial plane of existence beyond. Instead, the layer cake model of Norse cosmology worked in accordance with the axiom that whatever goes up must also come down. The afterlife, if anything, is like a waiting room for the cosmic reset.

These imperfections were not quite the result of any original sin. It makes more sense to think of them as engineering errors in the supporting structure of reality. The sandy soil that swallows the cathedral. Throughout the sources, the gods appear to make regular mistakes, and it probably goes back to the fact that they lacked the skills or means to make a singular, self-supporting cosmos. Certain things are always out of reach, even to gods.

Ymir is killed by Odin and his brothers

Ymir is killed by Odin and his brothers

 

Ár var alda

In the beginning there was the death blow. In Norse mythology, the killing of the cosmic giant Ymir marks the first act of creation. Ymir becomes the first victim, the first product, and the first artifice. The dismemberment of the victim was equal to the parting of earth and sky. The body parts and fluids of the cosmic being were the raw materials of all creation, laid out across the periodic table of the elements. The act of killing as primary creative act, though mythological, is probably telling for how Norse polytheists perceived ontological reality, and I think the metaphor works still: No pain, no gain.

Take a step back and cast one glance at the greater picture, or reach for your nearest physics book. You'll see that perpetuity and permanence are not of this world. Nothing lasts forever. The gods gave their permanence for The World, which is defined by agency and eternal conflict between biological, chemical and geological processes. The world is entirely reliant on competitive balance and antagonism. The gods created the world not as an act of love, but to express their ambition, to spite nature and chaos, represented by the jǫtnar – the giants.

How can there be reconciliation. Gods and giants keep each other in check, like yin and yang. One cannot, should not, defeat the other. The cosmos would not survive as we know it. The world must seem bittersweet to the gods, who are doomed to maintain their creation – yet, the biggest threat is the very ground their creation rests on, as the sinkhole grows ever wider. In the tragic irony of it all, they themselves threaten creation. The world is a twofold and ambivalent place, without the luxury of a clear distinction between good and evil: The gods themselves carry double-edged swords.

Conway's game of life. The fate of each cell is determined by the number of adjacent cells.

Conway's game of life. The fate of each cell is determined by the number of adjacent cells.

 

The age of man

The most common cosmic denominator in Old Norse is heimr, meaning «home, where something belongs». The universe of Norse mythology is full of such homeworlds. But there is also verǫld – which is a cognate of English world. The etymology concerns us here because it literally means «age of man». Perhaps it is a vestige of a prehistoric, non-linear view of history, where time was cyclical. The latter phase of Norse paganism as we see through our sources, is uncharacteristically eschatological for a polytheistic ethnic religion. It gives the impression that the Vikings were obsessed with the end of the world. They did not believe the world would go on forever, but come to a halt soon enough.

But whether or not this was an indigenous feature of pagan Scandinavia, or a sneaking realization that came to them like a thief in the night, it must refelct how many pagans felt at the threshold of conversion, when the temples were razed, and the idols smashed. The world we see, the Age of Man, is an intermediate phase. It's not the first nor the last. If the mythical poem Vǫluspá, The Prophecy of the Seeress, in its most popular redaction is representative of a pre-Christian timeline of mythical and cosmic events, then man did not even exist during the Golden Age. Mankind is a later invention, perhaps even a trick of the gods, who struggled to maintain their work. As someone to stirr the pot as they tended to business. Whatever their reasoning, the gods were invested in man:

Vǫluspá says the gods were loving – ástgir – when they gave us life. It is noteworthy that this is the only instance in the eddic literature where the gods express love towards mankind. According to mythic time, man has experienced only a glimpse, a mere few frames of the grand cosmic display. Yet if man wasn't present when the world was young, the myths state he will live to see Ragnarǫk. He will witness the end of creation, and the end of the gods. Ragnarǫk comes from regin «the gods», literally «those who keep council» and rǫk, which can mean «something that belongs», or «development, destiny, verdict». This divine verdict is the natural result of the carefully balanced, yet delicate cosmic order. 

Acting against the inevitable

Thor's greatest enemy is Jǫrmungandr, the Midgard Serpent. It's imperative that he fights against it, even though it's coiled around the world, and keeps it from falling apart. Pre-Christian skaldic poets associate the creature with much dread, but Thor is locked in an impossible situation: He has the task of carrying out preemptive strikes against monsters and giants, but this protective function is itself a great threat to cosmic stability. When Odin seeks wisdom and advantage, he does so through self-mutilation and vulnerability. He gives up an eye, commits suicide, starves, and lets himself be taken captive.

Freyr gives up his sword out of love-sickness towards the giantess Gerdr. A compromise that later proves deadly when the giants carry it to the final battle against the gods. The gods sacrifice power, body parts, and technology for the vain hope of an upper hand against the giants. The protector destroys! The god of sexual fertility and social status makes himself and impotent! They are merely stalling. Ironically, it may even seem that all their efforts only serve to enable the coming disaster.

The wisdom they accumulate doesn't help them in the long run. The formula doesn't add up, the norns are drunk behind the spinning wheel. Any Norse and Germanic hero knows that is useless to fight one's forlǫg – the predetermined premise of every life: fate! Surely Odin, who sees everything, must understand that his battle can't be won. He sees everything, yet he is blind to the vanity of effort. He is doomed, yet he tries. How telling, how inspirational. This is wisdom we may draw from the poems Hymiskviða, Vǫluspá, and Skírnismál: All that exists does so at the expense of something else, and must be absorbed by something else once it ceases to be. The world clock ticks ever on towards the hour of entropy. The existence of the subject affects the existence of the object. There is no such thing as free lunch – everything has its price.

Thermodynamics and mythical reality

The root of this sad state runs deep. It goes all the way back to the Bronze Age, when Proto-Indo-European pastoral nomads scattered across Eurasia on horseback. Not wholly unlike the gods, these riders were armed not only with superior technology, but with martial ideologies and a will to power unlike anything else. A culture that realized that nothing comes from nothing, that nothing is forever, and that destruction is a sibling of creation. Though harsh as it first may seem, the thought is actually a beautiful one. An undivided theory of nature, a holistic space of equal parts joy and sorrow. Birth, death, and rebirth were allies then. Subjectively speaking, and this is a subjective essay, I believe there are truths in these ideas. Some less comfortable than others. To live includes the anguish of choice. And it is a recognizable feature to many Western cultures still. In many Western democracies, not voting is presented as an immoral lack of action. It is an expression of this line of reasining, that you should prefer the terror of choice over the comfort of inaction. Norse religious practice itself was not overtly speculative, but based around cult, ritual and sacrifice. Do ut des, something for something. I give so you may give in return.

The above view of reality, which I associate with a certain existential wistfulness, is not dreadful but conductive of a certain drive of longing. Action is a consequence of the natural order of things, and the view seems supported not by the Eddas, but also in the concept of prakṛti in Hindu philosophy. Prakṛti means «nature», and states that all things stand in relation to creation, preservation, and destruction. By analogy my mind drifts to the Norse concept of eðli, which may be translated as any living creature's innate nature, essential traits and tendencies, individually and categorically. The word is related to the contemporary Scandinavian word 'edel' (Old Norse aðal) meaning «noble, pure». It is the eagle's eðli that it flies higher than many other birds, to take a real example of its use in the sources. It would also apply to the fact that humans dream, create artifacts, and speak.

When the gods bound the Fenris wolf, they first needed to exhaust something – his fetters were fashioned from the breath of fish, women's beards and the roots of the mountains. These things are depleted, they no longer exist. But even this was ultimately not enough to contain the beast. There is still no such thing as a free lunch.

Gotlandic picture stone, c. 6th century

Gotlandic picture stone, c. 6th century

Ragnarok as inner struggle

As I've already gone into, man appears as a theomorphic being. That is to say, we resemble the gods, with all their faults and humiliations. We cannot naturally exceed our blueprints, or their faults and merits. We have our own demons to battle, and World Serpents to lift. We suffer in the crossfire of a deadly battlefield, wedged between the un-nature of lofty, self-righteous gods on the one hand, and the non-culture of cruel, venomous giants. This is the field of reality. If there feral meadowlands were kept in check, they would strangle the cultivated field. But a field unchained, which is a notion belonging in myths of bygone golden ages, where wheat fields sowed themselves (not unlike wild flora), would do equal harm to nature. In this day and age, the question is not whether or not such a field can exist, but how to keep GMOs from destroying ecosystems. This is far from a golden age.

If man derives from the gods, then we should recall that the gods themselves have giant ancestry. Reptile brains that betray the so-called better angels of our nature, grappling with the selfish gene of civilization. It's revealing that when Thor first raised his hammer to crush the serpent's head, their eyes met in symmetrical opposition – like mirror images of each other. The gazer into the abyss and the abyss that gazes back. Thor would finally kill the serpent at Ragnarǫk. In Vǫluspá it is in fact the very last thing that happens before the sun extinguishes, and the earth sinks into the ocean. Stars drop from the collapsing, flaming heavens.

The final blow that ends the universe as we know it, was dealt by its alleged protector. On a microcosmic level, Cultured Man raises the hammer against his own head. He hopes to smash the reptile brain contained within himself, where his urges and most primal, savage, troll instincts dwell. Seeking to beat the life out of the giant of Natural Man, the pre-human hominid, or troll man, in the heat of the moment unable to realize that he would only be killing himself. Man is himself ambiguous. He always struggles with the real and ideal, against the healthy and the unhealthy.

He struggles to balance the beautiful, true, and good, against that equal portion of his self that pertains to the ugly, false, and bad. That which unites beautiful and the ugly, the true and the false, the good and the bad, that is truly sacred.

The Faustian eddas

A common feature of many old cultures is that the world was perceived through the lens of biological processes. The German philosopher and speculative historian Oswald Spengler was inspired by this sort of thought when he published his magnum opus, The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes), in 1918. He suggested that human society mirrored the cycle of life and death, very much like we may perceive it in nature. Like a flower, cultures grow, bloom, then ultimately; they die.

Spengler considered civilization to be the final stage before a culture dies. Western civilization would be no different, though it might be too vain to realize it. In the eyes of Spengler, cultural decline is like a body that withers in old age. The ruins of the modern West will sooner or later adorn the museums alongside Assyrian bas-reliefs. A melancholy, but beautiful idea in its own way.

Spengler asserts that the tragic soul of each culture is embedded its archetypes, in their folk heroes and the beings they communicate with in their popular narratives. In his gallery of civilizational archetypes, the spirit of the West belongs to the archetype of doctor Faustus, the misguided alchemist who met his demise in accordance with the same methods through which he tried to achieve greatness. To Spenglers credit, it would seem that the Western world does tend adopt a can-do sentiment where whatever problem and obstacle is simply a symptom of transition, a childhood illness, that everything will work out if we just keep on trucking. Thereby not realizing that the transition is not temporary, all is flowing, all the time.

Thor's Fight with the Giants (Detail), Mårten Eskil Winge.

Thor's Fight with the Giants (Detail), Mårten Eskil Winge.

Like the audience of a play, we observe that Odin and the good doctor Faustus should know better, yet the ironic fruit of their actions is lost on them. But we might realize that we are not so different. That the story is really our own. Laugh or cry, the means by which we survive in our day-to-day lives, and as a society, triangulate our ultimate ends.

Perhaps subconciously planned obsolecence is part of the eðli, the essence, of sentience. Are we alone in the universe? Drake's equation states that space – according to statistics – should be teeming with life, so where is everybody? The Fermi paradox tries to address this one fundamental problem since, considering the age of the universe, it should be expected that several civilizations possess sufficient technology for interstellar travel. Yet such civilizations are nowhere to be seen. It could simply be that no such life-form has yet survived itself. That they failed some ultimate test, whether they depleted their resources, died in a nuclear holocaust, or otherwise went the way of the dodo.

If so, what are the chances of mankind surviving its own obsolescence? Is life itself Faustian? We may write empassioned transhumanist manifestos, and ceaselessly launch rocket phalluses towards the star-spangled womb of space, but perhaps we cannot escape the ambivalent seed within ourselves.

The gods themselves are not eternal, and man is not destined for immortality. The amoral hero of the epics and heroic lays becomes a hero the moment he goes full circle in realizing his own vanity.  Only in death may he be elevated into godhood, to sit in the high seat and drink with the gods, as the poems describe. And so the tragic hero often bends his head, allowing the blow to occur. If mankind's genealogy is divine, we are no better than the gods.

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