When called upon to describe my religious beliefs, I consitently call
myself an atheist. I do not beleive in any god, goddess, or
At the same time, I have very strong feelings about symbolism. The
tattoos on my arms aren't just decoration, they're symbols. the
represent something very specific and personal. I have been thinking
for some time about what I might loosely define as my "spiritual side".
I have been somewhat reticent about exploring that side of myself,
largely because of my lack of belief. The symbolist side of me can
think of a number of things that I would like to have and do that
might be described as religious beliefs, rituals and practices. But I
simply can not make that leap of faith to actually believe that any of
these things are true. I don't beleive that living beings have souls
or spirits. I don't think that there is an Asgard, or that there is a
one-eyed All-Father influencing events on Earth. i mean, it's be
pretty neat if it were so. But I remain unconvinced - I am a
materialist in a lot of ways.
My current mode of thought is that I am going to try to explore my
"spiritual side" in the context of personal symbolism, rather than
belief; self-exploration rather than ontology or theology.
There will probably be more of these posts, and they'll almost always
be long. I'll lj-cut them so that those uninterested can skip over
I was doing some thinking this morning about Odin, one of my favourite
gods. About why I indentify with that particular symbol the way I
do. What I came up with is that Odin is, in many ways, my archetype
for what it is to be a man.
Odin is a lover or knowledge and wisdom, trying to wrest as many
secrets from the universe as he can.
He paid for the things he has in blood and fire; hanging on a tree for
nine nights, and giving up one of his eyes, both for the sake of
knowledge. Or for power, depending on how you look at it. I firmly
feel that everything worth having is paid for in blood and tears.
This is part of what the symbol I have on my arm means. The
experiences in my life have given me this view point - I know some
people will disagree, but that's what life has taught me. In any
case, it's another of the things I identify with in the figure of
At the same time, however, Odin is the real badass of the Norse
pantheon. Thor is stronger, and kills more giants, sure. But in the
myths I've read, Thor does it becuase it needs to be done, and because
fighting is fun. Odin, on the other hand, cripples, maims and kills
for fun. He's violent, and fierce. Odin, not Thor or Tyr is the
patron of the berserkers. Odin is the one who leads the Norse version
of the Wild Hunt.
He has that primal, rage-filled ferocity to him. He's the one you
have to worry about among the Aesir, not Thor; Thor will just beat you
up or kill you. Odin will torture you until the end of time. That
kind of violence represents, for me, the scary, testosterone fueled
violence that is (whether by biological calling, social conditioning
or a combination of both), a part of the Male identity. That part of
me that howls and rattles at the bars in my head, screaming for blood.
Not a part of me that I indulge, but it's there, and any vision of Man
that ignores it is incomplete. I like my symbols mixed; not all
idealistic sunshine and light, but light smeared with ashes and old blood.
That's what Odin means, for me. There's bits I'm ignoring, of
course. Odin the Trickster, Odin the Father. Both strong parts of
the Odin mythos, but not parts that have particular resonance for me.