Recently I wrote about the importance of hospitality within Heathen tradition, as well as about the importance of generosity. Something I did not point out in that article was this: the virtues of hospitality and generosity were of particular significance when it came to rulers. The tight fisted king could not expect to win good regard, nor expect to have a comfortable reign. The community was worth more than any one individual, and was not afraid to flex its muscles.
As I discussed in my essay on Heathen Harvest about why universalism makes infinitely more sense than folkism, the picture of unitary ethnic tribes ruled by monarchs was something more or less invented by Christian missionaries. It was a tactic, since it legitimated the fiction that converting the ruler of a tribe or group was de facto converting every member of the community. A transparent bit of political sleight of hand, yet history teaches us that even the flimsiest pretext can be enough to excuse all sorts of outrage. (I love the irony, too, that the folkish notion of ethnic exclusivity was originally a Roman Catholic concoction to facilitate the pacification of the Northern barbarians).
Let’s compare these two ideas: on the one hand the miserly king, on the other, the pretense of uniformity as a device for making a monarch into a tool. We can see how tight-fistedness in a ruler saps the strength of the people ruled, rendering them both more and more vulnerable to abuse and less and less empowered to be creative, magical, and vigorous in their lives. No wonder the mean master was deplored and the unwelcoming lord held in contempt.
The original Heathens, I suspect, were conversant in what we now call game theory; they recognized that a co-operative strategy for dealing with life yields richer rewards than a war of all against all. This doesn’t mean there was never conflict, greed, or selfishness of course; but individualism and aggression for its own sake would have likely been seen as absurdities and death wishes by anyone grounded in the lore of Heathen spiritual tradition.
Underlying this co-operative approach to life, I suspect, was the awareness of the concept of wyrd, the recognition that all events have some degree of significance, and that all things are interconnected in profound ways. As such, rash actions easily have undesired consequences, possibly far in excess of anything that could be expected (who could have predicted, for example, the unfolding crisis triggered by the decision so many years ago to start burning fossil fuels in industrial quantities?).
Generosity makes sense when one recognizes the interconnections of wyrd and grasps that the value of another person cannot easily be gauged by first impressions. When we consider that the smallest action could have incalculable implications (the classic chaos butterfly at work), and that we are incapable of guessing which, when, and how, it makes sense that generosity and hospitality should be default stances. In other words, generosity and hospitality are not just noble gestures; they are expressions of self-interest, and expressions of care for the horizon of mystery, that which rune magicians refer to as Runa.
To trust Runa is to embrace the unknown. One who is strong with mystery, who has powerful will, is able to trust in all the unimaginable threads of the web of time, in all the infinity of rivulets that trickle down from the fleeting present back into the well of the past. So generosity and hospitality are gestures of grace and power and trust that one can become aligned with Runa for the betterment of all.
Modernity has been rife with masters who have been misers. Colonialism, capitalism, (ironically, given its stated values) communism, and (especially) fascism have been built on principles of miserliness. Of tight-fistedness and inhospitability. Indeed, one could argue that modernity has been a process of attempting to abolish mystery, to abolish uncertainty and the awe and fear that is inseparable from Runa herself. It does not work of course; the tighter the fist is clenched, the less it is able to grasp.
And so that brings me to the topic of January 20, 2017. The day that one of the most flagrant misers in the world, one of the pettiest haters of all time, will ascend to mastery of the most powerful empire in human history. This man, who has done so well at convincing his own victims to vote for him and celebrate him, does not understand generosity and hospitality. He fears and hates wyrd, for it is the omnipresent threat to his callow ego. And in his (and his followers’) attempts to clutch to illusions of certainty (such as illusions of lost glory days that never were), he will gladly sacrifice anything. And for a man with that much power, that means sacrificing everything.
Heathens must stand against this fool and his lackeys. Trump and his gang of thieves have nothing but contempt for the institutions that have elevated them, for the people that have elected them, and for the people their actions have and will hurt (which includes those who elected them and many others besides, nationally and internationally). We must not be fooled, distracted, discouraged, or bought off. The ancestral ways are clear: Trump and his lackeys are terrible rulers, guided by nothing but cowardice and willful ignorance.
This is not to pretend that Trump is an accident, or that the pointless greed of the corporate-controlled Republicans is an accident, or that we should be surprised that the Democrats have become so ineffectual, bought off as they are by the same masters as those who rule the Republicans. It is apparent that few in positions of power have the slightest interest in service. That the institutions of the US have never protected its citizens with even a pretense of equality.
Yet here is where we stand. We must fight the miser with weapons of generosity and hospitality that can build unbreakable communities. We must reach out without stint and resist every outrage. This new master, who holds his own office and responsibilities in contempt, must be contained and constrained. The institutions of power and governance must be reclaimed from the control of the corrupt. Because of our values of generosity and hospitality, our honoring of wyrd and Runa, we Heathens have more obligation than most to stand up and be counted. Let us not waste any time.