Reflections on Othala

“Othala - A rune meaning inheritance and homeland and more deeply, oorlog. The irony of this rune from the first century BCE being misappropriated by neo-Nazi’s is that in their hands it acts more like a curse. They are marching around using it for hate and poisoning their oorlog.” - Kari Tauring

In truth, the pulling of this rune was ironic to me. Over the weekend I read a heated discussion about whether or not it was safe to utilize the rune in designs and jewelry, without running the risk of being flagged as alt-right or a Nazi. I thought to myself, “well… I’m sure that I have time to decide how exactly I want to address this. It’s not as though I’m going to pull it tomorrow.”

Isn’t it the way of things, when you hold something in your subconscious it tends to appear? And that is exactly what happened. I reached out to my teacher, Kari Tauring, under whom I studied the runes over a number of years. Kari has regular experience navigating these conversations, and she reminded me to look at the oorlog.

When I pull Othala, that is what I think of. My oorlog - the thread that connects me to my family, both biological and adopted, going back centuries. I have a nordic oorlog, an American oorlog, a queer oorlog - all of these branches inform who I am, and what patterns inform this life’s experience.

Today of all days, on Indigenous Peoples Day, I am reminded of the debt in my oorlog - for that is a part of Othala. The debt we carry as Nordic descendents. The actions of our ancestors do not simply live static in history, they stay with us, but in a nordic perspective they are living concepts that require Gifu - reciprocity.

There is more to Othala. The image included in the post is an artistic rendition of Tyr and Fenrir, by the Swedish fairytale illustrator John Bauer. When I think about what it means to pay shild for the debt that exists in my oorlog, I think about Tyr.

The Norse god, Loki, had three children with the giantess Angrboda - she who bodes anguish. The first was the serpent Jormungand, the second the goddess of the halls of death Hel, and the third the wolf Fenrir. They would work against the gods during Ragnarok, so so it was foretold. Jormungand would kill Thor, Hel would keep the god Baldur in her halls, and Fenrir would devour Odin, the chief of the reigning Aesir.

And so the great serpent was thrown into the ocean to encircle Midgard. Hel stayed in her underworld home. However, the Aesir were terrified of the fearsome Fenrir, and they raised him as a pup themselves in Asgard. Only Tyr, the impeccable god of law, honor and justice, dare approach the beast to feed him.

He grew quickly, and the gods knew he would wreak havoc in the world if allowed to roam free. They told the wolf that chains would merely be a test of his strength, and so he consented.

However, every time he chained him, he was able to break free. So they called upon the dwarves to forge unbreakable chains, the strongest in the universe - wrought of cats footsteps, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the breath of a fish, and the spit of a bird. All things that shouldn’t exist.

The wolf was untrusting when presented with the new, eerily light chains. He refused to be chained unless a god would lay a hand in his mouth as an act of good faith. Tyr was the only god who agreed. And of course, he lost his hand when Fenrir realized the chains were unbreakable. Fenrir was taken to a lonesome boulder, chained with his mouth open, and a river of spit called Ván, Expectation, ran from his mouth.

We in Nordic magic have our own wolf - our own child raised as a pup, that we have attempted to bind. To act as though White Supremacy is not born of us is to curse our own oorlog - we may not consider those who threaten to torment and kill BIPOC a part of our family and our community. However, to whom else do they belong, and who else but us can stand as Tyr, steady and aware that sacrifice is required to bind a wolf that threatens to consume the world? When there is no doubt of a person’s intention to subjugate and cause pain to others, when they have done so for decades in modern memory, who bears responsibility for stopping them?

We do.

Othala is a reminder that the debts that are unpaid are debts we still carry. That the actions we take are ones that reverberate backwards and forwards in our oorlog. The oorlog is sometimes described as a spun thread. Over time there are parts that are frayed, and there are parts that are wispy.

When I trained with Kari I trained to be a völva - the staff carrying prophecy women of the nordic magical world. In that work my primary focus was to gently work the pieces in my oorlog in an effort to heal myself. And by healing myself, I would be better suited to support the healing of others with good boundaries and impeccability.

Although I rarely carry the staff in any sort of official capacity, this training is one that will never leave my consciousness. That in times like these, I find I’m always carrying the staff to some degree. Standing in alignment with nature and past precedence, hoping to witness a future that is the result of a world of oorlogs that have had the opportunity to become healed. But, can that happen through inaction? So far, it has not, so why should be think that inaction will work in the future?


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