Mind and Memory. I take it for granted, that you can’t have Memory without Mind. After all, Odin may fear for Muninn, but who but Huginn brings the news to bear? Without generation and creation, what use is conservation and celebration? What use is memory without anything to remember?
In my mind, Hugr, I can recall much. But something I remember clearly is a chorus from a song I listened to often as a boy. „sie Gedanken sind frei,“ your thoughts are free. It came from a Megaherz song, and unlike the song „Dalai Llama“ whose chorus of „wir müssen leben bis wir sterben“ sticks with me to this day, I cannot for the life of me remember the contex. Are your thoughts free? We think of free thoughts and wandering minds, but really, do we think of what the mind is? What it means?
It is a chicken and egg riddle. I think memories come before thoughts, I can remember experiences that go back to when I was a baby. But I don’t remember thinking thoughts as I have them now until my third or fifth year. It is foggy. Such are the travails of a developing brain. Similarly, if you watch common animals like dogs, one wonders if they think thoughts. This in itself is a stunning thought. Burgeoning neuroscience points to some hypotheses indicating that the rise of Homo Sapiens Sapiens over the Neanderthal was due the rise of nuance and metaphor.
I would ask the reader if (s)he can imagine a world without these things, but alas alack the NPC meme is funny for a reason and the world is full of “people” with no internal dialogue or notion of complexity. That being said. The takeaway lesson I see here is that thoughts have an origin point. If, and I stress “if” conventional Evolutionary Theory is true as modern textbooks propose than it strikes me as eminently reasonable that higher thought, expressed by primitive religion, is one of the most important group evolutionary strategies employed by the human races. There are few singular social conventions or even constructs which have so shaped mankind as religious, spiritual or devotional thought.
After all, most every ethnic group is typified and identifiable by what? Culture. Early culture was more often than not indistinguishable from religion. The ability to separate church and state, soul from man is a very modern invention. Even so, culture is not void of religious influence. Now, there used to be clearly delineated phenotypic markers that followed the Nations but aeons of State and travel sponsored interbreeding have delineated a lot of those markers. It is no longer as genetically concise, this life of ours, as it might once have been. But cultural impressions remain. As we know from the Icelandic Nation, culture can be stronger than genetic sequence, in that if you cut an Icelander open their oldest tree rings might well be Irish. I digress.
Thoughts are free. And I mean this in a very archaic sense. Freedom never meant liberty as the Frenchies like to define it. Freedom to the old English mind meant something more like preciousness. Freo. It was also the name of a God attributed to Lordship. Hell. I do believe there is a German title, Freiherr, which combines both meanings. Anywho.
Your thoughts reflect who and what you are. They are free in that, to be frank, you do not actually control them. If you are honest and you sit yourself down in a quiet place to meditate you may well agree. Thoughts happen to you. Clear your mind and wait, thoughts will pop into your head uninvited as though they were quarks in space. And they are, really, if we and the material universe are the same substance than it makes perfect sense that my analogy holds atomic weight.
Thoughts pop into your head. They grow, like seeds in spring. You can cultivate them or nip them in the bud. You can even initiate a thought. But it was always there. As the good Dr. Duke once said, “sometimes a thought is just a thought.” Or are they?
Thoughts regulate something deeper. In psychology there used to be the idea of the threefold self. I think that (((Freud))) was right for the wrong reason. Where I think he went wrong is that he came from a time and place and people that had no soul, and could therefore not appreciate the depths of his discovery. Do I think that his clinical approach was correct? No. I think he subverted something far more ancient.
Our ancestors never believed in a monadic existence where the soul was concerned. Never did the European mind consent to simple absolutes and dogma, that we are expected to so now is an affront to nature. In the Norse Occult there is a belief in the organic soul, for a lack of better words. It is often called the Northern Soul Complex. Some say that it is tainted meat because it echoes Christianity, but I think the reverse is true. Christian Theology would be a shallow mistress did she not borrow from the fatted larders of her European Pagan Foster Mother. Hugr, or Mind, was a part of a man, as was the Hamingja and Fylgjur, Laukr and others. In a way, our ancestors observed and codified very well what psychology today enshrines into the folkways of religion.
The composite soul was built up over the course of a life. Your thoughts, Hugr, sat at the seat of your everyday existence. Indeed, when we speak of “magick,” what we have in effect are means of controlling and regulating thoughts. Sure, there are classifications such as sympathetic magic or what-have-you. But at the end of the day, isn’t the process dictated by expanding or disciplining thought? Rune magick was a discipline, to master Runes did and does change the way you think, it did and does expand your mind. Galdr is supposed to be a form of votive chant, neuroscience has shown that mantras and chanted utterances have a contrived effect on brain chemistry. As does speaking in tongues, if you’re a holy roller. (Not recommended.)
So we’re not surprised to see one of Odin’s Ravens having the name. Thoughts make new, memories keep old. Your thoughts are really the generative impetus behind any exoteric existence you have. Most things you do involve thought, until they become rote. More often than not you think yourself into action. There can be no self-examination of conscience or otherwise outside thinking. There is no improvement, therefore, without thought.
Without thought, the teleological purpose of Odin cannot be fulfilled. And what is this purpose? Odin, with his gift of prophecy sees the Ragnarök or judgement of the powers. He therefore looks ahead with his Hugauga (mind’s eye) to scry what actions must be taken. He channels his thoughts into productivity. In a way this distinguishes him from other Gods. Thor, for example, acts, he does not prophecy, he does not look ahead. Few Gods do other than Frigga who knows much and says little.
It all ties together, really. The things Odin rewards are all cerebral. A God of poetry, a God of prophecy, a God of kenning, a God of riddles, and curses. His stories almost always involve some philosophical engagement or else mythopoeic recollection. He often trades wit with the Giants, and wagers lives on the potency of the intellect rather than engage in outright battle. On other occasions others come to Odin and question him, whereas Odin uses his Hugr to recall the origins of the world, but even then, he uses that same Hugr to put forth tests to challenge the worthy.
Think about it, if I may be cheeky. Not many of us think about thinking. It is called metacognition, by the way. This is the phenomenon in which you become aware of your thinking. Become intimate with the process. Meditate, feel the origin of your thoughts. Sometimes there are deeper meanings than mere attributions of reason. Unresolved issues manifest as lingering thoughts, obsessions riddle the brain. None of these are random coincidences. Management of thoughts can even affect the quality of your dreams. There are some who through controlled thinking can manipulate their dreams and set the tone for their sleeping world from the waking world.
Dreams! Now dreams of course, were and are part of your soul, your person. Being far more sensitive to stimuli in many ways than we are now, our ancestors were keen to recall dreams. Dreams often held omens, it was believed the Gods came through dreams. If not Gods than spirits, and if not these than the souls of your beloved dead would surely speak through your sleep. Curiously, it was believed that sleeping in a bed which was not your own, or a new home, would give you prophetic and ethereal dreams. While it is not my intent to demean the spiritual trends of our ancestors, we entitled moderners can easily say there is a simple explanation. Sleeping in strange beds excites certain parts of the brain which would otherwise become rather dormant, resulting in active dreams. Now as to the spirits, this I cannot speak to – though I will say I have had dreams which were both transformative and haunting. From the comfort of my own bed. What our ancestors did not, and what we should not do either, is ignore them when they stick. When you awake and recall dreams, there must be a purpose, and sometimes the purpose becomes clear in time.
And speaking again of the Hugauga. Astral projection wasn’t always a hippy drug trip. When our people still took verse in shamanism there was the idea that you could project your very thoughts across time and space. This came about through fierce focus and meditation. Modern research has indicated that a trained mind can do marvels. Through ample thought and focus men have been able to regulate their temperatures, and psyche themselves up to do physical wonders… Speaking of which…
This was not all. Shapeshifting, of a sort, was part of our belief structure. Although our modern interpretation may indeed be sorely lacking the nuance our folk once had. Our folk once believed that the aspect of an animal could be taken on, that the soul of a man could take on the soul of a bear, or a wolf. Ulfhednar and Bjornserkr come from this tradition. Wolf-Hoods and Bear-Shirts, that is. These were men who had shifted their thinking so heavily that they took on the beast souls of the totems they are said to worship. It is not a stretch. Consider if you will the modern sport of Powerlifting and/or Strongman. Here men (overwhelming Germanic and Slavic) utterly break the old notions of physical strength and endurance. They make feasible the Viking legends of the shipman who carried his own mast. If you watch interviews with Strongmen there are common themes. They all ‘meditate,’ for a lack of better terms, they regulate their thoughts in other words. They clear their minds, amp themselves up and go. And yes, some of them froth about the mouth like wolves.
Myself? When I do powerlifting or strongman, I have my own ritual for exercising my strength. My gym is coloured by symbols from our Männerbund, arranged in a way that his symbolic meaning. The modified Tyr-Rune of our Brotherhood points me in my way and before each lift I must give earnest consideration to strength and honour. The flags of my People’s history hang, reminding me that my deeds lift up or shame my blood. Incense is lit before each session, marking it as a kind of prayer. And, you know, I play my radio. What meditation doesn’t do for me, Death Metal ought to do.
That is another lesson the Allfather teaches. Thoughts are not free after all. They have weight. Your thoughts shape your self, and your self is not a given, it is something you do. This lesson I learned from a Bavarian woman who spoke of her kinfolk and how in her village of Schyer the gummers would say when it was time to “make my soul.” The soul is not a given, eternal, omnipotent thing, it is an extension of your self, an organ and a muscle that has health and vitality which can be won or lost by exercising yourself just so.
Something to think about.