Courage in the Darker Times

By Jack Wolf

“A person who lives with a fear of death or suffering is generally incapable of seeking the First Knowledge. To seek the Black Root is the path of one who has taken courage as their closest companion.”

– Björn Hammarson

In this day and age I have become a cynical old dog on many levels: I see the destruction of our planet going on , every day , all around us and I have come to know the polarities: From goodly to twisted amongst human kind. Yet in the midst of all this and more I occasionally see evidence of the reasoning the Old Ones must have had to assist humankind here in the first place: The kinds of characteristic we must have shown in order be placed here in the Middle World as stewards of the land.

In the midst of sorrow and hatred and greed and despair I have also seen little glints of gold arise from the mud-pile: I have seen kindness, compassion and empathy pop up where one might least expect them, and I have seen generosity appear in times when I thought that it would.

I have also seen acts of deep bravery and courage – especially recently, in the case of a friend who is going through some dark days – and it always refreshes my spirit to see such things.

I don’t think humans are as smart or as kind or as brave as society in general would have us believe – we have strayed far from our original purpose here on this world – yet as I have said, there are sufficient signs of hope among our kind that tell me all is not lost.

Among those who walk the road of the Old Ways, particularly those who honor the elder paths, there is great emphasis on virtues such as wisdom, forthrightness and courage. I have seen this written down many times and have heard people speak of it on many more occasions, yet the truth of the matter is that even among such folk evidence of true bravery; courage and steadfastness in the face of potential oblivion is not as commonplace as one might expect.

People are people after all, right?

Not everyone is composed of that heroic ‘stuff’, nor should they expect to be.

Heroism is a special gift bestowed upon the hearts and minds of a very few and more often than not these few seldom write about it or speak about it. However, when their destiny demands it they show their strength through deeds that leave no doubt as to the bloodfire coursing within them.

I have had the pleasure to know a few people who were forged of this ‘heroic stuff’ in my lifetime and for that I consider myself very lucky.  In every case these have been people of deep dignity who have not placed stock in boasting or in arrogance but rather have simply lived lives of good example. When the ancestors called upon them to rise above the rest, they did not hesitate: they did not talk the walk; they walked the road of the brave.

Most recently a friend of mine has done this and I will say that in his courage and steadfastness in the face of grimness he has inspired me greatly. I have always had respect for this man and his work here on the Middle World; he has spent many years educating people and doing his best to help those who were worthy to wake up and realize their own hale destinies.

In his work he has accumulated his share of detractors and outright enemies as well: Those who fear the enlightenment and change my friend has always striven to bring back to the world.  Most of these fools he has simply dismissed out of hand – as a giant might dismiss the capering of yammering foes beneath his stride. Others he has analyzed, as a Warrior General analyzes the strategies of his foes – and then sits back, prepared, in case they should aggravate him further.

I have held more than simple respect for my friend; I have held esteem and admiration for him. Indeed I am not above learning a few things myself, even at my point on the path of life, and from my friend I have learned much indeed.

Now in recent times my friend has had darkness come a-calling and while I will not go into details about it here I will say that it is a most unpleasant – even potentially life threatening – situation. It is one of those things that, when it befalls a friend you wish with all your might that you could somehow step in and stand with your friend; to assist him in fighting the battle before him.

And yet, being as things are with these crises, more often than naught all we can do is offer our support and best wishes – not to mention words to the Elder Kin – that our friends  in peril will have the strength and courage to win themselves free in the end.

My friend possesses courage and strength. He also possesses wisdom and intellect. The razor’s edge he holds close in all of this, honing the other aforementioned gifts sharp, is wit and cunning.

He has shown this: He laughs in the face of a thing which would drive many strong, grown men to tears. I have seen things like this happen to others who were ordinarily strong, and the burden of it; the marrow deep fear for themselves or their loved ones has been too much and they have given in to the depths of despair.

My friend does not wear his fear on his sleeve for all to see. I have seen this as well. He is, to quote the Bard; ‘made of sterner stuff.’ He has revealed the inner wolf I always knew was slumbering there, beneath his normally debonair exterior. He has played the charade well and while the lion’s share of those around him may have thought him harmless; the average fellow who might go meekly into that good night when the time came – those of us who know, and who know him especially – are somewhat the wiser.

My friend has done far more than talk the walk. He has stepped almost cheerfully into the maw of blackness grinning a Warrior’s grin, pulled up a chair and ever so casually said:  “Is that all you’ve got?”

My friend is a Warrior: He rides with the brave.


About Jack Wolf

Canadian author Jack Wolf has been a practicing Pagan for over 30 years, walking a path that encompasses both his Northern European and Native American heritage. He counts the late Heathen Goði and writer E. Max Hyatt, Professor Mark Mirabello, Dakota tribal Chief William Hoff and American author Allan Cole among his mentors. An avid outdoorsman, Jack has spent a considerable portion of his life exploring the deep wilds of British Columbia, a vast province on Canada’s west coast. He brings a great deal of his wilderness experience to his spiritual path. Over the past 15 years Jack has studied and written about a number of northern pagan traditions, having published for the most part independently or in small journals, blogs or websites. His recent works for Mandrake of Oxford Have certainly opened up his writing to a larger audience. Jack is also the author of several other books, including Circle of Bones (2012), The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (2013), Blood and Stone (2014) co-author of Tales from the Red Moon Lodge (2014) and co-editor of A Voice from the Thornwood (winter 2014). Forthcoming works include The Thornish Path, Ullr’s Road and The Urban Tribalist, all of which are planned for a mid-2015 and early 2016 release respectively. Spiritually, Jack identifies himself generally as a Deep Tribalist and more specifically as Thornish. He is a member of a primal pagan tradition whose spiritual path involves questing for the First Knowledge – that held by our most ancient ancestors whose hearts and spirits were deeply connected to the land. The Thornish path is the way of the warrior-steward; a Deep Tribal tradition which Jack has practiced since the late 1980’s Jack holds a degree in anthropology from the world renowned University of British Columbia and has long held an avid interest in history, tribal peoples, spirituality and the reawakening of pagan peoples worldwide. He currently resides with his wife and co-author Cassandra Wolf and their daughter, in Squamish, British Columbia.
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