Remembering Ourselves

By Jack Wolf

Back in the day, when I was a young person newly acquainted with the Thornish ways I came into contact with a Master of the tradition who went by the name of Shale. I never found out the origin of this man’s name but everyone referred to him, simply as Shale.

Shale was of average height and build and indeed overall he appeared quite unassuming. Yet among Thornish people he was something of a legend. He was the Thornish equivalent of a warrior-priest; a person who wandered the deeper places in the wilderness on his journey of wisdom and power. By the time I met him he had already been doing this for years and years. Such people were rare enough though Shale’s reputation as a woodsman made him an even rarer specimen.

“He is like a ghost when he is in the woods.” My grandfather told me once. “Even us Indians are impressed with the way he can get around so quietly.”

“He is a master hunter and a tracker.” My brother, Russell had said one time. “Did you know that sometimes he disappears into the bush for a year at a time or more and no one hears anything from him until he comes back out? He is totally self-sufficient when he is in the wild country.”

Others made comments to me like: “He doesn’t like using firearms to hunt. He prefers to use a bow, a spear or even a throwing axe. Can you believe that? A throwing axe?”

Even old Tiva, one of the greatest of the Masters who I had the privilege of learning from, once made a comment about Shale: “He is a very sacred person. He has wandered in the places of power for so long he has become part man and part Shaeda.”

Shaeda, by the way, is a Thornish term which refers to people-of-spirit; the spirits in the land which can take many forms. It is roughly analogous to the Germanic term ‘wight’, which can refer to any intelligent being but most often to beings of a spiritual nature.

Shale was in his early forties back then (the mid eighties) and was one of those fellows who, I had been told, came from a mixture of Northern European and Italian stock. He had that long, straight, midnight black hair tied back in a short ponytail, the dark eyes and indeed one could see other mysterious hints of his dusky Italian ancestry in him.

One summer my path happened to bring me into a situation where I had the honor of being introduced to Shale and during that meeting he offered to take me aside and teach me a few things. I took him up on his offer and though the time I got to spend with him granted me a great deal of knowledge.

Shale was certainly a master of the Way of the Black Root, which is a term we use to describe the Thornish manner of seeking deep knowledge: In the Thornish tradition, we strive for the deeper meanings behind things; we look for the roots of images and symbols; the seeds of stories and the origins of those who some pagan folk call the Elder Kin. We are seldom satisfied with what is on the surface or in the ‘generally accepted’ categories of the material world that many others might take for granted. We want to plumb the depths of the world and find the primordial origins of things. To a Thornish person the Way of the Black Root is a way to power, wisdom, knowledge and a greater understanding of…well, pretty much everything that we are capable of understanding.

Shale had spent a great many years walking on this path and he had gained a lot of insight during his travels.

“The world of modern men is, for the most part, a hall of mirrors such as you might find at a carnival.” He told me. “It is a warped and twisted illusion created by a relatively small group of people who have been seeking power illegitimately for centuries. In order for a person to open themselves to true learning they must forge within themselves a mallet of iron will and with that mighty hammer smash down the mirrors. Even more than this we must not remain in the hall of mirrors at all but continue smashing until we have gotten out altogether; broken free into the open fields of understanding.”

This was the beginning of what Shale taught me back in that time I had with him. Indeed some of what he said was so deep and shrouded in multiple folds of meaning that even today I have a bit of difficulty getting my head around it. Other things were eminently practical, like advice for hunting, the preparing of a good winter shelter or the best way to start a campfire without modern contrivances.

I think the most powerful thing I brought away from my talks with Shale were concerned with the idea that human beings were meant to be so much more than we currently perceive ourselves as. Thornish belief holds that humankind was created to act as a force of stewards on the Middle World, otherwise called Earth by most. Shale was in total agreement with this and he told me that the greatest fear of the Devious Ones (Shale’s term for the people in government and those who manipulate governments) was that through the acts of the Elder Kin, of nature, of evolution and indeed through an increase of information, that the people would eventually begin to wake up from the artificially induced slumber-of-ignorance. When this happened, Shale predicted, the very existence of those who had held power for millennia would be shattered. Indeed in many cases their very lives would be forfeit to the vengeful elements which would surely arise.

“One of the greatest moments in a person’s material life comes when they begin to remember themselves.” Shale said. “Once this happens there can be no turning back. Not everyone will get to this state but those who do will ever hunger to know more.”

Remembering ourselves; remembering who we are and what we are here in the world to do. Remembering; waking up and realizing how important and special and yes, how powerful each of us has the potential to be… It is said to be one of the most powerful things a human being can accomplish in their lives. It is like being handed the keys to a thousand doors of possibility; doors that formerly were not even known to exist.

Doors long hidden are thrown open and a myriad of possibilities are brought into play. It can be blinding, staggering, overwhelming…and it can be painful to stand on such a verge of awakening. But such a thing will always be worth the effort.

So how do we get to the point where we begin to remember ourselves?

It takes time and effort but the key is information; learning about the world as it really is; seeing through the cracks in that house of mirrors and knowing the lies when they present themselves before us. Looking beyond the reflections of the house of mirrors; seeking the deeper truths; trusting the gut intuition. These are all useful tools in the skill set of the reawakened.

“Spending time alone is a powerful way of reawakening.” Shale said. “When you are alone, whether this is in meditation, deliberate solitude or out in the wild, there is no escaping from yourself.”

I was taught that we need to get past the idea of hiding from our true selves and embracing what we really are.

The internet has been a huge resource in this kind of thing: with this planet-spanning info-net billions of people are now beginning to wonder about the way things are done and how they might go about changing the things that cause harm. Information control was one of the last bastions of the Devious Ones, also called the Herdmasters by Shale and others. When they could control what people heard, saw and experienced they were in fact molding physical and psychological reality.

This time of the dominance of the many by the illegitimate few is waning. It is as though a deep age of ignorance is passing. There will be resistance by the ignorant and the twisted; and by those who wish to remain in the old ways of control. But like all things in nature there are cycles and evolution – there is inevitable change and even growth. I began to see the seeds of this new growth many years ago, as a young man at the feet of wise men. Even then, as my eyes began to open, I saw that the change was already underway in the world and that try as they might, the Devious Ones would be fighting a losing battle. In the end the awakened ones would win simply because they were the instruments of nature; the instruments of growth and evolution while the ways of the Herdmasters were not.

I only had the pleasure of learning from Master Shale on a handful of occasions, but whenever I did it was always an eye-opening experience. I found it fascinating that a man who had spent so many years in the deepest wilderness- away from the haunts of humankind – could know so very much about the intricacies of human nature and culture. No doubt a part of this was because he had experienced a life before becoming a wanderer. He never spoke about those times though, only of what he had experienced since becoming a walker on the Thornish roads. Nevertheless it was a privilege to hear what he had to say.

And so in empowering ourselves; taking the illusions to task and building our individual and collective wills, we forge a hammer for change. When we smash the mirrors set up before us by unworthy people we irrevocably open the way for enlightenment and progress.

When we remember ourselves we find our purpose to be clear and the roads of power and wisdom flow, hand in hand before us.

Be the change you want to see in the world, as a wise man once said.

Be the hammer.




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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