By Jack Wolf
In the Thornish teachings we do not hold to the belief that there are omniscient, omnipotent or otherwise all-powerful beings in existence.
We do not generally believe in things that most human beings might call ‘gods’.
Even less do we believe that if there actually were such beings that they would perceive us as being in any way special. However, this does not make us atheists: We are animists who hold that there is life everywhere, and that some beings are superior to others so far as abilities and evolution goes. Some have interacted with human beings over time. Some still do. Some of these we refer to as Elder Kin (very advanced beings who are related to us in various ways), others we refer to as Shaeda, or Spirit-people which is a somewhat general term describing the forces in the land as well as the many other intelligent species (visible to us or not) that we share this existence with.
Another category that we use to learn and grow with is that of the Sacred Role-Models. There is a Thornish term for this: Hoj’Qoda, which basically means ‘shadow symbol’ or ‘shadow talisman’. The sacred role model is a form of archetypal teacher, in some ways similar to the classic archetypes envisioned by Carl Jung, yet different in some aspects as well. The Hoj’Qoda is meant as an inspiration and a guide to how a Thornish person might behave in certain circumstances within the parameters offered by each of these sacred avatar figures. Some of them are purely philosophical figures while others are symbols of action, fertility, cunning and much more. More often than not, Thornish people are drawn to those sacred role models with whom they already have a connection via personality or aspiration – or they are drawn to one which may have something to teach them. Some seek alliances and mentorship while others seek challenge and raw knowledge.
It is thought that although these role-models were once purely symbolic, over years of interaction and use, some of them have become quite autonomous and sentient in their own rights – and they continue to guide, inform and counsel those who seek them out. The Hoj’Qoda are not gods and they are not viewed as helper spirits either. They are what they are: Mentors and teachers who have evolved within (and without) the Thornish tradition.
In 1960, one of the founders of the Thornish tradition, Ari Torinsson (also known as Raven) went into the mountains to embark on a form of Vision Quest; he wanted to commune with the spirits of the mountain and especially with a particular Hoj’Qoda which we Thornish people know as Qor, son of the Mountain. Qor is a warrior figure who is in many ways similar to the Norse figure of Thorr Odinsson, however most Thornish people agree that Qor and Thorr (despite certain similarities and the fact that their names rhyme) are not the same person.
The following excerpt is an example of a Thornish person’s interaction with an advanced form of the sacred role-model or, Hoj’Qoda.
“When I sat with Qor he offered me drink. It was spiced wine, very powerful stuff indeed! I drank down what he gave me and he offered me more. I accepted but this time he cut his hand with his Frith-knife, Kraa, and let several drops of his dark blood run into the cup. At first I was hesitant but came to the understanding that this was necessary to the completion of the rite. I took the cup again and drank. The wine inside tasted no different than before but I found a feeling of fire flowing through me shortly after I had taken the drink. Then Qor offered me the blade of his gleaming Frith-knife and I knew instinctively what to do: I placed my hand over it and he pulled the blade back quickly, sharply. He did not pull hard enough to destroy my hand, only hard enough to produce a cut. The cut bled profusely but I did not show fear or discomfort. Qor instructed me to observe that an oath of blood had been wordlessly made between us: I agreed to bleed-out of myself as much of the weakness of modern men that I could and he would in turn instruct me in the true ways of the Warrior; in the ways of the Mountain Teachings.
I agreed with what Qor had said and he laughed. It surprised me but his laugh was a good natured one and it appeared he was glad to see that I would take him up on his offer of instruction. I looked at My hand and saw that it had stopped bleeding as well. There was only a very fine scar there in its place that looked as though the wound was years old and not moments old. After this I spent a good amount of time in that high mountain hall with Qor. He taught me many things and even after I departed and returned to the land of men; to the mountain where I had been meditating, I continued to receive teachings in meditations and dreams.”
-Ari Torinsson, Black Mountain journals, Summer 1960
When correctly approached and relationships properly cultivated, the Thornish Hoj’Qoda’a can become powerful allies and tools of instruction.
The late Thornish elder, Tivashandi once said this about the Hoj’Qoda:
“Are the Hoj’Qoda’a real? Do they come from inside our heads or are they generated outside of us in some way? Are they merely symbols, role-models or signposts to power, or do they start out that way and then, like the Tulpas of Tibet, do they evolve and become people in their own right? I would say that the answer to this is that all of those possibilities are in effect. The human mind can be a powerful doorway if used correctly and I think that it is just a matter of finding the right combinations to open the correct doors.”