The Odin Brotherhood Connection

By Jack Wolf

Over the past few years, especially since the publication of my book, The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (Mandrake of Oxford, 2013) I have had a significant number of queries regarding my involvement with said secret society. I thought I would address the basis of these inquiries here.

I am inherently curious. Very curious, about a great many things. The intense need-to-know, to understand that blossomed in me as a young boy never faded from me as I grew older. I refused to have it beaten out of me by the indoctrination of the state or by my mundane parents who could never possibly understand. I refused to comply with the idea that grown ups should abandon their desire to learn and grow and know more. As a wise man once told me: “People who stop learning or desiring to learn are already half-dead.”

Possibly there have been times in my life where my curiosity has gotten me into to hot water, but I find that it has reaped far more rewards for this old coyote than it has caused problems. So in tried and true fashion, when I heard rumors of this secret order of Pagans that had been around for something like a half millennium, I knew I had to check it out.

I’d guess it was around 2004 or so that I began looking into the Odin Brotherhood in earnest. Before that I had just been peripherally curious and working on other things. So let’s say for the sake of argument that it was around 2004 that I stated uncovering the trail of this enigmatic group. I had help. Indeed it was my late friend, the Heathen Gothi and all around sage, E. Max Hyatt who originally got me thinking about the Brotherhood. He had purchased a copy of Professor Mark Mirabello’s most intriguing book; The Odin Brotherhood and was deeply affected by it. Now, Max was an old timer who had been many years in the world and was not easily swayed by internet gossip or rumor. He was one of those guys that looked for hard information and even more importantly he followed a very well seasoned set of instincts both as a holy man and as a scholar with regard to anything that came to him.

So one evening Max started talking about this amazing book he had read and that I should get a copy and have a read for myself. I took his advice and got a copy. Just like my friend I was intrigued.

It took awhile ( a good number of years actually) but eventually I made some contacts with this mysterious group. First I started asking around on Pagan and Heathen forums and later on social media. Naturally there were the usual false leads and nut-cases that came out of the woodwork but that was to be expected. A friend of mine once said that he figured over 80% of everything people say on the internet is bullshit. I am not sure if I agree entirely with his skeptical point of view but I can see that he has a point. When dealing with the internet it is wide to have ones’ BS filter set on high.

Eventually I had a few contacts that seemed legit.  By this time I had also made contact with Professor Mirabello and I must say that he was very accommodating. He told me that he only knew what he himself had been told by his own relatively brief contacts with the Brotherhood. He suggested that I keep putting my questions out there in the manner that I had been doing and that eventually I would probably hear from the Brotherhood itself. Dr. Mirabello also let me know that he had really not had anything in the way of contact with these mysterious fellows since his book had been published. As he was not affiliated with them but apparently of some use to them when he did his interview and later published his work, once this was done they simply disappeared from his experience.  This seemed fine and good to the Professor though, who had simply moved along onto other more academic areas of interest.

I followed these connections I had made and though it took awhile I think I eventually got noticed. Communications were few and far between at first and almost always cryptic in nature. The cryptic part seems to be hardwired into the Odin Brotherhood, or at least the individuals I had managed to make contact with. The idea of being direct seems foreign to them. It is as though part of their power comes from making people think and figuring out the details for themselves.

Once a reasonable level of contact had been established it was basically a kind of Q and A session that took place over time. I guess they were getting to know me and kind of scope me out to see if I had any ulterior motives. I did have ulterior motives actually: I thought I might like to write another book concerning them. Possibly something that added on to what was already known from Dr. MIrabello’s book. I wasn’t shy about this either and I told them that. About a year later I made contact with the mysterious fellow known to me only as Crow, and the rest…well I covered that adventure in the book.

So basically I was in a position to write this book that added more to the fascinating story that Mark Mirabello had started (and who wholeheartedly encouraged me to do so by the way). The Odin Brotherhood accommodated me by providing additional materials and indeed more than one mysterious package which arrived unbidden on both my and my girlfriend’s doorsteps over time. It seems I was of some use to them and so in a symbiotic sort of way we both got what we wanted: They told me that they desired more exposure and I desired to write a book. Everyone was happy with the end result (grin).

So, having entertained you (at least I hope I did) with that somewhat lengthy explanation, I will end by saying that no, I am not a member of the Odin Brotherhood. I have had contact with them and it would appear, some of their members, but I have never undertaken their ritual or their initiation ceremony. I was happy enough getting to write a book about them.

The Odin Brotherhood and I have a great many things in common however. I agree with a great deal of their views and sentiments about things – especially the state of the world today and the need for Pagan people to preserve our culture and lore for future generations.

Indeed I may have considered joining the Odin Brotherhood at one time, but as some of you might know from my works I am already ‘taken’ so to speak. I don’t take oaths or dedication lightly you see, and only have room on my head for so many hats. Since the mid 1980’s I have been a member of a Pagan tradition that was once just as secretive as the Odin Brotherhood is today. However things have changed within that tradition and I have been permitted to write about my own adventures within the Thornish tradition as well as its more elderly relation, the Black Talon Society. The tradition to which I belong is based largely in the areas of Pagan tribalism and primordial animism. While to be sure there is a fair bit of common ground between my own traditional culture and the Odin Brotherhood they are certainly not on the same page in every area. We are not Odinists for one thing, and while we respect the ancient Eddas, our inspirations come from other sources.

My own people consider themselves to be staunch allies of the Odin Brotherhood however. We believe them to be honorable and well met in their efforts to preserve the lore and educate those who are worthy of such.

I hope this post has provided something in the way of answers for those who might be curious and who may have desired to know a bit more about where ‘ol Jack Wolf fits into the larger puzzle of the Pagan community as it were.

Regards

Jack

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Old ways, New Beginnings

By Jack Wolf

 

As the modern day calendar comes to a close I thought I’d leave you all with a few things that I found particular interesting during 2015.

When I was young I had the privilege of being in the presence of some pretty amazing people, some of them Elders who hailed from different traditions. Interestingly enough from my first real mentor, Joseph Woo, a Chinese healer and sorcerer who I met in my early teens, to my Native relations and my Thornish ones – all the way through to the present; the wise ones all seemed to agree that my generation would live to see profound changes for the good of this planet. At first I wondered; “Why us?” or “Why were we somehow so special?” Of course later I realized that we were probably not all that special – it seems that it was simply our destiny to be in this place at this time.

In the early years things seemed pretty much status quo, but as the years went by we who were paying attention could see the coming of the changes. At first these were small things but as time passed the changes and currents in everything from social interaction to media to culture and religion – to the very essence of our planet herself – all became quite obvious.

To people like me, who had been shaken awake since the 1980s and were somewhat more watchful than the average human being, these changes were anything but uplifting.

They were downright scary.

I found myself once again questioning the wisdom of the ancestors, the Elder Kin and even the one we call Wyrdamör (the Thornish personification of destiny – the Fate Mother) as to why people like me were cast into an age that could easily end up as an apocalyptic nightmare. I could see no benefit in this save for the experience which we would carry with us to the next world, and as a parent, I had no wish to see my child (or anyone else’s children for that matter) go through what I suspected would be very grim times.

But once more I fell back on my understandings of the multiverse and of course of the many teachings I have been lucky enough to receive over the years. I remembered the Elders I have known and how they all agreed on one thing: There would be a branch in our collective path as human beings and as we approached this fork in the road we would see that there could be only two possible outcomes to the decisions we would make when we got there. One branch of this powerful crossroads would see us regain our wisdom as a species (after all homo Sapiens means ‘wise person(s)’ in some translations), take back our role as stewards of the land and usher in a new era of enlightenment.

The other path, that of continued consumption, materialism and resource misuse; that of insane religious behavior and outrageous arrogance – would lead to decay, terror and ultimately the extinction of not only the human species on this world, but also to the annihilation of many other species as well.

The Elders are quite clear on this and I will tell you that even the Thornish teachings, which are relatively young, yet inspired by older wisdom – also tell us that this choice for our world is upon us.

Looking back on the Common Era year 2015 I must say that although it still contains the insanity of those who cannot or do not wish to change, the greater mass of humanity has been awakening with an almost frightening rate of speed. More and more humans are rising up and saying NO to the status quo. More and more are speaking through their votes and their ideas/opinions on social media for instance, are turning into a cultural juggernaut. For instance, in my own homeland of Canada, our last federal election heralded in truly massive, positive change.

Change is actually happening. Everywhere.

In the face of many things, such as climate change, social upheaval and the continued decadence of corporate and political culture it would seem that the final straw has been cast – that people are sick and tired of the feudal dark ages that never really ended. They seek and end to the thing Thornish people have long referred to as the LIE – that long age of decadence that has sucked our planet and our species nearly dry.

Those who do not wish to leave this hoary world of unparalleled decadence don’t seem to realize that they are on the cusp of an extinction event: Their own. Those who for some reason cannot grasp that nature – and evolutionary principles – don’t apply to them are, it would seem, rapidly approaching a very rude and potentially fatal awakening.

It is coming down to an us-or-them situation, with the awakened/awakening ones on one side and the ‘old guard’ of corruption, disparity and elitism on the other. Those who are standing for the Earth are growing stronger every minute and it would seem that eventually the ideas espoused by the corrupted ones will perish along with them.

It is time for those following the old ways of materialism and corruption to walk away from their old habits. There is still time for all but the most decadent to change.

This battle is in the works right now, as we speak, and I believe that it will continue to grow until a new kind of human being emerges; one that will return to the sacred role of caring for the world we were given. This change has been a long time coming and indeed I am reminded of the adage which tells us that we often shine the brightest in times which are most grim. The circumstances are exigent and we who are awakened must rise to the challenge. The reward for failure shall be nightmare and death but the rewards for success will be beyond our imaginings.

It would seem that the Elders, after all, were right – not only in that these things would occur but also that those of us here right now are present for good reason.  We may not be able to fathom exactly what those reasons are at this time, but I think that in the end we shall witness something extraordinary.

Perhaps 2016 will be the year we truly take back our sacred planet and deal with those systems that have harmed her – once and for all.

It is time to become stewards again and re-green our world; heal our species and all upon our wonderful planet.

Progress begins in a single step and I am happy to see we are moving forward well.

 

Best regards to all in the New Year. Don’t give up the fight!

 

Jack.

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The REAL Dark Side

By Jack Wolf

As most of you know, the latest installment of the Star Wars saga has been unleashed on the public. I haven’t seen it myself yet but from what I have heard it’s a pretty good film, hearkening back in quality to the original three films we all liked so much. But like anything in today’s day and age the marketing and media overload that often accompanies such things can be pretty overwhelming – and at times annoying.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no exception to all of this and already I can see the influence it is having – particularly on young folks.

Star Wars, in my view anyway, is a classic tale of the heroes’ journey. It’s the timeless struggle between what some folks might call ‘good’ and ‘evil’. The films were designed to do two things I imagine: To entertain and to make money, something they have certainly been more than successful in achieving.

Still it surprises me in some ways just how much the average person believes in the concepts of good and evil as absolutes – how much people buy into the idea that there are good guys and bad guys and nobody in between.

Just the other day, at a local Starbucks, I was sitting having a coffee when I happened to overhear these young guys talking about the new Star Wars film. These weren’t youngsters mind you; they were big kids – late teens, maybe early twenties. Specifically, and its difficult not to overhear people in a crowded coffee shop, they were discussing the Dark Side of the Force as portrayed in the films. The thing here, is that from their tone they were speaking as if what they knew from the films was reality; that there really is good and evil – and they thought it was “waaaaaay cooler” to be on the evil side; the Dark Side.

I will admit that I can see the fascination people might have with the ‘bad guys’ of the movie. After all they have cool names, dress all in black and have those neat powers and lightsabers…. But it is important for people to know that these things are all fantasy. And to be sure, some folks really don’t seem to be aware of the demarcation between what is fantasy and what is of a more ‘real’ nature. Perhaps it’s a sign of our times that the bad guys are admired, the good guys are seen as not-as-cool and the neutral characters are rarely referenced.

I personally will admit to being a great admirer of the Star Wars films. I was a bright-eyed, bushy tailed youngster of about 16 years of age when the first film released in May of 1977. I was caught up in the spectacle and the interplay of the heroes versus the villains and the magic that George Lucas and his team brought into the world that summer has been with me, as it is with many others, ever since.

However, as I grew older I came to understand that not all in the world is polarized and that its not all as simple as ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ after all. Hey maybe it would be easier for everyone if this obvious demarcation between white hats and black hats was the case, but I have come to know that its not so simple.  As I entered the Pagan world and more specifically, the Thornish world I grew to fathom the reality of the world in a much different way than many of my contemporaries did. I was shown that in fact there are really no such things as black and white; good or evil in the world – that it was all a large canvas consisting of a great many shades of grey, with a few splashes of extreme contrast here and there – but no cut and dried good or evil.

Thornish people see human beings as being largely neutral in attitude and psychological or even moral alignment. Most just want to live happy lives and tend to their families. There are extremes along this spectrum of course – the positive and not so positive – yet we see these as being either folks who are either in more advanced stages of awakening, or who have descended into states of mental or spiritual illness.

During my training I was taken a step further than this, beyond the idea that human beings could be so easily categorized; that nature herself in all of her aspects could be so simply and conveniently labelled. I came to know that indeed there is a Dark Side, but it is not the same as it is so often depicted in stories.

To Thornish people the Darkness is the ultimate source of power. It is the source of life and all things that we have come to know in our current reality. The light is simply a way that the multiverse from time to time chooses to highlight things that have already been created by darkness.  I once heard a saying not long ago that I found quite interesting:

“Light travels at blinding speed, over 300 thousand kilometers per second, yet when it arrives at its destination, wherever it goes, it always finds darkness there, waiting for it.”

Yes. This is an aspect of the nature of Darkness. It is everywhere. It is timeless and seemingly…endless. Thornish folk see it as a sacred source and something to be embraced with great respect and love. To us the darkness is not a place for monsters, or things we should fear; it is a place where all things begin and all things ultimately end. Indeed, one of Thornish culture’s most sacred icons is an avatar known as Doqqa Mor, or the Dark Mother. She is a symbol of a personification of the darkness; of the source of life. She is also seen as a psychopomp – or one who bears the spirit after the expiration of the physical body. She is revered and much loved by Thornish people, never feared or reviled.

Thornish tradition does indeed depict the Darkness as a place of power and of ‘enlightenment’ – or should it be ‘endarkenment’. It is not a place where one acquires strength for nasty purposes (or taking over the galaxy), but instead where one might develop and grow further as a person and a contributor to the sacred balance of nature.

 

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Heathenry and the Thornish Way

By Jack Wolf

One of the things I really enjoy about having my works out there in the world is that there are people who get in touch with me and share their comments and questions. This tells me that my writing is serving its twofold purpose: To share the ways of my people and to educate those who may be interested.

I get lots of questions which I am only too happy to answer. One of these that I get quite a bit is this one, or a variation of it.

“Hey Jack, I have noticed from your writing that there are some similarities between the Thornish path and modern day Heathenry. Would you say that the Thornish ways are a form of Heathenry or even Odinism or Asatru?”

Truth be told, I’ve actually answered this one before; quite a few times, but not everyone has heard/read my answer to it. I have written a number of books on the Thornish traditions in which this is covered, but at this time I am still in the process of getting some of these ready for print…

It’s a very good question though and like I have mentioned above, its one I have heard a fair bit, so for those who may find it of interest, I will answer it in some detail here.

To most simple and direct answer is this: No, the Thornish tradition is not a form of Asatru or Odinism or Forn sed or Irminism. The Thornish tradition is also not considered to be a form of Heathenry, modern or otherwise.

On a deeper level, I can certainly see why there have been people who have thought that perhaps we were related to those other Pagan paths. There are elements in there that I can imagine stir the interest of some and lead them on to thinking that maybe we are Heathens. Well, while we certainly are Pagans we do not consider ourselves to be Heathens.

You see, back in the day, when the Thornish tradition was founded, the first Lodge came together through the efforts of people who were the carriers of an older tradition. This tradition was a primal tribal tradition called the Black Talon Society. The Black Talon Society was the result of a fusion, in the old days, of the beliefs and cultural ways of Northern European Pagans, with the ways of North American indigenous people. The Black Talon Society was basically a kind of mutual protection and cultural exchange society that at first was the domain of hunters, trappers and others who walked in a warriors way and still (secretly) followed the old Pagan ways. This, in defiance of the christian domination that weighed heavily over the land at that time. We ourselves do not know how old the roots of the original Black Talon Society are; they are lost in time to us.

However, in 1958 (not all that long ago) the old society ‘branched off’ (if I can use that term) and a new Lodge was formed in order to take the traditional ways into modern times. Among the founders of this new branch of the tradition were a number of men from different traditions. There were Native (aboriginal) Canadians and Métis (mixed blood Native/European) as well as people from Germany, the UK and other places in Northern Europe. Each of these founders brought with them certain aspects of their own homelands which they contributed into the fusion of the new Lodge. One of the things that is noticeable about the ‘flavor’ of the modern day Thornish tradition is that a good number of our people have held to certain beliefs that reflect those old Northern ways.

However the European influence was never something that overpowered the Native influence. In fact the two paths walked quite well together as brothers-in-arms. There was never any cultural theft or assimilation. Instead, there was syncretism there that was based in mutual respect and a dedication towards growing something…deeper as time went on.

The Thornish way is about seeking the primal root of things; seeking the old paths that wend into the ancient forests of time and always looking for the original grains of truth that all humankind once knew. We are most at home around the fires of the distant past, where most streams of humanity once gathered under very similar circumstances even though they may have been in very different lands.

 “Everyone brings their own meat to the table”, is a Thornish saying and indeed there have been a number of individuals who have brought Norse and Germanic ‘meat’ to the collective table of the Thornish people.

Thornish people believe in the idea of a sacred balance in all things and indeed consider the laws of nature (we refer to them as the First Law) to be the only real laws worth respecting. As such when you look at the situation where human beings are striving to survive and thrive you will find that for the most part, human beings everywhere throughout the weave of time have had similar viewpoints and behaviors, inspired through contact with the First Knowledge of the sacred balance and the primal laws of the land.

In view of this if one looks at it objectively, it is not difficult to see how the primal ways which have influenced the Thornish path could suggest that perhaps it is of a Heathen nature. What is a Heathen but a person of the heath; a person of the open fields, the wildling woods or the untamed land? If one was to suggest that Thornish people fit that description then certainly we might agree that it was accurate. However when we look at the modern day interpretation of the word Heathen (at least as it stands in the Pagan community), we must as Thornish folk, step somewhat aside from that in consideration of maintaining our own unique identity.

The Late Thornsman, Björn Hammarson, (who was himself of Germanic heritage, as suggested by his name) was known for his bluntness and his clarity on many levels. Once, in response to the very kind of question which has prompted this blog post, he said this:

“Thornish people are not Heathens in the way that modern people think of that word. We have no Gods; we have the Elder Kin. A Thornsman does not see himself as special to any particular spirit or Elder Kin being. We are animists and we see that everything is alive. We have our ancestors and the spirits of the land as our allies. We never pray because praying is an act of supplication; an act of slaves. We don’t boast because we know our place in nature. We have no priesthood because each Thornish person has their own connection to the manifold universe. Our rituals are simple and instinctive. We have no need for flowery posing or the like. We serve no one save the holy Earth and our role as stewards. We have no holy book or the like; instead we have stories and the wisdom of our elders. We have no commandments other than the laws of nature and the Thornish Code, which is more common sense than rule.”

I think that this, in short form at least, sums where we stand on the question of Heathenry.

While we certainly have nothing against those who consider themselves to be Heathen – and indeed have a good many friends and allies who claim that identity – we, as Thornish folk refrain from calling ourselves that.

It is not our road to walk.

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Harrownight

By Jack Wolf

October 31st in the Thornish Context:

For many people, especially people in North America, October 31st is seen as Halloween; a time of costumes and parties; of candy and lights and in general, a rather spooky theme. Most people have no idea that there are much deeper roots to this thing.

Among some Pagan cultures today this time is observed as Samhain (Pronounced ‘sow-wan’) and has come down from the old countries in Northern Europe. Samhain is considered to be an observance of the dead and the honored ancestors. As well it is seen as being the Celtic New Year.

Amongst people in more southern climes in North America, particularly Mexico this time is known as Dia de Muertos; the day of the Dead, which again, is an honoring of ancestors and the honored folk who have departed this material life. Indeed I know of quite a few people all over North America who have taken to celebrating this day in such a way.

Veneration and connections with the dead, something for a long time forgotten by many, has begun to come back in a powerful way more and more these days. I think this is a very good thing indeed.

Among Thornish people, October 31st is seen in a special way as well. The original people who founded the Thornish way created a tradition, informally at first at gatherings back in 1955 – before the Thornish tradition was officially founded in 1958, that was called Harrow-night. Among Thornish people the word Harrow is used to describe an altar-space or place of offerings, and in the context of the word Harrow-Night we give offerings to our dead.

On October 31st, 1958 the founders of our tradition gathered to honor those who had gone before. They gathered around a fire and in good cheer made toasts and hale gestures to ancestors and lost friends. The following day, November 1st 1958, was made Founding Day, in which the Thornish tradition was first officially brought into the world.

Thus, for Thornish people this time of the year can be complicated. For those of us who have families we find we are juggling the popular craziness of costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters along with the need to also switch channels at some point and spend time in reflection about our beloved dead.

Harrow-Night (also spelled Harrownight) is a powerful time for Thornish folks as it carries with it flavors of both sadness and joy. We reflect on our losses, yes, but in this we also remind ourselves of the joy and wisdom that was brought into our lives by those who went before us. We show respect and gratitude to the Old Ones the Elder Kin and to the Great Essence itself (not to mention the currents of sacred Wyrd) for steering us onto paths where we have had the opportunity to share the world with such special people. And it is not only deceased human beings that are honored by Thornish people on Harrownight: We see any other beings who have made our own journeys brighter, as worthy of words, offerings and honors on this sacred night. In my own case especially, in addition to passed relations, friends and hearth-kin I take time to fondly think about my dog Brin, gone many years now, who I still hold very dearly in my heart, and my cat, Jake, recently passed, who honored me with the nearly nine years we spent together.

As with many aspects of the Thornish tradition, we tend to go deeper than most, always seeking to connect with the primal and always striving to rekindle the more ancient flames within us. My late Thornish brother, Björn Hammarson for instance, used to make offerings to ancient kings and warriors in addition to his other honored dead on this night. He did this because he felt a deep kinship with them even though he knew he was not directly related to them in blood, line or tradition. Thornish founder and my own teacher, Ari Torinsson, used to have a very special place in the forest where he would make offerings to ancient cave-bears, long extinct, because he considered them to be his spiritual ancestors. Master Tiva, another of the Thornish elders, would go out on Harrownight to sit beneath his tree-of-bells; a shrine he had built that had dozens of tiny bells, one for each spirit he sought to remember and honor, tied into the branches. He told me once that during his late night vigil in the woods, beneath that tree, the sound of the bells in the breeze became voices for the dead.

Very often one will see a simple shrine set up to honor the dead in a Thornish home. Sometimes these are just a small shelf set with photos of special people. Other times one might see a table set with candles and mementos of the fallen and yet at other times we might see something more elaborate; with a place for incense, candles and offerings. These shrines may be erected inside or outside and indeed, I have attended more than one Harrownight ritual where a bonfire was held and offerings made to the flames.

To the Thornish mind, life and death are intricately connected. We cannot have one without the other. If we are to honor life we must also bring honor to the realm of death. Death is not seen as a bad thing, only as gateway between one incarnation and the next. This respect of the sacred balance is not something we package away and bring out once per year though. It is something we are constantly aware of in our day to day lives. However, on October 31st, on what we call Harrownight, we put special effort into gathering and remembering those upon whose shoulders we stand.

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Emmett’s Counsel

By Jack Wolf

I was reminiscing today about my late uncle, Emmett.

Emmett was an adoptive relation of mine and by ‘adoptive’ I mean that we became kinsmen through a Native ceremony long ago. Amongst many Native groups ceremonial adoption is a powerful thing and once it has been performed those involved consider their ceremonial relations to be just as authentic as their blood or marriage relations. So it was with Emmett and I; he was close to fifty years my senior and could possibly have been considered as a great uncle or grandfather, but we went with the uncle-nephew connection.

Emmett was a full blooded member of one of the Manitoba Cree nations back in those days but he had in his younger years, traveled west, eventually ending up in my home province of British Columbia. Emmett walked in a very traditional way and spent most of his life as a trapper and as a traditional hunting guide. He took me on my first hunt and was the main source of teaching for me as a young fella when it came to getting by in the woods. Emmett was a pretty direct man: He didn’t sugar coat things and for the most part spoke his mind. He was honest to a fault and I learned a huge amount about life from him. Emmett was not Thornish though he was good friends with a number of people who were. Instead he walked his own road, one which was steeped not only in the old Cree traditions, but also in the many deep and profound experiences he’d had over his many years in this world.

One of the things I was thinking about today, was a set of teachings that my uncle gave me back then, when we were spending a fair bit of time together – either at his little house at the riverside, or out on his trapline. I thought that I would share this wisdom with my readers in the hope that it might be of some help to them on their own individual journeys.

Emmett’s Counsel: Ways to live a good life and be a good person.

  1. Don’t blame, don’t complain and try to live in the now.
  2. Less talk, more listening.
  3. There is great value in silence.
  4. Family and tribe come first, especially children and elders.
  5. You alone are responsible for how you react and what you do.
  6. Life is a gift and everything in the world is alive on one level or another, so behave accordingly.
  7. Emotions are a horse better tamed.
  8. Your ancestors are watching.

So, what can one get from the simple list shown above? Well for me I gained a metric tonne. Sometimes things which appear to be understated can have layers of meaning so if you ponder them closely you’ll see that there is much to be gained in making use of these seven principles.

Don’t blame, don’t complain:  This described my uncle to a ‘tee’: I have a hard time remembering him complaining or blaming at any point during the years that I knew him. His logic was that if you are busy blaming or complaining you are wasting valuable time and energy and as well, probably not taking responsibility for your own acts in life.

Try to live in the now is also valuable advice. We humans don’t tend to do that and as far as my late uncle was concerned, when we are living in the past or pondering the future we aren’t living in the now. The now, as uncle reminded me quite often, is ALL we will ever have. The past and the present are conceptualizations we make so that we can learn from our experiences and so we can prepare for what ‘may’ happen. However modern people have gone too far with this to the point of living in the past or the future more than in the now. Uncle Emmett called the act of spending too much time thinking about the past or future ‘hiding inside the mind’.

Once, when walking the trapline we came upon the remains of a male Mule Deer that had quite obviously been killed and eaten by wolves. My uncle and I had been talking about the past and the present not long before and he chose this discovery to use as a teaching point – to drive the lesson home.

“When our wild brothers go about their business they are always in the now.” He said. “And even then they sometimes end up as dinner for somebody else, so can you imagine how dangerous hiding inside one’s mind can be for a human being?”

Point taken.

Lesson 2 tells us that ‘Less talk’ and ‘more listening’ are the best ways for us to be. This should be pretty self-evident, but when you look at how modern day people communicate you see the opposite for the most part. These days a lot of people are so busy trying to get their own messages across that they don’t often bother to listen to what anyone else has to say. Maybe this is a product of general overpopulation or perhaps is a development of our overexposure to modern media – I’m not sure – but it is indeed wise to bear in mind that when we close ourselves off we are depriving ourselves of potential knowledge and wisdom too.

There is great value in silence: Well, this one is related to the lesson we just discussed but again, if you look deeper you will see that there is more. Uncle taught me that in silence we gain perspective and strength. We also get to know ourselves and become better observers, both of the inner and the outer worlds. Uncle used to say: “Noise closes doors. Silence can open them.”

Family and tribe come first, especially children and elders:  Here is one that despite what many might immediately think, is very much worth pondering. Our society here in the so-called First World has changed considerably over the past century or so and really, there are a lot of ugly examples seen in news and other media and indeed right in our own personal experiences, where we can see that the above mentioned line of advice is not adhered to. Human beings are all, at the root, tribal animals and yet as a result of the industrial age (and now the corporate age) human tribal groups have been mutated and damaged over time. Our values are not always the values that were so esteemed by our ancient ancestors and in the thinking of many tribalists, myself included, it is time to put a concerted effort into rekindling and fully embracing the value of our closest folk. My grandfather for instance, used to say that our elders are the people who are responsible for us being in the world. We are standing on their shoulders. The little ones are the new generation and we owe them the chance to survive and thrive, just as our elders tried to do for us. This is the true meaning of balance in the human social matrix my friends, not to mention the honorable way to go about doing things.

You alone are responsible for how you react and what you do. This is a powerful one – at least it was for me, way back when, when I first fathomed its import. So many people these days go about RE-acting rather than acting in a knowledgeable, measured way. We often look before we leap and a lot of the time (go back and have a look at the first line of Emmett’s wisdom there) we are quite busy complaining about the acts/deeds of others or pointing fingers of blame at others or other situations. While we are doing that we are away from our core; away from the self in the now. People in today’s society often rant against things they can’t control when instead, as my uncle suggested, we focus on those things we can control and try to use wisdom to deal with those things we can’t control. When we start thinking more strategically we realize that everything in the individual’s personal universe comes from within and it is only from within that we can make sense of the situations we find ourselves in. When we bite that proverbial bullet and start realizing that we – and only we – are responsible for our actions and reactions – then we actually start to achieve a level of measurable control in life.

Life is a gift and everything in the world is alive on one level or another, so behave accordingly. Again a powerful perspective to have. As the animist and tribalist that I am, I have come to these understandings many years ago. Yet these are lessons that we need to keep reminding ourselves about from time to time. Life. Think about it. It is an astonishing, magical, powerful thing and in modern times there are so many who take it for granted. Just have a look at the news – and all the wars going on, whether these are wars between humans, wars on the environment or otherwise – and you get the picture that life is not seen as being so sacred by some human beings. Again as an animist I have long believed that literally everything is alive on one level or another. When you start seeing the multiverse in that way – and realizing that not only is everything alive; possessed with spirit – that you begin to see the myriad of connections…and you realize that its ALL connected; WE are ALL REALTED in a fathomless web of reality – everything changes. When we reach that threshold of knowing that we are each but a tiny part of the web of life then we act differently, not only to those who are outside of our bodies and perceptions (and that too is a community of organisms, not just a solo act) but also within ourselves.

Emotions are a horse better tamed. Emotions are beautiful things but in the human animal at least they can sometimes get out of hand – especially the nasty ones. Emotions are a way in which we react to outside things and they are a big part of what make us human, yet we can see with all of the impulsiveness and hatred in the world; all the bigotry and prejudice out there, that in many cases, emotions are indeed like a wild horse. When my uncle suggested that emotions be tamed he was certainly not talking about the stifling of one’s inner fires. My uncle could (and did) laugh and cry just like the rest of us. What he was saying is that while the positive emotions like love, joy, affection are true gifts to be embraced and enjoyed (and shared) it is the other ones, like hatred, anger, spite, jealousy and other kinds of malicious things that need to be held under a firm hand. Indeed it takes willpower and strength to learn how to keep these darker urges in check but it is well worth the effort.

My grandfather used to say “Think before you act. Ask yourself why you are feeling this way or that and whether any bad thoughts have the right to be let out into the world through words or actions.”  And he was right to suggest that. Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if people would just ponder their inner thoughts and darker emotions before allowing them to manifest? Wow, I bet it would be a great place to live.

Your ancestors are watching. This one should be self-evident….for those of us who believe in the spirit world anyway, and even for those who don’t there is the consideration of DNA and bloodlines…and leaving good memories behind when you go…

I personally do believe in the spirit world. To me it is a very real thing. I have had far too many experiences in my life that have shown me the veracity of spirit, to believe otherwise. And I do believe that my ancestors – some of them anyway – are watching.  Many people believe that their ancestors are watching and with that in mind I wonder how many of them consider their words or actions accordingly. I think that the idea of living honorably, doing one’s best for kin and tribe – and the world – and then at last, leaving this world with a good reputation, is certainly something to be considered.

And so there we are. These are a set of suggestions for living a good life and they are something that I have tried over the years of my own life to consider as I travel along. It’s not always easy and we all make mistakes, the Gods know I have certainly made my fair share of them.  But you know, it’s the will to get back up and keep going that defines those of us who are truly great…and I believe that a lot of us have the potential to be truly great.

As such it is my hope that these little bits of wisdom from my late uncle might also be of some guidance those who might find them of interest.

  • Jack
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Rebuilding Tribes

Sometimes, when people hear the word ‘tribe’ they think of people in ancient history or perhaps modern indigenous people today. Many folks imagine that the word tribe or even the concept of tribe somehow doesn’t apply to them.

But look at it this way:

Out of the time humans have spent here on this world there have been what we call modern humans for around two hundred thousand years. The kind of creature we are based from has been around for something like a million years or so. In geological terms it’s not a long time but on a terrestrial surface for a single species it’s a considerable amount of tick-tocks. And during that time these creatures who would-become-human or the ones who actually were homo Sapiens, Sapiens were very tribal creatures. So when you think about it, on the grand scale of things, we humans have been tribal animals for well over 99.9999% of our existence.

Tribalism is hard wired into us. Like it or not such a thing is difficult to escape. Anthropologists theorize that humans evolved as they did; survived as they did in harsh environments, primarily due to two things: Increased mental capacity and the ability to cooperate in groups.

Kin groups.

These kin groups later expanded in some cases to include persons from outside the bloodline – mostly through individuals finding a mate outside the group and later for land/resource/defensive alliances.

This all worked very well for a very long time.

And then some evil geniuses (and I don’t mean this in a cool way) decided that the power of the clan and the tribe was resisting their dreams of a vast slave empire.  But in this new slave empire they didn’t want the slaves to really know they were slaves. No, they wanted the serfs to live in the illusion of freedom, always having the carrot of wealth and happiness dangled in front of them.

But how to get people to come willingly into this new type of high tech slavery?

They had to get them to leave the sanctuary of their family lands and from their family/tribal circles and venture into the cities – where the grim factories and their elusive dreams awaited.

Promises of wealth and plenty were the carrots. War was used too and all kinds of other inducements….

Divide and conquer is a very old tactic. This is exactly what the slave-masters of the industrial age realized – and what the corporate and government herd dogs of today understood. They have been using it to control the masses and to power their world-killing industrial machines ever since.

Their particular sleight-of-hand, started in the beginning of the industrial revolution, was the Lie known as the ‘Nuclear Family’. Let’s get mom and pop away from their larger family network so that they have little or now support mechanism. Let’s lure them away from their family lands (we’ll steal those later) and get pops (and later, mom too) laboring in the factories under the delusion that they will actually get ahead and become successful. Let’s convince these folks (and through our manipulation of the education system) their descendants that our way is the best way. Enough of this foolish old tribalism. It gets in the way of ‘progress’.

And so it has gone on for decades and centuries now. And look what it has done to the Earth.

Look what it has done to the individual human being.

Nothing but bad things my friends.

And yet you can see it if you look carefully: Most human beings are very social animals. They want to feel needed; they want to belong to something larger than themselves. What do you think neighborhood groups are? What do you think social groups, sororities and fraternities, or even street gangs are?  They are the result of human beings wanting to go back home to a sense of tribe.

In modern times – especially in the age of the internet, access to information and to other people is unprecedented (as far as we know. History is replete with mistakes and misinformation). People have been using the internet to reconnect with like-minded persons for decades now. Many folk are seeking out people who are like them through social media and hoping to find others who are like them or who have similar things in common.

In the Pagan community this is definitely true – possibly more than ever before. And amidst this profusion of networks a good many people have found others who walk in the old Pagan ways or who are at least trying to find their way back. It’s not an easy road: The way holds a great many detours and dangers. Charlatans, liars, scam artists, cultural thieves and criminals are everywhere, just waiting to lure in the unsuspecting. However as people become more informed – the wiser ones at least have a chance of finding their way into gatherings of hale folk.

Not everyone makes it. Some get drawn into religious cults, new age wastes of time or worse…but that is the survival of the fittest in action all over again.

When people find their special place among people who are the most like they are; among the folk of their common ground, they often stop right there, happy enough in the virtual environment that the internet provides in abundance. Still something is missing though and there are many who wonder what that missing element is. Some find it: Its actual personal social contact with their group, just like in the old days.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up we called this feeling a ‘vibe’. Something either had the vibe or it didn’t. Maybe it was a good vibe or a bad vibe. It was our word for that instinctive interface and that hidden inner wisdom that most humans have. We knew that the vibe was best when people had actual, physical presence with their friends and family – fictive kin or otherwise.

And nowadays on many fronts, certain people have begun to discuss the rebuilding of Pagan tribes. They are looking for that vibe all over again.

Talking about things is important and indeed it is the first step in any hale plan. But of talking and actually doing….there can be an interstellar gulf of time, space and effort between those two things. Face it; it’s not as easy as some folks might think.

Tribe used to be something we took for granted. In the old times we were born into tribes and we kind of took it for granted. Not anymore. People who are seeking tribe are realizing it’s a long road fraught with difficulties. The lie of the nuclear family, the separation of folk from their kin over time and indeed the time constraints that come from the need to work and earn money (more fabrications of the powers that be which this ‘ol Thornsman won’t delve into this time around) also handicap the process of re-building.

My late kinsman, Björn, used to use the term ‘Re-Growing’ tribe because he felt that in order to be successful a tribal gathering had to be organic and adaptable; it had to flow and bend in the winds of change. I think he was quite correct in that.

Healthy human beings often thrive in groups. Groups are conducive to creating good environments for families and from these things community can arise. Communities are often the stuff from which tribes can form.

So how do we re-grow these Pagan tribes?

Well, I am sadly, far from being any kind of authority in this area because I too am in the process, like many of you, of reconnecting with tribal folk. All I can do is share my own experiences. In my own case I was lucky enough to get a taste of tribe back when I was a young fella, back in the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. I was brought into a loose gathering of tribal people (the Thornish tradition) as well as given access to the tribal traditions of a number of my Native relations. From these experiences I learned a metric tonne, but still, caught up in the swirl of the modern world people scatter with the currents of time. It is hard to gather folk together and even harder to forge their fellowship into a cohesive and resilient whole.

The basis is finding folk like you are and growing the trust and the bonds of common interest from there. For me outside of a relatively small cadre of Thornish people, this is still a work in progress.

Common interest is a big one. As a friend of mine recently commented: “You have to look at how specialized you want your ‘dream team’ of tribal folks to be. Do you want them to be exactly along the same lines as you are or are you willing to be more open, within reason, as to who becomes involved.”

Another friend asked: “Yeah and you want to decide how far you want to go with these people. Do you want to simply form lifelong friendships and meet regularly for fellow ship or do you want to look at getting tribal land and living with these folks?”

Another excellent consideration to be sure.

Good points to consider. I know a fellow who was quite successful at forming what he called ‘umbrella’ organizations within the Heathen community – a place where folks of different tribal/spiritual affiliations could gather. This is an interesting idea to consider.

The magical community – as in real traditional witches – some seem to be quite good at gathering together. At least in the case of witches who aren’t dedicated solitaries.

Other folks want people who are very much on the same social/political/spiritual frequency as they are. This might be a bit tougher to wrangle into a scenario where these folk can arrange actual physical meetings and other interactions.

The next step, after figuring out who you want to be with, is working on creating that physical proximity. A tough nut to crack sometimes. I know of Heathen Kindreds who have been successful even though some of their members have had to drive for hours to get to gatherings. I have also heard of other Pagan gatherings which have had a measure of success in the deeper, urban environments of the cities, using resources like forums, social media and even Meetup or Youtube channels as links.

It seems to be something which comes from a combination of vision, communication, hard work and yeah; plain luck.

In my own case I use the above methods as well as a few others to meet up with like-minded folk. Also the fact that I am an author has created some very interesting and powerful opportunities for tribal interaction.  Indeed even at this time, My Lady and I and a few others are speaking about the construction of a more regular meeting of Pagan tribal people in our area. Of course our area of interest is focused more on deep tribal people who are not so much interested in religion but in primal spirituality. It’s tough to find folks like that (who don’t turn out to be wiccans or new agers or ‘shaman’ wannabes) but when we do it’s always worth the effort.

The key is that it is ALWAYS worth the effort to try.

To quote another friend: “The thing is to try and not to sit around just talking about it. You gotta put yourself out there and forge the idea into the talk and then into the tribe.”

It can be done. People are waking up. They are seeing past the lies that so much of the modern world is constructed from.

People want to go home. They want their tribes back.

Time to turn the dream into the reality folks. The Earth needs this; our species needs this and our descendants certainly need this.

Time to go home; back to tribe.

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