The author of this blog is receiving interesting responses to his proposal to explore developing a more liberal-leftist oriented form of Asatru-Nordic Paganism. Some people seem to like the idea; some seem to think it is absurd, even laughable. The father of a Norwegian-American friend opined, "I read the blog. Isn't the Norse ethos one of masculine strength and heroism rather than of concern for the weak? Somehow, I never thought of Odin as a liberal. Those virtues certainly imply a heroic ideal." I think this reaction honestly reflects the fact that beginning with Richard Wagner in the 19th century, we have all been fed a steady diet of Viking warrior imagery that leaves little space for consideration of more peaceful and non-macho aspects of Norse Pagan tradition. The author's attempt to swim against this tide would seem to be a distinctly minority position, but that does not mean it is hopeless. The author invites those with interest in this to submit their own selections and interpretations of Norse lore that suggest a kinder, gentler form of Asatru spirituality.
As a contribution to that enterprise, the author wishes to return to the topic of the earlier entry, "Would the Vikings Use the Euro?," to suggest that we need to update the concept of the Viking warrior hero to suit our modern world and conditions, rather than pretend that we can return to a medieval "paradise" where each man, armed with axe, sword and spear, would fight to the bloody death to defend and provide for his family on their lonely Norwegian farm, cold winds blowing through the fjord. Once more, I take inspiration from the modern Scandinavians, who have turned away from war and concentrated on peace and prosperity for a good many years, with excellent results that I would argue show the approval of the gods.
Whither the Viking warrior? The hero of the Scandinavians today is not swinging an axe to bash in his enemies' skulls, but wielding the force of education, knowledge and artistic sophistication. The battles of today's Scandinavia are fought not on a blood-soaked field of combat with ravens hovering overhead for a taste of fallen Viking flesh, but in the boardroom, the research laboratory, the university, the exhibition hall, and the arena of international respect and cooperation. Instead of focusing on narrow tribal concerns, modern-day Scandinavia awards its highest honors to those who further the cause of world peace. The austere beauty of Scandinavian design is respected around the world. Nokia cell phones and Ikea furniture have sailed to all corners of the world and peacefully conquered many hearts, minds and markets, bringing home bounty to the people of Scandinavia as surely as the Viking raiders and traders of a thousand years ago, and providing peace and security in a way that the original Vikings could not. Unless someone wants to assert that the Norse spirituality that we treasure in such texts as the Eddas and the Sagas is completely absent from modern-day Scandinavia, and that, in effect, "the only good Viking is a dead Viking," fossilized and frozen with matching sword, shield and axe, the author would argue that we need to take account of the peaceful evolution of Scandinavia and factor this into our interpretations of Norse tradition, and find the threads that connect past to present.
So the author urges those of like mind to take heart and not be timid. Let us not be mesmerized or intimidated by the stereotyped image of the Viking warrior. The heroic ideal has evolved, like Scandinavia itself. The author would argue that providing peace, security and plenty were always the primary aims of the Scandinavians, from the Vikings to the present. Certainly, the Middle Ages were times when war and violence may have been necessary to achieve those goals, and the stories of those blood-soaked days are naturally gripping and engrossing and always will be, but let's not forget, we are not living in those times. Furthermore, it would be highly ironic if we modern-day Norse pagans were to in any way endorse the stereotype of bloodthirsty, macho thugs created by medieval Christian clerics to forever vilify the Vikings. The medieval Scandinavians were people who valued art, poetry and intelligence to high degree, as their rich medieval literature demonstrates, and spent most of their time farming and fishing, not rampaging on Viking raids.
Odin is above all the god who searches for knowledge, who travels far and wide. He sacrifices his eye for wisdom, not for weapons. In the view of this blog's author, it is Odin the god of knowledge, poetry and wisdom who speaks most clearly to today's world, not the Odin who leads the doomed forces of Ragnarok.