Thursday, October 20, 2011

Othala #1 – Recovering the Occult Mythology Of Ancestors In Spite Of Nazi Bastards.

By Mr. VI
Eþel byþ oferleof æghwylcum men,
gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on
brucan on bolde bleadum oftast. 

An estate is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity. - Anglo Saxon Rune Poem.

I'm not a Nazi but...

Actually, there is no 'but'. I'm just plain not, so sorry if you were looking for a crypto-Nazi (neo or original) beneath my beard. This is as much a disclaimer as you're going to get, because frankly if I had any sympathy for the vile policies of a potty Austrian painter and his mates, I would have committed suicide long ago because I'd see myself as a drain on the volk.

(It's a cripple thing, all right?)

However, the very fact that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of this article should tell you something, because here at Modern Mythology, it's exactly what we're interested in. This is the first part in a series of posts on the recovery of Norse and Germanic mythology from its status as Nazi source material.

 Obviously in the mostly(!) secular Western Culture, the notion of the devil has passed into the realm of superstition – an ultimate avatar or instigator of evil no longer prowls the world looking for people to devour.

But the very fact that such a figure could engender such horror in the minds of the population for thousands of years seems to suggest it has an importance. Even before Christianity, the notion of malevolent or evil spirits was present in almost every culture. Even today, we acknowledge the existence of creatures that bring sickness and death – ancient, alien beings that are nigh on immortal and can survive in conditions that would slaughter us in a second.

We call them bacteria or viruses, and we are constantly struggling to preserve our integrity against their invasions, the malignant infestation and degradation of flesh and blood. Their existence is as real to us as the devil or evil spirit would be to another less rationalist culture. Sheer revulsion and disgust, fear and loathing – these are not rational experiences, though they may be rationalised after the fact. There is a darkness to which we react, an impenetrable and unintelligible form of existence which is anathema to us and our way of thinking.

The figures that engender such reactions shift and change with time, but to deny that they become imbued with abhorrence is to deny something fundamental about being human. One only has to watch any debate in the comment section of a website for a little while before Godwin's law comes out and somebody is accused of being a Nazi.

Leaving aside the fact that there is no longer a National Socialist party run by Adolf Hitler, the designation has nothing to do with actual political belief, and more to do with that same anathema. The Nazi operations in the Second World War shocked the world with their barbarity and apparent inhumanity.

Let's face it, to the majority of the world the Nazis are hell spawn and Adolf Hitler is the devil himself – an impenetrably evil figure that espoused a poisonous philosophy which ensnared many and slaughtered even more.

Thus, like any evil spirit, there are signs and sigils which may summon them from whatever deep subterranean ideaspace they lie buried in. Chief amongst them is the swastika, stark and potent in its simplicity – iconic in its ferocity. It conjures uneasiness, a symbolic door into darkness that promises nothing but horror to most, and a grim uncompromising purity to those who wish to resurrect the ideology of Hitler and his cronies.

But it was not always thus. Before the co-option of the swastika by the Nazi party, it was an ancient symbol of health and protection dating back millennia. It had been carved on stone and rock thousands of years before Hitler put pen to paper and wrote his manifesto.

Yet in roughly 75 solar orbits, what was once a sun-wheel shining brightly has now come to epitomise one of the darkest periods in human history. How is this possible? How is it possible that this symbol, which is still considered beneficial in Hindu and Far Eastern cultures, has become so poisoned as to become a shorthand for atrocity?

This is the meat and drink of what we do here, because a spectacular form of hermeneutics has occurred in Western culture. One must understand this before we can move forward, and thus we must consider the background of late 19th century and early 20th century Europe – a time when Romanticism spread, almost in direct reaction to the Industrial Revolution. With a massive cultural shift occurring, in order to maintain some sense of identity, Nationalism and Romanticism combined to provide a method of remaining somewhat stable in the face of significant change.

In any changing situation, there will inevitably be those who seek to connect with the essence or fundamental spirit of their origin. Combine this with the perceived humiliation of Germany at the end of World War I, and we have a population desperate to orientate themselves and preserve their sense of self integrity.

What better way to do this than to deliberately cultivate a connection to the ancient past, to seek out the bedrock below the shifting sands of time? This is precisely what the Nazis did – they appealed to a fundamental hunger, and surrounded themselves with symbolism and language that evoked the mythic and timeless themes of strength and purity. By linking themselves to these complex, almost atavistic associations, they were able to draw on the fundamental power of metaphor and myth to reorder the narrative in a way that suited them.

Unpleasant as it may seem, an analysis of how they did this is at the very least fascinating, and definitely important for any of us who seek to understand and work with the potent resources that are accessed by storytelling, mythopoesis (mythmaking) and deep meaning.

Indeed, the enduring fascination with Nazi occultism could be directly linked to a similar reflex within the context of the devil – there is an enduring association between apparent devil worship and magical power. The very term "occult" arises from an etymology meaning “hidden”and much of the fascination comes from the unseen nature, and the impenetrability of certain aspects of "evil".

The renowned psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung wrote an essay on the seeming possession of the German people under Hitler:

Perhaps we may sum up this general phenomenon as Ergriffenheit — a state of being seized or possessed. The term postulates not only an Ergriffener (one who is seized) but, also, an Ergreifer (one who seizes). Wotan is an Ergreifer of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler — which has indeed actually happened — he is really the only explanation


[T]he most peculiar feature of this whole phenomenon, namely, the dramatic aspect of the Ergreifer and the Ergriffener. The impressive thing about the German phenomenon is that one man, who is obviously “possessed,” has infected a whole nation to such an extent that everything is set in motion and has started rolling on its course towards perdition.
Rather than an external deity, Jung treats Wotan as an atavistic portion of the German psyche – a furor teutonicus as he puts it. This archetype, Jung claims, surfaces under certain conditions – leading to a kind of furious chaos that has its parallels in Dionysus. Indeed, both figures are associated with madness and poetry and both figures are ambivalent in nature.

This long-standing identification with the pagan past and Nazism has led to the general dismissal of that same pagan past as a doorway into the kind of madness that gripped Germany and gave rise to and allowed the elevation of Hitler. Indeed as Fuhrer, Hitler directly identified himself as the furious war leader and guide of people bound together by blood and kinship. Similarly, in Germanic folklore Wotan leads a band of huntsmen or ghostly, restless dead at the head of the coming storm.

While we are in no way suggesting a direct link between Wotan and Hitler, there is a great deal of unconscious association betwixt the two, leading Jung to believe that the German psyche was ripe for such a “possession”.

Given the existence of the Ahnenerbe, the Nazi think tank which billed itself as “the society for the study of Intellectual Ancient History” it is obvious that the Nazi regime deliberately linked itself to past glories in order to strengthen its hold over the minds of the populace.

Founded by Heinrich Himmler and others – Himmler was leader of the SS – the Ahnenerbe launched numerous expeditions to far-off places to establish the antiquity and superiority of the Aryan race. It is the Ahnenerbe which has given rise to the notion of Nazi Occultism.

As part of the SS, its elite status created an apparently hidden inner circle which investigated subjects that may be considered occult – investigating a Finnish sorcerer and supposedly discovering Nordic runes in a cave in Italy, which led to the theory that ancient Rome may have been of Nordic descent.

Such wide ranging areas of interest have given rise to the notion that Nazi Occultism was a major force within the Reich, and this had been amplified by many depictions in popular media, like Indiana Jones or the Hellboy mythos. While this is inaccurate, it is obvious that certain factors within the regime understood the atavistic power of mythology and some at least held beliefs which would be classed as occult.

Sadly in the case of Nordic runes and myth, because of Nazi interest, they have become linked in the popular mind with Nazi mythology itself – for if nothing else Himmler and his cohorts created their own mythology from a fusion of Germanic influences.

While drawing from this well of ancient imagery and associations, they arranged it in such a way as to enhance and justify their own agenda. Since much of this imagery and association had previously been unconscious in the minds of the populace, when it was "recovered from obscurity" it became inextricably and directly connected to the Nazi regime itself. In a sense, the Reich poisoned the well – thus ensuring that all who drew upon it inevitably discovered Reich's "ancient”pedigree and its fundamental nature in the world.

In effect Himmler had allowed the regime to parasitise all that had come before it, meaning that all atavistic and occult movements within the psyche and larger population were pressed into service for the Reich. Ultimately, the occultists of the time were either adopted into the SS or placed in concentration camps – the regime had a monopoly on investigating the deep currents which moved beyond the rational mind.

By seizing upon the psychological currents of the populace and denying alternatives, Himmler was able to channel countless deep narratives to feed into the ideology and person of Hitler, amplifying his influence and allowing him to impress his ideology into the unconscious awareness of the people.

 Fortunately for many, it was Hitler's own madness which destroyed him and toppled the regime – even he could not control the atavistic fury which erupted once it had been woken. Indeed, one may argue that this was the mistake made by the Reich – that it is impossible to control such force as this, for it is as deep and primal as any power known to mankind. Perhaps it can only be modulated, experienced and felt precisely like a storm – something that arises, occurs, and passes on its own account, and if so, is it any wonder our ancestors called it a god?

To master such a thing is not to control it, but rather to learn its intricacies and its secrets on its own terms – sui generis. Thus to do so, we must engage in a communication with it, bring ourselves closer to it. By immersing ourselves in the well, despite the poison -and indeed because of it - to rediscover what lies beneath, we learn to swim in those same occult currents, those same ancient depths. In the grandest tradition, we transmute that poison and pass through the madness into ecstasy.

To those of us who acknowledge the power of the ancient atavistic figures, whether like Jung we regard it within a psychological framework, or a metaphysical one, we are faced with recovering our roots and accepting that to find them, we must pass through the vileness that has stained so much of the notion of ancestry, passing out the other side to join with those who came before the Nazis.

In this sense, we again become pagans and heathens -two terms which originally relate to the people of the country, or the people of the heath - interacting with our landscape, our ancestors and our stories, just as the oldest surviving cultures on the planet do.

Direct experience that links us to ancestral narratives has often been lost, leaving many Westerners unsure of their origins and lacking a mythology with which to comprehend the incomprehensible. Unfortunately for some, the taint of the Nazis and the general reaction to anything associated with them drives them away from a narrative that might enable them to situate themselves within the larger context of their lives.

Within the neopagan community, there are those who simply choose to identify as non-Abrahamic in their beliefs, but there are also those who acknowledge the necessity for feral thinking and an existence which places them at odds with the generic epistemology and perception of the world.

In the next article, I'll be examining the implications of feral thinking, and the way in which some individuals have bypassed the negative associations of Nazism to reclaim the Norse and Germanic narratives that operate for their own betterment and the benefit of others.

Be seeing you.

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