Happy Tyr’s Day:
My first run though in Of Wolves and Ravens with the schedule I will probably focus on the Nine Noble Virtues, the second time I will focus on the flip side. In the case of courage, the other side is Western Philosophy. Last week it was pretty easy to mesh the ideas of Honor and Eastern Philosophy. This week was becoming a challenge until I realized that part of Western philosophy is the Viking Philosophy of Courage. Much of this is related to their understanding of bears.
The vikings revered bears on a very spiritual level. The admired them to be sure for their raw power and courage, but it was the fact that one could encounter a bear in the wild and that bear would not act in fear in the presence of man. I am fairly certain while bears might note man’s presence, they give him little regard as far as being a threat. It was this philosophy indeed that led some to become Berserkers. Men who would work themselves up into a fearless frenzy invoking the spirit of the bear.
Courage as a Virtue for me has been a challenge. In large part I think my Christianity is to blame. Modern Western Christianity both lessens the potential of women by keeping them in a subservient role to men and emasculates men by forcing men to deny their more basic masculine instincts. Both of these issues cause both men and women to act with less courage than they should.
For myself I have had to reevaluate what it means to be a man and part of that has involved facing the fact that as a Christian, I was not as courageous as I should have been. If there is a spiritual reason for my rejection of Christianity outside my four theological objections, it is this attempted emasculation of men by Christianity as it stands today. For me this embracing courage and facing life more as a man of courage is central now to my philosophy.
To the Wolves and Ravens:
This quote from the Havamal shows the need for courage on a deeply spiritual level. The times one should have acted in courage but didn’t will haunt you and leave you without peace of mind. Regret is the final outcome of cowardice and it makes a man less of a man and a woman less of a woman. Mankind needs courage.
I want courage as well as it allows me to achieve more than I could without it. Taking action is the way to greater things and that requires courage. I have come to realize that procrastination may very well be at times an act of cowardice, because I don’t want to take a risk on certain things. Other times it might be I am still thinking on it to long or I lack industriousness that I need as well, but there are a few acts of procrastination that should and would not happen if I simply had the courage to act.
Being reasonable about courage is hard. But you cannot deny as a rational person that courage is something that is at times rational, because without it many things that are beneficial cannot be achieved. There is of course a difference between being courageous and being foolhardy. The difference is found in whether the act has a rational outcome believe it or not. Does the act of courage lead to self-exaltation and to no positive outcome, or does it lead to the protection of all that one holds sacred and achievement of goals that are beneficial.
Wisdom is hard with this one other than to say that courage is not always found in the big actions that we often say are acts of courage but in the small actions of living life and going forward each day. The Viking philosophy of how one dies is important, but I can only face my actual death once. I face life every single day and there are multiple acts of courage and confidence I need to do so. Courage is far more regularly needed in living life than the one-act of death I will face.
I would say the Viking philosophy of courage is true. It is needed, wanted and it is both rational and wise to be a courageous person. The Spirit of the Bear needs to be invoked regularly. Something I need to embrace far more for my own benefit and the benefit of those I love and that which I hold dear. The journey of the Grey Wayfarer is hopefully going to be a long one and will require many more acts of courage to be a good one. May I take each action with courage.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.