Posted on

Struggling Faith: Living Without Fear

Votive Art by Connla Freyjason featuring elements from Imramma and Art Life (coming soon). Imramma is available via clicking this image. (Link opens in new tab.)

In the last blog post of this series, we began to explore prayer as a method of reaching out to the ultimate–the sacred–in times of great need.  Learning to trust and rely on Deity to get us through those tough times can be a bit more challenging than it might seem at first blush, however.  Face it: part of the reason people fall into “faith ruts” in the first place is because they feel that God(s) has let them down in some way, in much the same way that other humans often let us down.  You may, in fact, be sitting out there right now saying “why the hell should I trust and rely on Them, after that last crap they pulled in my life that got me to this point in the first place?”

One of the definitions of trust is actually hope.  That may come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s right there at Merriam-Webster:

Trust:  dependence on something future or contingent; HOPE

While we’re taking a look at definitions, let’s go ahead and take a look at rely as well:

Rely:  to trust in or depend on.

If trust is synonymous with hope, then to rely may then be defined as:

Rely:  to hope in or depend on.

Ultimately, a loss of hope is also a loss of trust, and without trust, we can’t rely on anyone or anything.  Since we have previously  defined faith as the “simple, pervading presence of hope“, it’s no wonder that a loss of hope leads to a loss of faith, and vice versa.  It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s one that we’re presently striving to end.   We end that cycle by learning to live without fear.

One of my all-time favorite quotes on the subject of fear appears in the Litany Against Fear, practiced by the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood in James Herbert’s Dune:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

“Fear is the mind-killer.” This highlights the number one thing that fear does to us: it is crippling.  Fear leads to stagnation; it stops the mind from working to its full capacity, and eventually, if left unchecked, can lead us to “stuckness”.  We stop doing anything, because we come to fear everything.  Instead of looking forward with glad expectancy, the fearful mind always looks forward with dread.  Consequently, the person overcome with fear generally begins as a person preoccupied with worry; worry begins the downward spiral into full-fledged fear.

We began dealing with worry when working to find the God of Green Hope within each of us.  Hopefully, it is an issue you have since been working on dealing with. Many of our worries in life are simple ones, easily handled by a simple change in perspective. But what about those worries that are simply too big for us to handle all by ourselves?  This is where trusting and relying on God(s) comes in.

Have you ever been to one of those amusement park style haunted houses with a group of friends?  If you have, it is likely that you are familiar with the concept of using one or more of those friends as a “human shield”: putting them between yourself and whatever was jumping out to frighten you.  You may also recall “hiding behind Mommy” (or Daddy) as a child.  Our trusting and relying on God(s) works much the same way: They become a buffer between what worries us or frightens us, and us.  Basically, you will be using God(s) as a “human shield” or “meat shield”, between yourself and the scary things, so you can free your mind from the crippling influence of fear. Let Them deal with the scary stuff, so that you can run towards better things!

My favorite example of this in Norse Tradition is the story of Sigyn and Loki.  Loki doesn’t really trust anyone or anything else, largely because He knows He Himself cannot be trusted.  When He finally takes things way too far, and is finally punished by the Gods for His actions, He finds Himself enchained in the entrails of His own son, with a venom-dripping serpent positioned over His face.  The pain of the dripping venom is agonizing: think of the acid-laced drool of the xenomorph in the Alien films.  Only one person steps forth to provide a buffer between Loki and the steady drip of that poison: His wife, Sigyn.  She holds a bowl or cup over Loki’s face, to catch the venom before it can hit Him square in the face.  And He trusts Her to do it–to provide Him respite–because, really, He has no other choice.  Sometimes, when it comes to dealing with fear in our own lives, we have no other choice, either, but to trust and rely on God(s).  If we can learn to “hand off” our fears to Them, then we can eventually come to entirely live without fear.

life without fear teaches us to expect, instead of dread.  Once we can face life with exuberant expectancy, we will find ourselves going after life, rather than running away from it.  Our minds are more free, when they are unencumbered by worry, fear, and doubt, which means we can actively accomplish more in our waking hours.  Living life this way, slowly but surely, we can come to replace dread with hope.

I include the prayer below (in both a Heidhrinn and Christian version) to provide a starting point for building trust and reliance on God(s), towards an arrival at a life without fear.  Feel free to use them, with or without personal embellishment.

Sigyn’s Shield
Hail Sigyn,
Mother Strong;
She Who stands between
Me and my fears:
Hold the cup,
And catch their poison;
Shield my face from their sting.
Teach me not only to endure,
But to rise above.
And when calm washes over me,
And peace again returns,
Let me turn my mind
To thank You,
And my heart toward love.
Blessed be.
 
Mary’s Shield
Hail Mary,
Mother Strong;
She Who stands between
Me and my fears:
Hold the cup,
And catch their poison;
Shield my face from their sting.
Teach me not only to endure,
But to rise above.
And when calm washes over me,
And peace again returns,
Let me turn my mind
To thank You,
And my heart toward love.
Amen.
 

Once we come to live without fear, we may then turn our minds towards inspiration and anticipation, which will be the topic of the next blog post in this series. I look forward to bringing that to you next week!

Posted on

Mindful Monday: Hagalaz-Nauthiz-Isa-Jera

 

I’ve been working my way through a twenty-seven night runic initiation.  The first nine nights consisted of working through Freyja’s aett (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kenaz, Gebo, Wunjo), but I have now begun working with Heimdall’s aett (Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perdhro, Algiz, Sowilo).  Some would consider nine nights working with those particular runes to be a weighty–possibly even a profoundly negative–exercise.  However, I am finding a peace within Heimdall’s runes that I never might have expected.  

My ultimate guideline for the study of each rune has been stanza 143 of the Havamal (literally: “Sayings of the High One”; the sayings of Odin, Codex Regius, 13th century):  

Do you know how to carve them?
Do you know how to use them to advise?
Do you know how to paint them?
Do you know how to prove them?
Do you know how to pray them?
Do you know how to blot them?
Do you know how to send them?
Do you know how to destroy them?

–Translation Mine

And within those first four runes of Heimdall’s aett, I have found a “recipe”, if you will, for getting through the more stressful times in life:

Hagalaz:

  • Deity: Heimdall
  • Rune of destruction and controlled chaos; of testing and trial which lead to harmony.
  • Advises against catastrophe, stagnation, suffering, and pain.
  • Proven by accepting those things which are beyond one’s control.
  • Prayed: Help
  • Sent forth as harmony in the face of opposition

Nauthiz:

  • Deity: Sigyn
  • Rune of resistance leading to strength; of delays and restrictions; of endurance, survival, determination, self-reliance, and the will to overcome.
  • Advises against deprivation, imprisonment, and distress.
  • Proven by standing fast in the face of trials and via innovation born of strength of will.
  • Prayed: Overcome
  • Sent forth as strength and compassionate endurance.

Isa:

  • Deity: Skadi
  • Rune of challenges and frustrations; of standstills and times for introspection and/or turning inward; of holding fast.
  • Advises against treachery, illusion, deceit, and betrayal.
  • Proven by standing still and seeking clarity.
  • Prayed: Be Still.
  • Sent forth as stillness and the ability to hold fast.

Jera:

  • Deity: Gerdha
  • Rune of reaped rewards and fruitful seasons; of peace and happiness; of cycles and of change; of hopes, expectations, and successes earned.
  • Advises against bad timing, conflict, and reversals of fortune.
  • Proven by hoping and dreaming; by accepting and understanding the cycles of life in the Universe; by working hard to manifest one’s dreams.
  • Prayed: Bring.
  • Sent forth as peace and good seasons.

When faced with the stresses of life, it is all too easy to get caught up in them; to cling needlessly to the suffering and pain that they cause (Hagalaz).  However, if we follow the example inherent in the runes Nauthiz and Isa, we may learn to turn tragedy into triumph by quieting our minds and hearts, and, as we endure, using the force of our will to fuel innovation.  Jera promises that if we do this–accept and understand the cycles of the Universe–we will be gifted with reaped rewards and fruitful seasons. 

Last night, as I sang the galdr for Heimdall’s aett, I was gifted with the bind-rune, depicted in the upper left of the image above, as well as the accompanying galdr and prayer.  For those among our audience who are not working from a Norse base, I have also included Christian and Celtic-based cognates for the prayer.  I hope it will help others have a little less-Monday Monday.

Norse Version:

Heimdall, Help;
Sigyn, show me how to Overcome;
Gerdha, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Skadi may show me how to Be Still.

Celtic Version:

Manannan, Help;
Rhiannon, show me how to Overcome;
Taillte, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That the Cailleach may show me now to Be Still.

Christian Version:

Archangel Gabriel, Help;
Mother Mary, show me how to Overcome;
Saint Ruth, Grant Peace and Good Seasons,
That Saint Elizabeth may show me how to Be Still.