Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Northern Spirit

The Northern spirit is dissatisfied with a desert god.

In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends....We enjoy now, not an Oriental, but a Boreal leisure, around warm stoves and fireplaces, and watch the shadow of motes in the sunbeams.

Sometimes our fate grows too homely and familiarly serious ever to be cruel. Consider how for three months the human destiny is wrapped in furs. The good Hebrew Revelation takes no cognizance of all this cheerful snow. Is there no religion for the temperate and frigid zones? We know of no scripture which records the pure benignity of the gods on a New England winter night. The best scripture, after all, records but a meager faith. Its saints live reserved and austere. Let a brave, devout one spend the year in the woods of Maine or Labrador, and see if the Hebrew Scriptures speak adequately to their condition and experience, from the setting in of winter to the breaking up of the ice.

- italics from A Winter Walk, Henry David Thoreau (Henry David Thoreau's forebears, as well as it can be traced, were English, French and Scottish.)


Bjorn Odinsson said...

This is wonderful MA! So true. Religions best serve the peoples and climes those peoples are descended from. The Hebrew and Palestinian folk know genetically or from personal experience the harsh heat of the desert. Their religion was built around that heat and arid wasteland. Their God is austere because their landscape was austere.

Our ancestors' lands were harsh and wild, and this can be seen as reflected in many sagas and myths, however we developed a folk-specific mentality about this dark landscape. We learned to overcome and the meet challenges and enemies head on, knowing if we were victorious, we would achieve luxury and riches.

I do not see this in the Middle Eastern monotheistic folkways. Those beliefs are alien to our blood and bones!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't know - Joe used to live in Phoenix, Arizona (a place he says feels more like home to him than any other spot on earth) and he definitely felt the presence of the Holy Powers there, as well as the presence of the etin-kind.

I've never been there so I don't know what it would be like. Bug on a plate, methinks. LOL!

Morning Angel said...

Hi, Red, thank you for your comment. I agree that Arizona (and the home of the Canaanites) are home to the spirits. What Thoreau (and I and Bjorn) are saying is that different peoples have adopted different ways of connecting to those same spirits.

The wisdom of the Northern Way has been preserved in literature, as well as, passed down in our culture--think of folkways like "knocking on wood," erecting gravestones, painting hex signs, etc. If we want to recapture the meaning of those old ways, that wisdom, we can through study. Naturally, we can't do it perfectly. Time and place and winds have altered the trail, but we, at least, discover a path that satisfies the ancestral urges of the North.