Search the Northvegr™ Site

Powered by
The Vík: Buy Heathen!
  Home | Site Index | Heithinn Idea Contest |
NESP Reviews


The Well of Remembrance
Rediscovering the Earth Wisdom
Myths of Northern Europe

by Ralph Metzner

with contributions by

Bärbel Kreidt
Norbert Mayer
Christian Rätsch

ISBN #1-57062-028-8

Reviewed by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir

        Before I being this review I want to quote some of Metzner's words that are just so dead on correct they should be read by as many people as possible. So if you will indulge me, a few quotes from Metzner before I begin the review of his book.

“Because I was aware of the massive taboo against Germanic mythology, I approached its study with considerable anxiety. This taboo arose because the Nazis appeared to have been involved in an attempted revival of ancient Germanic religion and practices. Like most people, I had an almost visceral revulsion against any belief system even remotely associated with the Nazis' genocidal ideology. Yet in my study of Germanic myth I did not find in it any resemblance to the paranoid racism that was central to the Nazi worldview. Basically, it appears that, for their own ideological, propagandistic purposes, and the Nazis appropriated certain themes that they claimed to have found in Germanic myth and combined them with illusory assumptions about Aryan racial supremacy. One could say that the Nazis laid a curse on Germanic mythology.”
(Metzner p.4)

“I concluded fairly soon that close, unbiased examination does not support the view that Germanic myth, supplemented by Nietzsche's philosophy and Wagner's operas was the mass-psychological motivational impulse for the genocidal holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis. In searching for writings that would document the supposed psychological affinity of Nazi ideas with Germanic myth, I found nothing beyond assertions, with little or no evidence to support them, that such as affinity exists. In discussion with friends in Germany who expressed uneasiness about engaging with Germanic myth, I argued that we should not let the Nazis' perverse misappropriation of this mythic complex alienate us from the rich and beautiful mythology of our ancestors.” (Metzner p.18)

“The conclusion that emerged for me from my reading on the origins of Nazism was that Hitler and his followers basically appropriated certain themes and symbols they claimed to have found in Germanic prehistory and myth for their own ideological, propagandistic purposes. Although they claimed that these cultural themes were part of the ancestral genetic heritage of Nordic Aryans, in actuality this claim was based on a fantastic mishmash of racial and occult speculation that has no basis either in the facts of genetic biology or in the religion and worldview of the ancient Germanic people.” (Metzner p.25-26)

“For some years, I have been gradually coming to a deeper realization of the importance of connecting with one's ancestors.” (Metzner p.5)

“When considering ancestral, hereditary influences, modern Western psychiatry, based as it is on a medical disease model, focuses on the negative, pathological patterns and their possible genetic causation – whether a hereditary disease or schizophrenia or alcoholism. This is in marked contrast to the beliefs of traditional , shamanistic cultures, in which positive, healthful patterns, strengths as well as weaknesses, may be traced to the ancestors.” (Metzner p.5-6)

“Unconscious assumptions prevent most people from communicating with ancestors or ancestor spirits, since the commonly held belief is that communication with the dead is not possible. Even those who believe in the continuity of some form of consciousness after death rarely take the further step of attempting to establish communication. Of course, practitioners in various culturally marginal traditions, such as spiritualists, spiritists, mediums, psychics, or channels, do claim such communication. Actually, in most societies the world over where the Euro-American worldview is not exclusively dominant, communication with deceased ancestors is an accepted and normal part of social reality. No metaphysical bias prevents such people from looking to their ancestors for both the origins and the solutions to many of their problems. This practice is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “ancestor worship,” though it is nothing of the kind. The deceased ancestors are not worshiped; they are respected, just as they were when alive. Whenever possible, one maintains communication with them for the purpose of receiving guidance.” (Metzner p. 6)

“Traditional religious and philosophical thought assumes with unquestioning unanimity that the transition from polytheistic animism to transcendental monotheism represents a major advance in the capacity for abstract theological symbolization. The possibility that this shift might have been largely motivate by political impulses – to increase the power and wealth of the priesthood – is rarely considered.” (Metzner p.56-57)

This book starts out with some excellent writing in the introduction and prologue. Although the author subscribes to Marija Gimbutas' modern fiction of the peace loving great goddess culture which was driven out by the war loving patriarchal culture (a fiction that has been shown to be nothing more than a modern invention by Lotte Motz in her excellent book “The Faces of the Goddess”) he can be forgiven this, as everything else in the lengthy introduction and prologue are so spot on. It is, however, when we get to the section dealing with the migrations and the religious world view of the North, that his support of the great goddess culture begins to be cumbersome. His main theory here, is that there was a great goddess culture that was peace loving and matriarchal where men and women were treated as equals and everyone had a generally really good time. Then came the war loving patriarchal Indo-Europeans who destroyed the goddess loving, peace loving matriarchal society. In his theory Christianity was an extension of what had already been started by the Indo-Europeans. His assertion that the Indo-Europeans occupied a transitional time between the fictional goddess society and misogynistic and enslaving society of Christianity is especially annoying, given that the whole theory has as its foundation the fictional great goddess society. We know that women, in the supposedly misogynistic society of the Indo-Europeans had a great many rights and freedoms. So all of his theories based on this fictional peace loving, matriarchal society, therefore, fall completely to pieces due to the faulty base on which they are built. Despite this, his other theories are not only sound but in my opinion profoundly correct. His only problem is that he takes a minor detour in arriving at the correct place. His contention that the Indo-Europeans started a process of the desacralization of nature that was continued and magnified by the monotheistic religions just does not hold water. Anyone doing some well rounded research in Northern tradition will easily find the truth of this.
The desacralization of nature was a uniquely Abrahamic feature. For instance there is this quote:

“Historian Lynn White Jr. has argued that as Christian theology developed during the Middle Ages, with its emphasis on the chasm between the divine world of a transcendent Creator God and the profane created world, implicitly condoned, if not actively encouraged, a domineering and exploitive attitude toward the natural world.” (Metzner p.60)

        Metzner goes on to describe how Germanic society was structured; basically based on the family which was part of a group of families called a “clan” which was in turn part of a group of clans that formed a tribe. He quotes Klaus Bemmann saying:

“Honor was the soul of the clan. One's self-esteem was based on the honor of the clan, which in turn derived from the deeds of the ancestors, their wealth and reputation, and one's own deeds affected the honor of the clan, kin.”

Metzner goes on to say:

“Thus the honor, fame, and reputation of the individual were totally dependent on the clan and its ancestors. If a clan's ancestor had performed heroic or valorous deeds, and the fame and reputation adhered to all the descendants. Conversely, if someone committed an act of treachery, the whole clan was dishonored.”

This is an important concept that Metzner describes for it is one of the main tenants of the Northern Way. All to often we conduct ourselves with only “number 1” in mind, i.e in a selfish manner. This was not the case in Germanic society. One always had to be mindful of how ones own actions affected kin. To bring dishonor on oneself was to bring dishonor on one's kin as well.

Another important subject spoken of is from one of the contributors to the book, Bärbel Kreidt. This section is called, “Visions of the Fourfold Goddess.” Here, again, as with the rest of the book, the great goddess theory is presented and should be ignored. And as with the rest of the book, this does not take away from what is being said here. What is presented here is nothing less than the freeing of a woman from the shackles of the Christian mind-set; the giving of freedom to a woman to be herself and exult in everything it is to be woman. Each of these so-called four aspects of the goddess are in reality, four aspects of womanhood that Kreidt has personified into goddess ideals. Every woman should read this chapter and take seriously to heart what is being said here, not as actual representations of Northern goddesses but as vital parts of their own womanhood. Woman as lover, woman as seer, woman as sword wielding defender and woman as healer. All vital aspects of what it is to be a woman. I especially liked what she had to say under the section dealing with woman as sword wielding defender (Freyja: Goddess of Battle). Here she says:

“This aspect of the völvas restores to women the feeling that they have a right to direct their wrath against those who disregard or destroy their liveliness, their possibilities for developing themselves, their bodies. More than that, it indicates that it is their duty to do so. The same thing applies when other are attacked. It is not understanding that is called for, but battle. Völvas are women to watch out for.”

There is so much said in that one paragraph. One, if not looking closely enough, view what is being said as very selfish, perhaps seeing this as a statement of the lone wolf mentality. Nothing of the sort is true. A true woman will defend her husband, her children, her kin, her tribe, with a ferociousness equal to any man but the true woman is not free to do that unless she herself is free. That is what I believe that Kreidt is saying. We as women must throw off the shackles of Christian ideology and reclaim what it is to be a woman; what Kreidt would call the Fourfold goddess. Northern tradition is a tradition of giving. For a woman to truly be able to give she must first be free.

Kreidt further describes this aspect of the whole woman:

“A hurricane of feelings beings, a volcanic eruption. Wrath, anger, hate, revenge. The woman who emerges in not nice, not harmless, not good-natured. She disturbs the apparent peace, breaks the silence that has been politely observed till now. She is radical, questions everything, and stands everything on its head. She calls injustice by name, insists upon clear convictions, confronts all without pity, herself included. She draws conclusions and accepts responsibility.”

Many who claim to be followers of Northern tradition; one that “respects” the feminine show just how much they are not free of the Christian mindset when they are confronted with the woman described above. They are threatened by that woman and they strike out against her. They spread slander about her behind her back, working to undermine anything she does. I think this reaction is more a subconscious reaction than anything else and is one engendered from lack of experience in dealing with such women. These women are not, in our Christian dominated society, very often found. We as Northwomen need to make sure that in our community; our tribes, that these kinds of women are the rule, not the exception. Do you want to see if a man truly follows a Northern tradition and is truly strong and confident in who he is and has divested himself of the Christian mindset? See how he reacts to a woman who is free like the one described above and you will find whether or not he is that true Northman.
        This is not to say that we women are free of the blame for this attitude taken toward us. When we allow it, we enable it. We need to encourage our men to be free to show compassion, to respect the unique strengths we as women have, just as we should respect the unique strengths they, as men, have.
        What is of value here is Metzner's presentation of the importance of reconnecting with one's ancestors, with the land and with one's own self free of the guilt and repression that Christianity has brought. The presentation of these ideas is what makes this book well worth reading despite its shortcomings in other areas. Check it out.

© 2004-2007 Northvegr.
Most of the material on this site is in the public domain. However, many people have worked very hard to bring these texts to you so if you do use the work, we would appreciate it if you could give credit to both the Northvegr site and to the individuals who worked to bring you these texts. A small number of texts are copyrighted and cannot be used without the author's permission. Any text that is copyrighted will have a clear notation of such on the main index page for that text. Inquiries can be sent to Northvegr™ and the Northvegr symbol are trademarks and service marks of the Northvegr Foundation.

> Northvegr™ Foundation
>> About Northvegr Foundation
>> What's New
>> Contact Info
>> Link to Us
>> E-mail Updates
>> Links
>> Mailing Lists
>> Statement of Purpose
>> Socio-Political Stance
>> Donate

> The Vík - Online Store
>> More Norse Merchandise

> Advertise With Us

> Heithni
>> Books & Articles
>> Trúlög
>> Sögumál
>> Heithinn Date Calculator
>> Recommended Reading
>> The 30 Northern Virtues

> Recommended Heithinn Faith Organizations

>> Transcribe Texts
>> Translate Texts
>> HTML Coding
>> PDF Construction

> N. European Studies
>> Texts
>> Texts in PDF Format
>> NESP Reviews
>> Germanic Sources
>> Roman Scandinavia
>> Maps

> Language Resources
>> Zoëga Old Icelandic Dict.
>> Cleasby-Vigfusson Dictionary
>> Sweet's Old Icelandic Primer
>> Old Icelandic Grammar
>> Holy Language Lexicon
>> Old English Lexicon
>> Gothic Grammar Project
>> Old English Project
>> Language Resources

> Northern Family
>> Northern Fairy Tales
>> Norse-ery Rhymes
>> Children's Books/Links
>> Tafl
>> Northern Recipes
>> Kubb

> Other Sections
>> The Holy Fylfot
>> Tradition Roots

Search Now:

Host Your Domain on Dreamhost!

Please Visit Our Sponsors

Web site design and coding by Golden Boar Creations