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

In his introduction to The Well of Remembrance, author Ralph Metzner provides a telling explanation of the theme of his work: “This book explores some of the mythic roots of the Western worldview, the worldview of the culture that, for better and worse, has come to dominate most of the rest of the world‘s peoples. This domination has involved not only economic and political systems but also values, basic attitudes, religious beliefs, language, scientific understanding, and technological applications. Many individuals, tribes, and nations are struggling to free themselves from the residues of the ideological oppression practiced by what they see as Eurocentric culture. They seek to define their own ethnic or national identities by referring to ancestral traditions and mythic patterns of knowledge. At this time, it seems appropriate for Europeans and Euro-Americans likewise to probe their own ancestral mythology for insight and self-understanding” Focusing on the mythology and worldview of the pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Northern Europe, Metzner offers a meaningful exploration of Western ancestry.

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  1. Anthony S. says

    Drinking from this Well is Well-Worth it! Drinking from this Well is Well-Worth it! Ralph Metzner has helped us to remember many of the Old myths of northern Europe. With great detail, he shows the history and social developments which shaped the beliefs of the northern people. This is not a book of modern day Asatru practices or Norse rituals. It is a rich text of Pagan history, pointing out many examples of how we can benefit today by learning from the past. Metzner’s title refers to the magic Well from which Odin drank to learn (i.e. “remember”) the age-old origins of all things. He points out that we too can drink from this Well, and remember much of what modern society has sadly forgotten. While Metzner focuses mainly on Germanic, Scandinavian cultures, he makes frequent connections to the Celts, Romans, Asians — and even Native Americans. More than mere history, Metzner (now in his sixties) mixes in his own thoughts and dreams, tales of vision quests and crossroads which he has faced upon his own spiritual journey. He also includes contributions from other writers, including an inspiring forward from author Marija Gimbutas. Readers will find a detailed history of how the migrations and invasions of the Indo-Europeans changed the face of northern Europe. Metzner explains how this change affected the beliefs and customs of northern Paganism. If you’d like to learn how Pagan society slowly shifted away from matriarchy to patriarchy, this book is a good resource. Metzner gives many examples of the shift from the matriarchal Earth Deities, or Vanir, to the warrior Sky Gods, called the Aesir. He bases much of this work on a good variety of historical sources, including Germanic cultural texts called the Eddas. (The term Edda translates to “Great Grandmother.”) While Metzner offers his own personal views and interpretations, he leaves the door open for readers to draw many of their own conclusions. He also gives many examples of word origins, showing their root in social customs. An interesting example of this is the word matrimony, which Metzner claims is rooted to the matriarchal custom of family wealth being passed down along maternal lines, “matri” meaning mother and “mony” meaning money. His ten-page timeline of world history is an excellent research tool. It starts with the rise of human culture, using stone tools 2 million years ago, to cave paintings of “paired male and female figures,” then brings us through classical Europe, ending in 1492 with Columbus. His views on the ferocious warriors, called the Berserkers, is interesting. Berserkers, meaning those who wear bear skins, fought wildly, sometimes under the influence of an herbal-induced frenzy. He also mentions the concept of Valhalla, a paradise reserved for warriors “lucky” enough to die in battle. Metzner then puts the ugliness of war into perspective, stating that Valhalla was a religious belief used to conveniently motivate the troops, moving the reader to ask what Valhallas we create today for our own patriotic causes. Very timely! His concept of “the New Berserker” describes the new, more peaceful, environmental movement of the Earth-based religions. Metzner’s view of northern lore is quite unique. For example, reading the Runes, he states on page 198, can be viewed “in a broader, more general sense, as any symbolic sign that we come to understand in a personally meaningful way…” Odin learning to read the Runes was symbolic for us learning to read the language of nature; the word Rune itself means secret or mystery. (He also states that some believe the Runic alphabet is based on Latin, Greek or Etruscan characters.) His views on the Tree of Yggdrasill are also fascinating. Metzner claims the word Yggdrasill means Ygg’s (an aspect of Odin) horse, where horse is meant as a vehicle for travel. Metzner claims many of these myths contain shamanic beliefs; Odin hanging on the Tree was symbolic of a shamanic journey between the worlds. The Tree, or “Axis Between the Worlds” was his vehicle. (Those interested in the Cabala’s Tree of Life will enjoy Metzner’s diagram of Asgard, Midgard, Hel and other aspects of the Nine Worlds, page 201.) While somewhat far-fetched, Metzner makes an interesting cross-cultural comparison between Odin hanging on the Tree, Prometheus chained to the Boulder, Innana hung on the peg, the chest of Osiris being absorbed into a tree, and even Christ hanging on the cross — all as Deities bound to an Earthly world. His section entitled “Animism, Shamanism and Paganism” (pages 48-51) is also a very unique perspective! He also offers thought-provoking ideas on Ragnarok, the great battle which destroyed the Old Gods, from which the few survivors rebuild a new world. He compares this “death” of the Old Gods to the shift from Paganism to Christianity, with the current Pagan revival being a form of rebirth. Metzner’s optimism about the future is an…

  2. Elderbear says

    Unique Insights Found Here

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