Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

Long time - no Pip...

It's been a few months since I've written anything here.

Many of my readers know me from other "places" and are likely aware of what is transpiring.

The last week of June, I had this terribly strong feeling that I needed to go home to Massachusetts for a visit. My wife and I were planning on doing so to be at my niece's wedding the 1st weekend of October. But, I had this overwhelming notion that if I did not go at the beginning of July, there would be someone close to me who would not be there in October.

It was a good visit...even had a spontaneous day with my dad (he's a man of habit, routine and planning). I had been telling him of some of the genealogy research I'd been doing. A name I mentioned sparked his memory...all of a sudden he offers to take a day trip, drive up to the village where my great grandmother (Mary Francis Burke nee Brady) was born. He'd recalled attending the funeral of one of her cousins in 1951, when he was 16.

We spent several hours there (Williamsburg and Haydenville), driving around the area and then we stopped at the cemetery. We found the cousin's grave, along with several others I could match with names in my research notes.

Dad had a bad cough and seemed to tire more easily than usual; losing weight, too. Mom and I worked on him to go see the doctor. He did the week after I returned to Illinois.

He'd been walking around with a pneumonia infection. During the followup for that treatment (at the end of August), they found a lemon-sized tumor in his right lung, located around the pulmonary artery, which had been masked by the pneumonia.

Preliminary treatments started; 2nd chemo was the Monday after the Wedding. Chemo was chosen because there was evidence that the cancer had spread some after the X-ray - MRI - PET - CAT - Blood Panel series was done. When it was just the big tumor, they were looking at targeted radiation. The doctors offered no false hope; when found, the cancer was already Stage 4.

Dad had a good day for the gathering...was alert and engaged during the ceremony (11 AM), ate his dinner and stayed until 9 PM at the reception afterwards. He slept most of the day afterwards and was cranky when awake.

I also got him over to his brother's house, the first time they'd been able to visit in person since July, Uncle Ed has very bad circulation in his legs and can not walk much. I also found my great grandmother Robinson's grave and brought my dad to see her. She died 4 years before he was born.

Things seemed to be going well, but the chemo did little save kick the snot out of him...

Thanksgiving was another good day for him, but he collapsed on that Saturday.

I went home again at the beginning of December. Frankly, death warmed over would have looked better. The doctors (with dad's participation) stopped chemo and put him on palliative medications, including steroids to combat inflammation. They also decided to try targeted radiation. By the end of this visit he was well enough to be transferred to an acute care facility. Uncle Ed was doing well enough that he visited dad in the hospital (the day before the transfer to the nursing facility).

Dad was home again after a couple of weeks, effecting his desire to spend the Christmas and New Year's Holidays at home. He wanted my nieces and nephews to remember him at home, rather than in hospital or nursing facility.

They are all old enough (youngest is 19) to have a raft of good memories, regardless.

The radiation did shrink the main tumor, so he was able to be home. My sister and nephews adapted my parents' 4-season porch (just off the kitchen) into a "bedsitter" for him. There is also a bathroom just off the kitchen, so he's got a little "apartment."

Dad had a set back last month, was back in hospital and then the same nursing facility...a lung infection, which did respond to treatment.

He is back home, responding to the continued palliative treatments.

Mom says he's happy; got his TV, books, crossword puzzles, just enough company. He's gotten more emotional, she said. I think the illness has just uncapped the feelings he's kept in reserve all his life.

He does have a few goals still; 1st one is this coming Thursday, his 75th birthday. I am flying back to spend it with him. Next will be my parents' 54th Wedding Anniversary at the beginning of June, mom's birthday at the end of June and the birth of his first great grandchild, sometime in July.

At the beginning of December, the doctors gave him 3 months. The way he's not just hanging on, but doing remarkably well...I think he'll make it to holding the child in July.

It will be an opportunity for us to have a 5 generation picture, as my mother's father is still with us. He'll be 99 the beginning of June and is relatively healthy for his age.

Latest sign of some fight left in him; he wants a kitten.

As for me, I'm coming out of a bout with depression, again. Hard to feel 100% when your dad's on the final leg of the journey...
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Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

Interacting with non-Asafolk...

Hail all;

Been a bit since I've posted...the following essay is a few days old and is elsewhere, too, in slightly different form:

We have all had discussions, here and elsewhere, of how best to reach the Folk outside of the Asatru Innangard.

Something I do is to participate in non-Asatru forums of various sorts; general, political, social, recreational, re-creational, mundane, pagan...I am a conversational gadabout.

I present myself as an Asatruar and ordinary, average guy.

The "place" to which I post most frequently is a medical information "community," which I joined after getting the pacemaker early last year. I post a lot of cookin_n_brewin tips, bits o' condolence, advice from my life experiences...typical, though genteel, know it all.

I've met one other Asatruar there (who seems a bit contact shy), and a couple of "Heathenish" folks...most members are followers of the "Big 3" and other such "World Religions."

However, because of the way I present myself and my beliefs, the reception has been friendly, even from some of the most devout fans of the Rabbi from Nazareth.

I was specifically invited to join a Spirituality forum because of the respectful tone of my posts, plus I am looked at as a pretty level-headed fellow there.

The other morning I wrote this little essay in reply to the question: "How hard is it for you to be spiritual in difficult times?"

[Pip note: trust me for $5.00 answers to $1.00 questions, after I give a 5¢ one ,-]

The short answer is, not hard at all.

But, let me amplify.

Within the worldview of my beliefs (Asatru), times of ordeal are part of what makes us whole beings. They are neither wanted, nor feared, but to are be lived through as best we can.

How we deal with the tough spots will build more worth in our personal store of "Orlay" than not dealing with them.

A little background is needed here...

Asatru is one of the modern re-awakenings of Northern European Spirituality based upon what we know, and come to know, about the culture, beliefs and practices of native European tribal folk. It mainly springs from those who have come to be known as Germanic and Nordic. The "sect" to which I adhere is especially tied (in my experience) to the knowledge preserved in the archives of Iceland.

Within my understanding of the beliefs within this worldview, time is looked at fairly simply.

The Past is Real. It is everything, which has occurred: words and deeds. It is the most weighty part of our existence, and is constantly growing.

The Present is the border between the Real and Unreal. That Which Has Been and That Which May Yet Happen meet, and make That Which Is Becoming; the Now in which we all live.

The Future is Unreal, coming out of Nothing and Everything; shaped by our Orlay, the Weight of our Past.

In the Northern Folkway, we look upon the universe as being a complex place, many parts acting together.

In Mythic Reality, it is 9 Worlds held together by a Web, a Worlds' Tree as it were. The Tree is watered by a Well within which our words and deeds fall, creating layers; that Orlay of which I write.

That Web is the Wyrd of all things, at once all encompassing and intensely personal.

For within that Wyrd, there are many layers...our own life, that of our birth family, our family by marriage, friends who are as close as (or closer than) birth ties, other friends, acquaintances, the broader community, state, nation, world...all of these have an effect upon us.

Our words and Deeds will have different weight based on their significance in life, sinking deep into the Well and becoming a permanent part of the Orlay, which fuels Wyrd, or staying near the top, evaporating and being forgotten, like mist on a pond at sunrise.

Hard times require us to stop and think; often times, to reassess the direction that life is taking us (that Weight of our Past).

To paraphrase a friend who lives within a belief system based upon that of the Anglo-Saxons: right action is best, wrong action is, while not desired, okay and inaction is the worst, as it really produces no outcome, no solution, good, bad or indifferent.

Doing is the key, it is what makes us.

As living my life the best I can is what the Holy Powers demand of me...no, holding onto the Spiritual aspects of my life is not difficult in difficult times.
Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

Old Pip Essay

Hej all;

Here's an essay I wrote several years ago on the Asatru In Action list when we got into another of the Unie vs Folkie go-arounds. It was well received by folks left, right and middle.

Piparskeggr - Aug 30, 2001 - Commentary vis-à-vis Tolerance, F v NF...

Health and Luck All,

I've followed the various threads (Tolerance, F v NF, and so forth) with interest.

Commentary, if I may?

It is said by some individuals that one's relationship to That Which Is Holy cannot, or should not, be singularly tied to one's lineage.

Yet it is likewise loudly proclaimed by some that inner characteristics such as temper, humor, self-discipline, and so forth, are endemic to such lineage.

Is not a faithful sense just as internal and natural as temper, humor, self-discipline and so forth?

If one allows the possibility that I, for example, have a natural affinity to good food and wine because I am maternally of "Italian" descent (which in my case is an admixture of Italic, Etruscan, Illyric, Germanic, Celtic, Nordic, Iberic, Hellenic and "Old European" tribal elements).

Should one likewise allow the possibility that I have an over fondness for strong drink due to my paternal Irish-"Native American" lineage (an admixture of Celtic, Germanic, Russian, Slavic, Baltic, Iroquoian, Algonquian and "Old European" tribal elements).

Further, could one not allow that the inner part of me, that comes down these family lines, is more oriented North due to the great weight of the Germanic and Celtic forebearage than some one of vastly differing Kinlines?

And would it be not more natural and fitting for me to honor my elder forebears by continuing that which they knew and believed rather than accepting that I must adhere to a stranger's way, albeit one in which I was raised?

I believe the idea boils down to one simple element, and please excuse me if you've seen the analogy before:

Wearing an overcoat versus living in one's skin.

I can change my coat; change how I look. A new coat may even change my demeanor, through the aid of its covering nature. I have a spiffy new coat. I look and act, like a new man.

Remember how proud and happy you were when mom and dad bought you a new winter coat or a sport's jacket from your favorite team?

I recall how I felt when my dad brought me home a real US Navy Pea coat or when my wife gifted me with a London Fog woolen overcoat.

Overcoat, covering one's skin.

But, in the shower after gym class, all pretensions were stripped away. There exists nothing to hide the blemishes, or perfections. The real you is there for all to see, and stare at and giggle over...

I have worn many spiritual overcoats in my life, some beautiful and well tailored, fitting like a second skin. Others were thrift shop rejects. But, they were all coats.

I believe that I have had experiences, which stripped away the overcoat for a final time.

I stand before you, as in the shower room after gym class. All of me is seen, can be stared at and, perhaps, giggled over; but then, you also see who and how I am.

Whether the result is seen as beautiful butterfly or homely moth, the chrysalis is gone.

I am Trú to That Which is Holy. I look Northward.
Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

A memorial poem...of sorts

In light of a friend's good news (his son is coming home, safe and
sound, from Iraq), this poem is a bit of a downer.

This was sparked by a phrase I misheard during a promo for a National
Public Radio (US) program featuring Louden Wainwright III and "High,
Wide and Handsome," his new album. I heard that as "Hollow-eyed and

This is, though the subject is drear, an example of how a little thing
can launch one's mind in a totally different direction than the
speaker (or writer) intended.

Every moment can have a bit of Poetic Significance...even when
thinking about those who come home from war, but are never truly home
again, by way of a misheard phrase.


Home, but not home

He was hollow-eyed, yet handsome, too
Wide of shoulder and spare of flesh
Had golden hair o'er dark, red beard
Stood tall and straight, his head unbowed

The weight of years was in his gaze
As if the sights were made of lead
Had struck the light from deep within
To leave darkness behind his brow

He walked among his Kin and Kith
Alone with them, as with himself
Immune to joy and sorrow, too
A shell of what was once proud youth

The years had turned and gone by fast
He had grown well and made a choice
To serve his folk as soldier true
Had gone away and seen the wars

The days were long and full of fear
The nights went on without an end
But comrades fine were his bulwark
Against the dark that dwelt within

They fought beneath a banner bright
Its promise full of gentle thoughts
That they beheld as honor's prize
If they could but deny the foe

The wars went on without respite
The rests were few and all too short
And fellows of his band of friends
Fell all too oft before their time

His time it came, to feel the steel
Wielded by foe, unseen by him
A coward's trick, a hidden trap
It struck him down and sent him home

His body healed under the care
Of doctors fine, skillful and good
They could mend flesh and straighten bone
But they could not, weld up his soul

After wounds knit, he was discharged
And came to hearth of his boyhood
He recalled folk as memories
But felt he lived in ghost of past

He was hollow-eyed, yet handsome, too
Wide of shoulder and spare of flesh
Had golden hair o'er dark, red beard
Stood tall and straight, his head unbowed

The weight of years was in his gaze
As if the sights were made of lead
Had struck the light from deep within
To leave darkness behind his brow

The weight of years was in his gaze
As if the sights were made of lead
Had struck the light from deep within
To leave darkness behind his brow
Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

In answer to, do you believe in Ghosts...

...I replied on a medical support to which I subscribe.

I accept that the world is made up of the Seen and Unseen as a matter of course, and that there is a Life beyond death. What form it takes will depend upon one's beliefs; I believe that one joins with one's Ancestors and that they can come to visit, as they still watch over you.

My great grandma Burke has been to see what I'm doing, especially during the first night of Yuletide, which in my faith is dedicated to remembering our mothers.

I believe that I have seen others of my family line; sometimes they just watch me, sometimes they give me a spiritual "poke in the ribs," sometimes they just give me a feeling that those who have passed on are doing okay.
Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

Thoughts on the Death Penalty

Hail all;

(This was a post I wrote on a list for a political group I recently joined. Be hale Y'all - Pip)

Hopefully, my words will add to the discussion.

I am for death as the penalty for certain crimes .

In the Anglo-Saxon Common Law upon which Thomas Jefferson based a good part of his thinking about what the government '...of the thirteen united States of America" would be, a differentiation was made, much like today, between murder and killing.

The main variance being, one took full credit for a killing. One might have to pay a price to heal the break with the community's "peace" in a killing, more or less depending upon the slain's "Manshot," aka wergild or blood price.

In a murder, one might not be slain in turn, depending again on the victim's place in society: wergild plus outlawry were the usual results.

But, there were times when one committed a crime against the community, which turned every spear against you and if the Earl or Sheriff didn't get you first, being slain out of hand was a distinct possibility...somewhat like the "frontier justice" of our westward expansion.

One could say, that depending upon circumstances, we have a crime (murder) or a civil matter (wrongful death).

For me, those who can be proven guilty, beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt, of crimes such as deliberate murder, contract killings, hiring said contractors, incitement to murder, rape of any sort (whether adult victim or child), serious bodily injury such that the victim will be unable to lead a normal life, incitement to such harm and such like...these are crimes where the perpetrator has forfeited their own right to life.

I would not oppose the creation of a special Federal appeals court solely for considering Capital cases.

The US Supreme Court would be the only authority for reviewing its decisions (besides a Gubernatorial or Presidential commutation or pardon).

If one is duly convicted and all courts at state level concur, the case would automatically go to this federal capital court. Each case would be given three years of full investigation by US Marshals, legal and forensic experts assigned to this court. The court would make its ruling, with the result being either death sentence confirmed, mitigating circumstance found and commutation to life, new evidence found that changes the level of the crime (say from cold-blooded 1st degree murder to emotionally fueled involuntary manslaughter) or acquittal. All confirmations of death sentences would go to the Supreme Court for automatic review. Other decisions would return the case to the court of initial jurisdiction for reconsideration in light of the ruling.

Death sentences would be carried out within 72 hours of confirmation by the Supreme Court...and, from having looked at the various methods used over the years, I think that hanging, when done in an exacting manner, is the most humane method of execution, save a large bullet through the brain stem.

I worked in prison ministry, within my faith, for a couple of years.

There is no "redemption" behind bars.

The men with whom I worked (it was a minimum security facility) were all guilty as charged. In our first meeting; I did explain I considered them to still be Out of Law and in process of paying their Schild to society. I was there to help them figure out how to complete the process and to act as a sounding board for their ideas about how to approach our Holy Ones. As I broached the subject in a courteous, non-confrontational manner, AND engaged them in conversation about what I meant, we did get along quite well. They accepted that in many ways they would be "paying wergild" the rest of their lives.

I could gladly work with them from there.

Quit doing it, not because of the men, we still correspond, but illness was my constant companion for most of the past 4 years.

Could I "drop the hammer?"

I have, in the line of duty., and hate having done so. But, I have done a lot of necessary things in life, which brought me no pleasure. They needed doing and I was "it" at the time. (And, if someone here read my intro elsewhere in these fora, "Peacetime" service doesn't necessarily mean Safe service.)

We owe it to a civil society to rid ourselves of those who have been proven, fully, to be a danger.

I would rather make a mistake with one innocent man than keep 100 who should be culled from the abattoir.
Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

Post to another forum...Right to healthcare debate

Good afternoon;

Bear with me, please, I tend to long answers in this sort of discussion.

My understanding is that a Right preexists any government, as a gift of Nature's God under Nature's Laws; our Constitution acknowledges this part of our human condition, it does not grant these Rights.

From your words, which seem thoughtful to me, I believe you are familiar with this point of view. I am stating this position for our mutual audience.

However, the acknowledgment of the universality of Rights, and protection thereof by those we put in authority over us as citizens, has evolved over time, especially for those amongst us who have a "lesser voice" (so to speak). Also, the idea of who is a Citizen has broadened over man's development; ancient Rome's concept thereof and the changes therein are a good case to study, especially as it developed from kingdom to republic to principiate.

The idea of Human Rights being a separate category from Civil Rights is also a fairly recent philosophical development in the history of mankind in my view. For me, Rights are Rights; what come into play in the Civic arena are virtues, morals and ethics.

The ethics of my worldview are fairly simple. I strive to do that which is right for family, friends and community, with wisdom, generosity and personal honor. Admittedly, helping strangers outside of my community does not enter into this, as to do so would slight my ability to help those to whom I am most fully obligated. And yes, my military service would be an aberration under this ethos as it involves helping (in a way) millions of strangers.

Government will restrict our liberty, sometimes for good reason, to exercise our rights as freeborn men and women. These areas, which are licensed or regulated, then become privileges.

Constitutions and laws are set up by us (or our trusted representatives) as a communal set of strictures upon government, and upon ourselves.

Governments are also instituted to do things that smaller subdivisions of society cannot do for themselves.

My hometown could not have pulled off a project in the scale of Boulder dam; a much larger pool of resources is needed.

I am well aware of poor houses, my father's uncle Jack died in one back in the 1930's, along with his wife. It was a time when the family was unable to afford to help them. It was a hard time for everyone. But, it was still the family's responsibility to try and help them, something in which we did fail. The poorhouse was supposed to be a drastic measure of last resort supplied by the community at large (or, in this case, by the Church), which it was.

Much of my suspicion of government claiming that they are here to help is colored by a few pieces of family history: I had ancestors on Daniel Shays side of that fracas, ancestors coming to America due to help by the British during the Potato Famine years, my maternal grandfather having witnessed Fascism in Italy and my mother-in-law's family having seen Communism, both in Russia and in Greece.

I am at heart, an Anglo-Saxon freeholder, who looks upon family and community as the largest, workable, social units. Larger entities are needy, and get greedy; for money, power...look at how the Church and State grew bloated with both over the history of Europe.

I also grew up under the New England Town Meeting form of local government, a very democratic form of republicanism. =)

Any bureaucracy, no matter how benign in original intent, will tend towards consolidating its control over its sector of policy and polity; mission creep also tends to move in...justifying the bureau's existence by claiming more and more areas of responsibility, building new agencies where none need to exist at a federal level, keeping their "clients" in a sort of bondage to the conditions that bring them to the "helpers" in the first place.

Health care reform is needed, but I think any fixes need to come from the bottom up, not the top down.

Be well - Pip
Ullarsskald, Piparskeggr Ullarsson, Heathen, Asatru

Asatru Militay Family Support - Hammer Project

I am at heart a soldier still
I hear the Call across the years
It stirs my soul and thoughts well up
Of duty done, and friendships made
Stave 209: Ye Piparskeggrsmal

Hail all;

As a veteran, albeit peacetime Guard and Reserve duty, I look upon those days with fondness and realism.

The Hammer Project, which is supported by the Asatru Folk Assembly, is an outreach project to support service members and their families.

One aspect, which is of growing importance. . .getting recognition that a symbol for Asatruars who have died as active warriors, or as veterans back home in the community they defended, deserve to have the choice of a symbol of Faith on their gravestone just as much as any other man or woman of Faith who has carried the Burden of Warding he Commonweal.

Please go to the site, http://www.hammerproject.org/ and read it over.

Also, there is a link to follow on the site for the purpose of signing an online petition in support of the Hammer Project's goal of gaining the aforementioned recognition.

Thanks in advance - Pip