Wednesday, 22 June 2016


In this post, I discuss a religious issue, then show how this issue, like many others, manifests in works by Poul Anderson.

Christians distinguish between wholesome religious practices and unwholesome witchcraft. Of course, they disagree as to what is wholesome. Someone on the Protestant side of the argument coined the term "priestcraft." To an Evangelical, Zen meditation is unwholesome because it is not focused on Christ whereas some Christians might instead regard Zen as the Logos, which enlightens everyone, manifesting in human minds and drawing them nearer to the Truth.

(What constitutes "respect for the Lord" is entirely a matter of which tradition we practice in. Someone familiar only with Pure Land Buddhism was shocked on entering our zendo to see people sitting for meditation with their backs to the Buddha.)

Although Christians anathematize all pagan practices, pagans themselves apparently distinguished between the wholesome and the unwholesome. See seid, Ahdils and Skuld.

Hrolf's half-sister, Skuld, named after a Norn by her elven mother who was descended from the sea giantess, Ran, frequents:

"'...barrows where heatless fires and walking shapes are seen after dark...'" (Hrolf Kraki's Saga, p. 124)

- and where:

"'...hoof-beats and hound-howlings go through the night air.'" (ibid.)


makes passes;
kills birds before dolmens;
runs into the woods unafraid of wolves, outlaws or trolls;
has signs carved on her shoulder blade.

Eerie and troubling for her foster-parents.

I suppose that gods and trolls were approximate equivalents of God and the Devil. Those who sought power not from gods or God but from trolls or the Devil were regarded as unwholesome - and destined to fight against Asgard at the Ragnarok or against Heaven at Armageddon.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I think it's necessary to say both Catholics and Orthodox took over many originally pagan practices and CHRISTIANIZED them, dedicating them anew either to worship of the true God, veneration of the saints, or harmless things like May Pole dancing or Halloween trick or treating. Other things, like the use of incense, came straight from the Old Testament.

But things like divination, fortune telling (for real!), sorcery, use of ouija boards, etc., are absolutely forbidden by the Church for any Christians to practice. Because of being superstitious and sometimes opening the persons practicing them to demonic possession.

The Scandinavians, despite barbarities like human sacrifices, had a partial agreement with Christians in that respect: rejecting seid and the kind of sorcery practiced by King Adhils.