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21 Sep 2009

Old Ways for a New Day ~ Editorial

With this issue of Hex, the magazine’s slogan has been changed – no longer is it “For the Heathen Household,” but rather “Old Ways for a New Day.” The change represents a refinement of, and rededication to, the magazine’s essence.

“Old Ways For A New Day” invites us to go beyond literalism. Our folk heritage is more than dusty museum pieces: this slogan reminds us that Heathenry is a living force that embodies a much more fertile world view than those that reign in this modern age.

The world view I have in mind is called optimism. I think optimism – choosing to look for and live out the positive story lines – was essential to the flourishing of the premodern European peoples and their traditions. Living so much closer to nature, to death, and to mystery must have demanded it. Optimism must have carried many generations of folk through the hardships of harvests, migrations, winters, and wars.

Even Norse mythology is ultimately optimistic despite its dark themes. After Ragnarok a new world is reborn from the seeds of the old, just as spring follows winter. Living close to the natural cycles teaches us that there is always some hope that the shadows will break into a new dawn.

Contrast this with modern, industrialised life, where you can switch off, become a bored, disenchanted robot, and tediously scrape into the grave. For all the talk of individualism, conformity is strongly encouraged in mainstream modernity.

Cut off from living with season, nature, and mystery, uncompromised immersion in technological culture can make us forget that ups and downs are a natural part of life. Thus ensnared, we are tempted to clench our fractured psyches until the river banks burst or drought descends on our hearts and wits.

Modern conformism is often a conformism of pessimism. The folk of old Europe had no time for this poisonous luxury, but we are free to indulge in hopelessness until we are sick and weak, all the while seeming to be model citizens.

Perhaps Pink Floyd were mocking this phenomenon in their song “Time”:

Hanging on in quiet desperation
Is the English way.
The time is gone, the song is over
Thought I’d something more to say…

Let us resist absolute judgements about pessimism – we all go through discouraging times and there is no shame in that. That said, optimism is something we can choose to build and cultivate.

We can do this by watching and consciously changing the way that we make attributions about the world; by being dissatisfied with the lazy weakness of Murphy’s Law; by feeding ourselves better food to make our minds and bodies stronger; by serving our communities; and by cultivating loving relations with gods, spirits, ancestors, and one another.

In “Time,” the Floyd also paint an image that for me captures the hopeful spirit of Heathenry. Perhaps they weren’t ultimately fooled by the spirit of misery:

Home, home again,
I like to be here when I can.
And when I come home
cold and tired,
It’s good to warm my bones
beside the fire.

In this light, let us reflect on the rune called Nauthiz, Naud, or Need. Nauthiz is the home-fire we light to warm our bones when we have been wandering, cold and tired. In that sense it is emblematic of Heathenry as a whole.

Though the rune poems present needful times as miserable and destructive, they remind us that challenges and suffering are also opportunities for growth and change. This is the essence of optimism. It is an Old Way that offers great riches for those of us seeking to give birth to New Days.

Hex was born in a spirit of hope and optimism, a resolution to resist the inner and outer forces of discouragement and struggle: Arrowyn wrote poignantly about part of the story of Hex’s birth in the second issue. The new Hex Magazine slogan, “Old Ways for a New Day,” reflects a concentrating and deepening of Hex’s spirit.

For all that we can find wrong with the world today it is still – in a sense – easy to step into the healing current of Heathenry. So long as the slightest spark of optimism burns in our hearts we are free, like the folk of old Europe, to dream, create, and thrive.

Editorial by H. A. Laguz.

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