The SpartansThe Lacedemonians, more commonly known as the Spartans, have been idealized and demonized down through the centuries. The truth of the Spartan culture seems to be as difficult to grasp as an early morning mist swirling around our ankles. It seems that the total paradigm of Spartan culture and history has been pigeonholed into a society exclusively of warriors exemplified by the heroic story and legend of Thermopylae. It has focused solely on the 300 Spartans and their warrior-philosopher king, Leonidas—the Lion.
There are no other cultures and societies closer to my heart than the Spartans and the Vikings.
On the day of my 60thbirthday, I walked barefoot the sun-soaked crusty soil of the field of battle of Thermopylae. The sparsely treed ground was hard and scorching as if the memory of that time 2500 years ago was imbedded in the cracked earth beneath my feet. As well, the purified waters of the flowing volcanic sulphurous springs that I dipped my feet into were indescribably hot. Memories flowed within me as red-hot lava, which finally erupted in a mass of tears as I cried and spoke from my heart to the warrior ancestors of a time long gone. My salty waters purified the mound of the last stand. A place not of defeat but one of victory—a victory in defeat.
Four years later I led two of my martial-spiritual students on a warrior pilgrimage that took us from the sacred site of Herakles First Labor to Sparta (Sparti), Olympia and finally to Delphi. In Sparta we trained in the Acropolis of Sparta and on the ridge-top site of the Menelaion. It was a bitter/sweet journey for me. The sweetness of the journey was being able to physically and mentally train on the hallowed ground of the Lacedemonians. This brought both beauty and joy to my heart and mind.Our training on the Menelaion was a further taste of heaven for my body and soul. The Menelaion is the hilltop site of the legendary King Menelaus, Helen (of Troy) and the Dioscuri, the twin heroic brothers of Helen—Castor and Polydeuces. Castor, the mortal one of the twins, was a martial artist and a teacher of swordsmanship to Herakles. Both were Spartan heroes, Polydeuces being an unbeatable boxer, while Castor was the fearless warrior. How appropriate for us to train on the sacred ground of the Dioscuri and to honor them and Herakles with prayers, meditation and martial activity. It was due to this myth of the Dioscuri that the ancient Spartans had two kings. Keep in mind that the most important priests in Sparta were the kings.
Our training was only a slight healing salve for my anger and bitterness. You may ask what was the root cause of my emotions—the indignation within me?
Dis-respect and Dis-honor
Arriving in Sparti the most important thing that I noticed was the absence of any sense of the warrior spirit that was and still is Sparta’s historical birthright. Not that I would want to see workers of the Municipality of Sparta walking around dressed as ancient Spartan Knights, but I would love to see a shift in the consciousness. This would be a shift from the purely mundane materialistic to a sense of spirit, honor and pride in their warrior philosophical ancestral heritage and a reinstatement of the equality of men and women.
If you have never been to Sparti, you may question this statement about spirit, honor, pride and equality. For one thing when historical ruins are left to linger as an afterthought or absence of thought of ‘glory days gone by,’ this act alone paints a vivid picture of an absolute rejection of ones ancestral heritage. This is the case with Sparti/Sparta. And for the inequality, just spend one day in Sparti and you would discover this for yourself.
The Norse (Vikings)It is possible that my ancestors inhabited Scandinavia in the Stone Age. Investigations have in every case proved as most probable and reasonable that people of the Bronze Age, both before and after the year 1000 BCE, belonged to the same race as the North-men of the Iron Age. The Norse creation myth is similar to other cultures, as it originates within a void. The Norse used the term Ginnungagap for this emptiness. It was only after the marriage of fire and ice that creation appeared. Muspellheim, the realm of pure fire, is located in the south. Across the abyss, in the north, lies the icy realm of Niflheim. The heat and fiery sparks thrown off melted the ice, and from this interaction of fire and ice, a giant, Ymir, was born. It was then that Óðinn and his two brothers carved up the giant, which created the known universe. The concept of fire and ice interpenetrating to birth creation has a deeper meaning than the interaction of fire and water as metaphors for the blending of the absolute principle with the relative principle. If we consider our divine spark (Óðinn’s seed) within us as being encased in ice, it will take the fire of our spirit to melt the ice and release or awaken our seed of immortality. This divine energy, that lies unawakened in the majority of people, when awakened, will at times feel like an icy fire flowing within the physical body. I know this as I have experienced it many times. This feeling could be described as an ecstatic state of being, which is one of the hallmarks of the shaman and shamanism.
The Wisdom of Óðinn, the Power of Þórr, and Freyja’s Power of NatureI deeply identify with Óðinn, Þórr and Freyja. As a truth seeker like Óðinn, I have traveled for more than thirty years to different parts of the world, seeking wisdom and the myth, magic, and lore of elders and indigenous people. I have sacrificed self to self. My experience of listening, looking, and learning flowed from indigenous elders, healers, and shamans from all over the world. It also comes from my interactions with the young and old of other races and cultures, and emanates deeply from my own soul wisdom. This knowledge is what I refer to as “first knowledge.” It is knowledge that is woven throughout and found in all the first people’s spiritual/religious traditions on this earth. This first knowledge has been referred to as primordial knowledge or the Primordial Tradition (perennial philosophy). As such, it portrays universal themes, principles, and truths.
Óðinn's SacrificeÓðinn’s gift of breath identifies him as a wind god and a god of inspiration. He is a seeker of knowledge and wisdom. Óðinn, as the wandering truth seeker and walker between worlds, is recognizable as a shaman. He possesses the attributes that identify a person as a shaman such as being a shape-shifter, psychopomp and having four guardians spirits—two wolves and two ravens. As a person of power, Óðinn could furthermore be considered a wizard, sorcerer (one who influences fate) and a warrior philosopher. But what stands out more than any of these labels is his willingness to sacrifice self for knowledge and wisdom. It makes sense then that Óðinn’s essential sacrifice may be an example and as a guide for us to follow.
The Holy GrailAny discussion of the warrior philosopher paradigm would not be complete without the mention and inclusion of the magical cauldron/chalice/well known as the Holy Grail. The concept of a legendary wondrous life-giving object is a recognizable world-wide spiritual belief. This timeless object and its myth bring us a collective imagery of universal truths. As a talisman of great power, the Grail is elusive in its shape-shifting identity: sometimes being referred to as a cup or chalice, a magical cauldron, and even a sacred well such as the Norse-Germanic Well of Urd/Mimir’s Well. And we must not forget the Quest to achieve this talisman of power and immortality. There are many shades of the Grail quest and of the knights and others that were involved in this most sacred journey of seeking truth. As with all Quests, deserts and rivers are to be crossed, jungles and caves to explore and mountains to climb, it is a time of sacrifice facing our fears and doubts; but the wonder of it all fills our soul with the magic of the stars. In our quest for the Grail, we must self-sacrifice and sacrifice self to self. This concept is vividly portrayed by Óðinn in his sacrifice for the knowledge of the runes and primordial knowledge. This ‘first knowledge’ he acquired after drinking from Mimir’s Well—his sacrifice before he could drink of the Well: one of his eyes! Quest with us and discover your authentic self and the magic of the heavens and the earth. If you are adventurous with a Viking spirit, homesteaders they were not, make a small sacrifice of time and money and join us in our once in a lifetime experiences.
Join us in Greece and in Sparta and not to forget - the Norse (Viking) Lands!
Rev. Dr. JC Husfelt, author of I Am a Sun of God and So Are You, The Return of the Feathered Serpent, and Do You Like Jesus—Not the Church?, and the forthcoming Return of a Green Philosophy: The Wisdom of Óðinn, the Power of Þórr, and Freyja’s Power of Nature is a philosopher, shaman, and mystic as well as a poet, martial artist, visionary, and exemplary prophet.
Dr. Husfelt relishes the clarity of firsthand and experiential knowledge. Since 1964 he has been on a journey, both literally and metaphorically, to touch the mystical and practical side of the martial arts and the mystery and myth, the spiritual and healing lore of indigenous cultures throughout the world. His adventures have taken him from his present home on the edge of a fjord in Western Washington through the Americas, to the icy plateaus and volcanos of Iceland and through the windswept barrens of the British Isles, onward across the Orkney Islands, Norway, continental Europe and the Mediterranean, to Asia and Polynesia. Dr. Husfelt’s teachings are based on his first-hand experience of the lands and cultures that are an opus of his knowledge and wisdom.