Have you ever stopped and wondered just how we got the myths that define us? At some point in history someone had to have an idea or experience that they shared with others who reported similar experiences and ideas. It’s not like we bore witness to these events so we had to come by this knowledge somehow. I suspect that it has its earliest roots in visions, dreams, and religious ecstasy. What were retained were the events that remained roughly consistent with the experiences of others as well as tribal traditions. It seems that such experiences might well have been had by folks through our history, a tradition that seems to be continuing today as we rebuild or troth and heathen identity.
I am not one for openly talking about my own personal experiences. I will only rarely share them with very close friends and deeply trusted allies, and that is only a small portion of those experiences. They are extremely personal events with exceptionally personal information in them. I don’t just share that kind of stuff with just anybody. To do so would cheapen it. However, people do share their experiences and this has lead to the development of the concept of UPG, or Unique (or Unverified) Personal Gnosis. Sadly, this is all too often meant as a slur against the person presenting their idea. This isn’t without good reason, either. It has been my experience that a lot of people, in the attempt to fit in and be accepted, concoct all sorts of wild and crazy tails to tell people so as to demonstrate credibility, all the time making it even harder to take them seriously. In Traditional Wicca this is often refer to this as “inventing your own grandmother.” These bizarre stories are often so strange as to demonstrate a complete lack of consistency with ancient lore and mythology and this has made it all the harder to discuss personal experiences. In short, a few nutters have ruined it for the rest of us. This is the reason I decided to take on this topic.
I honestly believe that it takes spiritual moments of interaction to help us develop a meaningful and knowledgeable relationship with the gods of Asgard and Vanaheim. Now, I’m probably more skeptical and reserved in judgment and acceptance of tales of “fairing forth” and interacting with mighty powers than most. In all honesty, my own personal biases make me default to thinking the person is a whack-job in need of medication and therapy rather than a skilled traveler. However, I have had conversations with others, particularly regarding Odin, that have left me more secure in the knowledge of the legitimacy of my own experiences and the legitimacy of their experiences because they so closely relate to each other, despite our separate experiences. It’s an odd position to be in when you value individual experience but to find yourself having to reserve opinions about what others say because you’ve heard so many crazy stories. I think this is an all too common position for so many of us who accept the value of personal knowledge and experience and for those who find any kind of personal story of direct (or indirect) experience to be an expression of mental instability. The crazy is just so common that we almost assume that the person speaking is nuts when they volunteer to tell us about what they’ve seen.
So, what does this actually mean to us? In truth, my best suggestion is to be discerning and cordial. You might be talking to someone who wants to be accepted who is so new to our troth that they are engaging in behaviors they learned hanging out with Neo-pagans and they can be taught to behave a bit better over time. You might also be talking to someone who has had a genuine experience and might provide some new and meaningful insight that you can work from. The question really is about how we go about being discerning and what do we measure their comments against. This is where a strong working knowledge of our lore comes in most handily. If someone starts talking about something that is clearly without merit and just way off, it’s a good bet that they are spouting nonsense. If someone says something that stays consistent with what we know, they might just well have something to say worth hearing. This isn’t the only way, of course, but it’s a good starting point. Developing a good BS detector helps a lot too, so as not to be drawn in to someone’s delusions. In other words, keep good wits about you and always remember, what someone else is talking about just might be for them alone. Keep an open mind, but not so open you will believe anything.
Now, as a small bonus, I want to share something with you that come from my own experiences. Don’t worry, it’s nothing world shattering or immensely personal. I’m just not that kind of guy. I always see Odin’s missing eye as his left one. Whenever I see an image with the right eye missing, it doesn’t look right to me. In order to feel and look “authentic” to me, the left eye has to be the one placed in Mimir’s Well. Take it for what it’s worth to you.