The Northman really resonated with me. And I know, I’m one year behind its debut. I am often behind the wave of popular culture tending to wait for a time that feels right to me to engage in the drama or story being presented–be it through movie, book, or song.
Often when I do this, the timing coalesces with my own creative work and the act of watching a drama or reading a story feds my inner world. I think creative works no matter what time, place, or culture have always served to feed our inner beings and to strengthen the invisible realms we all inhabit because we are sentient, self-aware living beings.
Circle of Sacred Creation
When we watch, read, or listen to any act of creation, we complete the circle of the sacred act of creating. This sacred circle of creating is something humans do that empowers us to master and control the world in ways no other living beings have done on Earth.
Throughout most of human history this sacred circle of creativity was revered and highly valued for every group of humans struggling to survive understood the transformative power of symbols. They understood how symbols can awaken and transform human consciousness. They knew the power of collective human endeavor, and they could feel how collective cultural symbols galvanized collective will.
However, this process of creative completion has been dreadfully downgraded in our Modern Age. We have cheapen it by slapping monetary values onto creative workd determined by arbitrary values such as how much money a movie made on its opening weekend.
This is true of books and songs too, while paintings and sculptures still get a pass tending to gain monetary value over time rather than lose it. However, collective judgements are made on these works too. Judgements that determine which works of art get displayed in museums or galleries as worthy of the public’s attention. Judgements that are often heavily laced with biases such as race, social status, gender identity, religious identity, or any other label we want to throw on people.
Monetary value of creative works tends to act like a rating system or popularity contest. It is a sign of our time. A time when hard-working, ordinary men and women are stressed, over worked, under paid, in constant fear of losing their jobs, and 10,000 other things all modern people must pay attention to survive in a modern civilized society. So it is no wonder people need distractions to silence a restless inner feeling that something is terribly amiss, awry, unsatisfactory, adrift, and completely out of order in our lives.
Since we don’t have time to wonder why we feel this way, we try to distract ourselves from this unpleasant feeling or any unpleasant feeling we may have in the course of living our overly sped up lives in our overly complicated societies.
In search of the next fix, the next distraction, most modern people don’t have the time or energy to complete the creative circle by digesting what they have experienced. The creative thing is reduced to its most superficial qualities and forgotten as the hungry collective searches for the next big blockbuster thing.
So, I missed the crashing wave of The Northman that debuted in 2022. It is a Nordic tale about Prince Amleth who witnesses his father’s murder by his uncle Fjölnir who lusts for the throne and his mother. It sounds like Hamlet or even the Lion King, but this story is much older than both. This story is the cradle from with Hamlet and the Lion King emerged.
Young Prince Amleth narrowly escapes his own death and is forced to flee his Icelandic homeland. The story fast-forwards 20 years to a grown Amleth who is a warrior of a Viking Raiding party making its way up a river to raid a Rus settlement. These are other Vikings who settled in the area that we now call Russia. In fact, Russia comes from Rus.
But the timing for me watching it just shy of the United State’s 4th of July holiday weekend, is a matter of synchronistic perfection. This July 4th weekend marks 5 years since I had a chance to save my father, who was also a Northman.
I had an intense feeling around this time 5 years ago that I should hop on a plane and go see dad. I did not because my husband had just left to go deal with his narcissistic mom playing her narcissistic games with her children. Our daughter had just graduated from high school and I didn’t want to leave her alone her last summer home before going to college.
By this time 5 years ago, I had submitted two huge government proposals for a small religious-based non-profit that had previously not had the where-with-all to write or submit government proposals. In less than one year, I had submitted 3 big government proposals and countless other foundation and local government proposals for them. I had not taken any time off since being hired and had accumulated 89 hours of unpaid time I had worked above and beyond the measly 40 hours per week I was paid.
The only catch is my father wouldn’t make it to September 2018 because he would have a massive heart attack later in July. First responders would revive him after 15 minutes of resuscitation efforts and he would be flown to the Mayo Clinic where he would survive 10 more days before dying.
The day after his heart attack, I was by his side and would not leave it until he died. Indeed, I had to make the call to remove lifesaving support and I would be with him when he died. And he had almost made a full recovery, only to not make it.
I won’t retell the tale here. I fully account this terrible time here:
I would be fired by the CEO of this religious organized where I worked for being with my father when he died. This moment marks a downward spiral I barely survived.
When dad died, I was working on the backstory for one of the 7 Warrior-Priestesses that are part of an epic novel I have been writing since 2012.
My story is not published yet, but this did not stop me from working my story’s timeline forward and backwards. Sláine is a young orphan girl raised by nuns living in Ireland during the mid-800s—a time when the Vikings were plundering and raiding much of Europe and beyond alongside the growing strength and influence of the Catholic church.
In fact, I as reading my new work to dad when he died. I had a vision earlier that morning that I should read to him my story and tell him that it was a sled pulling him across to the other side where his mother and brother and other loved ones were waiting for him.
I told him that he could leave any time and that I would read for as long as he needed. I didn’t think he would die that day. But he did. He departed just after I finished the chapter about Easter.
The Northman & the Nordic Legends
I had been doing tons of research on life in the 800s C.E., especially Nordic life. So seeing The Northman’s time stamp of A.D. 895 definitely caught my attention and it felt eerily similar to what I had been dreaming into my own story of Sláine and what happened to her when Viking raiders came to her convent in the early 800s.
Since I am rushing to watch as many DVDs as Netflix can send me before they stop sending DVDs in the mail, I happen to watch the cut scenes and interviews with Robert Eggers (writer-director), Alexander Skarsgård (actor who plays the grown Amleth, and others involved in the making of The Northman who included historians and museum specialists.
I was struck by how much time and care they took to recreate the known details of Nordic life and culture during this time. The Northman is as much a historical accounting of European history as it is a creative act of entertainment. It does not reduce Nordic raiders to savage brutes but rather gives critical cultural context to why they did the things they did and how it fit into their collective culture beliefs and worldview.
Indeed, if you are paying attention, the people and civilizations depicted from this time are incredibly violent. It is a time of Viking history dominated by male violence, greed, and revenge. No wonder Viking warriors wished to be killed in battle because if they did not die there, they were sure to be picked off by one of their own like what happened to Amleth’s father.
Mashables writes about The Northmen:
"...the friction between man and beast, and the beast within...how you're trying to hold onto your civility and your humanity but the animal comes out,” says Skarsgård. "Some of them it just explodes out of the body, and that reminded me a lot of that transformation, that scene in which Amleth sheds his humanity and becomes Bjǫrnúlfr (or 'bear-wolf'). The beast comes out and he doesn't try to fight it but actually lets it out, which was quite a trip."
Of course, this level of unleashing the beast comes with some uncomfortable modern associations, and The Northman is, in a sense, an examination of Viking men (among weirdly pristine women), and masculinity. Price has written at length on Viking masculinity, noting in an article(opens in a new tab), "Beyond the stereotype, there is a cold truth to Viking male violence. At the height of the 9th-century raids, Viking armies shattered the political structures of western Europe: the loss in blood and treasure was immense, thousands were violated and enslaved. There were parallels at home, too, not just in the form of civil warfare between rival petty-kingdoms, but also in domestic violence...Today there are those who tend to glorify the Vikings in their male, militaristic incarnation, but this is a mistake; they were no heroes, at all."
"The thing is that they do terrible things and they are seen to do terrible things, and that's important," Price tells Mashable of The Northman. "Robert and I talked about this a lot. I personally really don't want anybody to come out of that scene and want to be a Viking." -- Robert Eggers film. In an age of Viking myth overload, the film doubles down on the details. By Shannon Connellan for Mashable on April 20, 2022
This is such an important point that cannot be emphasized enough. But the problem today is that we DO want to BE like them.
The Heinous Crime Modernity Refuses to Admit
In our rush to become a civilized, modern world, humanity has committed the most heinous act of violence of them all. It is more heinous than Vikings Berzerkers ever committed in their altered states of animal consciousness.
Western Civilization is particularly guilty of this crime, but all modern civilizations suffer from this transgression. It is a point of view that has steadily invaded and infected pretty much every human being trying to survive in the modern world.
Alan Watts says it best:
And indeed, there is a point of view which occurs in certain forms of paranoia, where people don’t seem to be real. They are mechanisms, and you can think that out quite intensely with a good deal of intelligence. After all, if you start from a good old Darwinian or Freudian basis, and see that man is a material machine, and that the consciousness of man is simply a very involved and complicated form of chemistry, and that’s what it is, you see? Well, then these awful mechanical things, these Frankensteins that everybody is, they come around and they say, “Well, I’m alive. I’m a human being. I have a heart, I love, I hate, I have problems, I feel.” And you feel like saying, “Come off it! You’re just a monster, and you put on this civilized act because, really, you’re just a set of teeth on the end of a tube, and got a ganglion behind those teeth which you call your brain or your alleged mind.” -- WEB AS MUTUALITY | Out of Your Mind Series | Library of Consciousness
And this thing is really, basically, there for two purposes: one, to be cunning enough to get something to eat, to put down the tube, and the other—you know what—Mr. Freud’s libido. And everything else, you see, can be construed as an elaborate, subtle way of pretending that that’s not really what you want to do. But you do, but you put on a great show. Now some people, according to this view, get mixed up. They so repress that what they really want to do is to eat and to screw, that they get involved in higher things that are the masks for these activities, and think that that’s the real purpose of life. And then they become what’s called neurotic, because they get involved in being pure camouflage. So that’s what’s called escaping from the facts: not looking at life, not looking at reality correctly. -- WEB AS MUTUALITY | Out of Your Mind Series | Library of Consciousness
This Modern point of view permeates the Modern Mind and provides cover for plausible deniability of who we really are as human beings.
We are the creators of Heaven and Hell. We choose what each and every day that we live and breathe what we are going to bring into this world or not allow to grow. And we, the Good People of Earth, have developed the capacity and power to annihilate ourselves and all life on Earth.
We are the Devil and we are the Almighty God himself, but we pretend and play at being Poor Little Old Me!
This way of being in the world has been long in the making. It is the rippling effect of thinking too much, of ripping the world into opposites and colliding into our self-made polarized ideas and beliefs over and over and over again.
The Universe as a dumb thing that must be dominated and controlled (the mindset destroying Earth Now) is a counter reaction from the overbearing influence of religiosity, which really took root and grew into a Titanic force in the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and EuroAsia that have been jostling for survival and supremacy for more than 5,000 years.
In all this jostle, civilizations found religions provided a powerful galvanizing glue that held together the power and authority of a king or an emperor. A ruler could imbue legitimacy to his rule not only through laws and armies, but through the Gods themselves. This was a powerful way to bind together burgeoning cultures and civilizations that were growing larger and larger.
The problem all rulers face as their kingdoms grew bigger and bigger was how to keep everyone on the same page. Every intelligent ruler understood that if the people of his or her kingdom began to crack and fracture into opposing fractions, his/her power and authority would eventually fall victim to the fracturing and fragmentation of the civilization, unless unity could be restored.
But with the advent of highly successfully civilizations, it was getting harder and harder to get everyone to hold the mold and stay on the same page as group. Rulers use many devices to hold the mold of their societies and civilizations, but by far one of the most effective is Collective Beliefs, especially spiritual and religious beliefs.
But, in the early days of civilizations there were so many Gods and Goddess one could pay homage to, and if a ruler selected one to honor above another, he/she would inevitably alienate an important group of people needed to keep the unanimity of the kingdom or civilization and alienation can rapidly lead to loosing control of one’s power, authority, and supremacy.
I write about this in great detail and depth in Book 1 of Sapience Series (look for it 4/24/24), but long story short, it was really convenient for the ancient rulers of pre-Christian civilizations to winnow down the Gods to just ONE. The first ruler to do this is Akhenaten who got rid of all the other ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses claiming that Aten is the one and only God, all others are blasphemous, and that he was the one and only chosen son of Aten, represented by the solar disc of the sun.
This was a powerful claim that pissed a lot of people off way back then. When Akhenaten and his beautiful queen Nefertiti died, probably due to plague, the people and the priests abandoned his brand new city built by children appropriated by his kingdom and did everything possible to wipe his memory from Egypts memory.
But the one God would return again and again through the Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are the biggest ones with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam dominating the modern world. But there are others including Baha’i Faith, Rastafari Movement, Sikhism, Vodou, Eckankar, and Tenrikyo.
One God unifies all the people of a kingdom or an empire under one king or empire under one celestial and holy authority and this is a powerful thing.
In the story I write, I explore the collision and confluence of polytheistic and monotheistic beliefs in great detail, and when I get to Sláine, I explore the collision between the violent Viking Berzerkers and passive Catholic Priests. It is a colossal clash of opposites that will send shock waves through the centuries.
Indeed, we are still reverberating from this collision, perhaps most especially today.
Christianity Eventually Subdues the Viking Beast
The Catholic priests do suffer for centuries. They are killed, enslaved, and their riches taken by the Vikings for several centuries, but eventually Christianity tames and subdues the Viking beast.
This period of time of Nordic history is beautifully written about by Sigrid Undset in her three part series entitled Kristin Lavransdatter: The Bridal Wreath, The Mistress of Husaby, and The Cross.
Image 1: Albertus Magnus Institute | 7 lesson course about KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER:
This course will focus on the novel "Kristin Lavransdatter", in three volumes 1920-1922, by the Norwegian Catholic writer Sigrid Undset. We will read the novel with reference to Undset's life and other work. "Kristin" is one of the greatest Catholic novels yet written, and it's popularity reignited after its second translation into English by Tiina Nunnally whose edition we will be reading. It's strongly recommended students read as much of the novel ahead of time as they can. The trilogy has nine parts, three per volume, that we will be treating in eight classroom settings. The Nunnally translation is available both in paperback and Kindle.
Image 2: The Flying Inn: blog posted by Rick Davis:
In pursuit of my interest in all things relating to the history of Northern Europe, and on my wife’s strong recommendation, I read Kristin Lavransdatter, a trilogy of books written by the Norwegian author and Nobel laureate, Sigrid Undset. Comprised of The Bridal Wreath, The Mistress of Husaby, and The Cross, Kristin Lavransdatter is an unusual work of literature. It looks back on the medieval period without the romanticism of many fantasy authors while also avoiding the stark ugliness which characterize many modern “realistic” portrayals of the Middle Ages. In other words, while being a firmly modern writer, she comfortably and capably depicts the time period as it was in accurate detail without feeling the need to push an agenda on the medievals in her portrayal.
If you have not read these stories, I highly recommend them. They honestly portray the positive and negative consequences of this transformation of Nordic culture from mysterious, mythical, pagan beliefs into modern Christian sensibilities and beliefs.
Now my father was a Lutheran minister as was his father and my other grandfather and many of my uncles. Both sides of my family are devout Christian Norwegians. And both sides have done many things that have brought comfort to others who are suffering.
But there is a price for all this goodness. And the price is cutting oneself in half. To be a good Christian, I would be taught early on that I must identify everything bad in me and suppress it. Even better is deny the existence of the beast inside me… the Devil… the very fiend that ancient Vikings clearly knew lived inside of them and called upon to conduct their violent conquests.
And this is a very dangerous thing to do… because if you aren’t the Devil or the dangerous beast… then someone else has to be it because the world is both Good and Bad. Alan Watts calls this duplicity in man’s mind out too.
“Inferior virtue can’t let go of virtue, thus not virtue.” — Alan Watts
Watts often says that wars conducted for purely selfish reasons are merciful wars because the raiders want to enjoy the goods of the people they are invading. They want to take their treasures and enjoy their women, and because of this they will not destroy everything.
But wars conducted in the Name of God, or even worse, wars waged by men who claim to be chosen by God and therefore they are waging a righteous war, or even more worse than this, men who believe themselves to a God and they are bringing in a superior, better world, these kind of wars are the most brutal, most merciless, most destructive wars ever conducted by mankind.
When you hear someone invoking the Name of God to legitimize an idea, a cause, a belief, a political party… you should run!
These people are not doing this thing or touting that belief in the Name of God! They are doing this for their own personal Power and Glory!!! They are doing it to get inside your mind! And once inside, the will control you like a hungry Monster!
There have been many monsters like this since the dawning of our gleaming, golden modern age! Monstrous, modern men who have engage in the the most gruesome, heinous Virtue Wars.
All of them have conducted in the name of some God–be it the Holy God Almighty or the God of Ideas (man’s petty, polarizing ideas that they believe will bring glory to the nation, which is really double speak for Power and Glory to themselves). Virtue wars are the bloodiest, most violent, most merciless, most catastrophic wars ever conceived and conducted by mankind.
Each generation of men seems to breed a more hideous monster, and there have been many: Adolf Hitler (Germany 1934-1945), Joseph Stalin (USSR 1924-1953, Idi Amin (Uganda 1971-19790, Pol Pot (Cambodia 1975-1979), Muammar Gaddafi (Libya 1969-2011), Saddam Hussein (Iraq 1979-2003), Benito Mussolini (Italy 1926-1943), and the list goes on and on… to reign terror, destruction, and death on scales never before achieved by one man or one brutal bunch of people.
In some ways, the Vikings were simply more honest about their violence. Today, we glorify their violence while pretending to be Modern, civilized, virtuous beings who know how to make the world a better place.
In fact, they are the only ones who know and they will kill you if you don’t believe them!
This is the world we live in now.
My Dad Was A Northman Too
My dad was a Northman too. He was a civilized one…a man of the cloth…but he had suffered early in life…and he doubted his faith greatly throughout his life, especially as he bore witness to the monstrous things man was doing to his fellow man.
He knew he could not correct the malfunctioning mentally leading to our great destruction as a species, but he did what he could with what he had wherever he was. And he remembered his roots. He knew he was capable of good deeds and bad deeds. Because of this he did not shame and blame others. And because of this, he could truly be with people and comfort them at their times of greatest need and suffering.
Feature Archetypal Animation
Image from: Robert Eggers film. In an age of Viking myth overload, the film doubles down on the details. By Shannon Connellan for Mashable on April 20, 2022
Image from: Robert Eggers film. In an age of Viking myth overload, the film doubles down on the details. By Shannon Connellan for Mashable on April 20, 2022
The other images were made with AI Image Maker on Genolve.
Music: Viking Music: Rurik : Pawl D Beats  Viking Music: Rurik 3:10
Second Archetypal Animation
All images made using Midjourney AI Generated Images on Genolve
Music: Run Boy Run by Snake City