I think that in my first blog post, I presented an image of myself warm hearted and starry eyed, being carried blissfully into the future by my dreams and my visions (perhaps with a snowy, windswept background and wolves howling in the distance as the aurora borealis hovers above me). HA!
This is the reality people: I’m nowhere near calm or prepared for this. I’ve changed my mind back and forth about going to Iceland at least 30 times since I first got my acceptance letter, and I don’t even know where I’m going to be living yet!
The hardest part about getting ready to go to Iceland is the deep sacrifice involved in this venture. I don’t think I had fully considered when I applied to UI what living in Iceland for 1-2 years (or more) would really entail, but I’m leaving in 14 days and I feel like my life has gone through some serious weeding in a very short time. The house that Sálwila, Fen and I have been renting was sold while we were still living in it (a little nudge out the door from the gods) and we downsized our possessions, books, etc at least by 50% while we were moving out. Both of our cars have been sold, Sálwilia’s product making supplies have gone into storage, and we’ve been drifting like gypsies for the past week. We’ll be leaving all of our friends and family in America for an indefinite amount of time, not to mention our newly formed kindred. I gave up a tattoo apprenticeship that I was very happy with and we have YET to figure out what is going to happen to our two beloved Italian Greyhounds. Moving pets to Iceland is a very complicated, very pricey process, and if we try to take them with us, that diminishes our options of places to rent almost completely. We have not been able to find anyone willing to foster them either, and we are deeply saddened by the thought of having to give them to a new home.
We’ve been through a lot of stress in the past few months, so Sálwila and I took a trip today to our favorite park. While we were there, we started to reflect upon some of the things, projects, and people that we had needed to let go of in order to make this journey, and were hoping that the future opportunities and rewards would be worth the exchange. Sálwila pointed out that almost all of the Norse gods are well acquainted with the nature of sacrifice, as many of their stories are about the sacrifices they give in order to make a better world or to gain something better in return:
Óðinn is the most famous example, who hangs from the world tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nights to gain knowledge of the runes, and drops an eye into Mímisbrunnr in exchange for a drink from the well of memory.
Loki sacrifices his own ego when he is the only god among the Æsir who is able to make Skaði laugh. After cutting off Sif’s hair, he makes amends by bargaining hair made of gold for her, but at risk to himself (and with no reward for himself at the end of the story) also procures many wonderful gifts for the gods, including Þórr’s famous hammer Mjönir.
Freyr sacrifices his sword to win his wife Gerðr, and in many ways embodies the sacrifice of the grain that falls to the scythe every year so that life can continue.
Týr sacrifices his hand in order to bind chaos in the form of Fenris.
Njörðr journeys away from his home into an unknown land in order to bring peace to his people.
Freyja sacrifices her body and sexual power to four dwarves in order to win Brísingamen.
There are many other stories, and many more deities who make similar sacrifices. The conclusion we came to, is that the stories of the gods teach us that sometimes sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve a greater good, or to attain those things which we truly desire. You get only what you’re willing to give, and nothing is given to us in this world for free. Like the rune Jera teaches us, you reap what you sow. To top it off, there’s never any guarantee of success. Even the gods themselves gave sacrifices without knowing for sure what the final outcome would be, only driven by the vision of a better future. But without risk, nothing is gained. The gods weren’t born naturally perfect, powerful, or wise. Each of them gave greatly in order to gain greatly, and to become the personality that we recognize. Even they had to strive to become better, which is what I pray this experience will help to make us.
Hail to the Æsir and Vanir, who through your stories teach us that even you didn’t become who you are without effort and sacrifice. May we follow your example, knowing when it is time to take and time to let go, so we too may become the fullest expression of our own divine selves.