Northern Tales in the Modern World
By Dave Lee
This 168-page paper pack came out in 2008 and was published by Mandrake. Within you’ll find five essays, five short stories, one poem about the Elder Futhark, as well as a handful of black and white runic-sigils (or servitors to be more precise).
We Need to Talk About Covers
This may be a product of its time, even if by 2008 we have started to see a shift towards more tasteful and well-designed covers in occult publishing. Those who remember the 90s for instance will know that it was a particularly bad decade for paperbacks releases covering topics of magick and other forms of esoterica. So I feel like this is sort of stuck in the past in that regard. Which isn’t doing the book any favors, so I’ve decided to do it a favor by not including a picture of it. Harsh, I know, but, spoiler alert, I think this book has some interesting and inspiring stuff in it. All that being said, some of Lee’s other books, like the classic Chaotopia! Sorcery and Ecstasy in the Fifth Aeon have what I consider a good look.
We Need to Talk About Loki
My dear readers, I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but there’s no historical evidence that suggests Loki was associated with fire. This is a relatively new misconception, probably stemming from the similarities between the name Loki and the old Norse word for fire; logi. The composer Wagner may have popularized this notion, being heavily influenced by the idea of Loki as a god of fire from Jacob Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie. Another factor is the Left Hand Path and/or the satanic influence that wants to cast Loki as a sort of Lucifer figure. I think this is hilarious, as they are very vocal about what they believe is a Christian corruption of some of the original sources (the Prose Edda for instance).
My point here is that there have been taken many liberties over the years when it comes to the interpretations of old Norse myths and legends. Usually, this is from people that have a political agenda or some other ulterior motive, and that has muddied the waters significantly. This book in particular isn’t even that bad in this sense, and I’m not trying to single it out, but a couple of its claims aren’t exactly historically or even culturally accurate, so please make sure you do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Think for yourself.
Despite these misreadings and misleading information (comparing Loki to Prometheus for instance), I applaud Lee for pushing forwards in terms of how to tap into these powers. In my opinion, this is the way to go. Yes, we need to focus on the authentic understanding of the sources (which is rather limited, and we just have to accept that we know very little for certain), but we should try and make it into a living tradition again. We can update the system without basing it on an outdated code.
Cyberpunk, or Seiðerpunk, as I Like to Call it
This is a very weird book. Weird in a good way. It taught me that weird, or weirdness, is as good a definition of magick as any. Go look up the etymology up the word weird if you don’t believe me.
Perhaps apart from Peter Carrol, Dave Lee is the only champion of postmodern chaos magic who aims at making it into a sustainable practice. This isn’t just concerned with magical tech, which seems to be the largest obsession amongst chaotes today.
For the independent magician, seeking to hack the operating system to better suit their approach, the short stories included here may serve as a great source of inspiration. They do a fantastic job of recasting and reframing old myths in a way that brings forth new insight and ideas. Still, for me at least, the essays were the most engaging and readable parts of this book. Being as varied as the content is thought, there’s something for almost everyone attracted to Northern myths and paganism, especially when looked at from a chaos magic perspective.
“Chaos magic is capable of demonstrating to each practitioner that, with sufficient precision and passion, you can use pretty much any belief to dance with the universe.”
There’s also some good practical advice to be found in this book as well, like this:
“From living experience of magical Selfhood, the magician can rebuild his self-complex. One way to do this is, is over a series of magical retirements — concentrated sequences of daily magical work lasting a few weeks — to create your own system of magic, your personal grimoire.”
Well, Well, Well, What Do Have We Here?
One might think that I’d be the perfect target audience for this, being both a practicing chaos magician and a Scandinavian, yet it felt that a lot wasn’t for me at all. As mentioned above, there are some inaccuracies in terms of how the Nordic mythology is presented within these pages. Now, that being said, this is sadly very common, and it’s extremely rare to find anything that deeply resonates with me in that regard. However, I do recognize that for many others out there, these things won’t bother them, so I still believe many folks especially outside of the Nordic countries will find lots of value here.
It has real potential, and most of my gripes are very minor, all of which would be easily rectified. The cover, for one, definitely could use an upgrade, a better editing of the text itself too would elevate its overall impression, because I get the impression that it was hastily put together, lacking proper proofreading. Also, while we do get an index, it’s very incomplete, and missing several key references, and I found at least one mistake. Although, at this point, I’m getting used to filling out indices with a pencil on my own, and it’s almost become a fun game. I just wish publishers would make more room to make it easier for us to do this on our own. This might just be me nitpicking.
All these minor issues make the book feel a little cheap and not at all a labor of love, which is a real shame. Hopefully, after the print run is sold out there will be a possibility for a revised second edition. I think that would be super cool, and certainly would help the book reach a wider audience, and I really do believe that it has never been a better time than now for combining chaos magic and nordic paganism.
All in all, my take away and overall impression is that this is a good stepping (rune)stone towards a more futuristic and personal take on the old Northern Tales.
And I’m all for that!
We really are long overdue for a revival of good old Techno Paganism.
This is The Age of the Seidrpunk…
Review sponsored by Varda.