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Wayland, Mannaz and the Art of Revenge

(as poetic stress management)

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Revenge has been given a bad name by the petty and spiteful form it most often assumes. This has been true since ancient times. But there was a time when a truly poetic vengeance was admired as a work of art.

I have just drawn a rune from my divination bag. Wyrd has given me Mannaz as a focus for this discussion. Not surprisingly, Odin's oracle is both ironic and appropriate, evoking a familiar grim smile. Intelligence, an awareness of our human nature, even empathy with the victim are essential.

Although the story of Wayland survived only as a poem in the Eddas, it was well known to the Germanic peoples. This is indicated in an offhand remark in the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, which refers to a character in the Wayland story and assumes the listener has substantial knowledge of the tale.

Wayland was admired not only for his skill in metals, but equally for the skill and intelligence of his masterpiece of revenge. He exemplifies the principle of Mannaz. Resisting the temptation to satisfy base emotion by taking hasty action, Wayland uses his powers of empathy to understand the emotional attachments of the Niara king and queen. Yet he never allows himself to fall into the mistake of attachment or sympathy with them.

For most people the only choice is between a hasty retaliation, usually with unfortunate repercussions (Thor), or to repress the urge and suffer the resulting stress along with the possibility of further advantage being taken (Kristjan). The wise divest themselves of their troubles with the quiet oath "when the time is right..." (Odin & Wayland).

Mannaz imbues the avenger with intelligence and an understanding of human wyrd. With awareness of the subtle flow of forces between self and victim, the window of opportunity becomes clear. Nothing is wasted. The avenger need not sacrifice anything of value in the act. It would be senseless to give up life or liberty for a vendetta.

The purpose of revenge is to teach a hard lesson, to prevent further offence, and to redress the balance of wyrd. As Wayland illustrates, it is better not to focus on the enemy, but to target the enemy's attachments. It is better not to act with aggression, but to entice the victim into a voluntary sacrifice. Use these attachments to bait a trap which will rob the victim of those very attachments.

Most important in this process is your own state of mind. Do not act in anger. Do not think of yourself as the victim. Always see the offender as the victim. Do not brood over the offence or the wer-geld (Vergeltung). Cultivate a detached amusement at your victim's impending disaster, yet view the lesson as a compassionate gift. Such mental discipline and detachment is only possible in the individuated consciousness embodied in Mannaz.

Remember the way of Odin, don't get mad, get even.

Sweyn
Organiser Rune-Net


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