By Casey McCarthy
Today is the first day of Yggdrasil Fest, a nine day festival leading up to May Day that commemorates the nine days that Odin hung upon the World Tree. We could devote whole texts to the aspects of Odin, but during Yggdrasil Fest we have an opportunity to focus on one of the most prominent roles of the All-Father- the hanged man.
I love Paganism because it offers multiple sources of divinity and, therefore, multiple sources of truth. No one better exemplifies this than a figure like Odin. Not only is Odin a very complex figure, but he also contains many aspects often with entirely different personalities that operate in complete independence, and sometimes interdependence, of each other. ‘The Hanged Man’ aspect originates in a myth that recalls when Odin embarks on quest for knowledge which spans both worlds and lifetimes, culminating in Odin hanging himself from the world tree Yggdrasil as an act of self-sacrifice.
Nine long nights, wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, myself to myself, on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.
– Stanza 133, Hávamál
Self-sacrifice of offering one’s identity, or ego, to a greater process is a hallmark of many different religious and mythical heroes all throughout time and across the world, from Zen Buddhism to the myth of Jesus Christ. By confronting ourselves and engaging in deep introspection, we are able to let go of limiting ideas and embrace our growth. This process of personal sacrifice and renewal also falls perfectly in alignment with Yggdrasil Fest and the rites of Spring on May 1st or May Day.
May Day is celebrated by many earth-based religions all over the world in different and sundry forms. It’s the time when newness and life begins to spring forth from the grasp of winter. It’s a time for rejuvenation, life, love, and community. This aligns with Odin on the tree in that the seasons of personal and communal consciousness reflect the seasons of nature. We begin in spring- newness, ecstasis, creativity, planting seeds… Then we move into summer where these seeds come to fruition. And from there we harvest the fruits of our labor to produce forward momentum during the lean times in our community. Finally in winter we reflect and harden ourselves and our communities and values to survive.
We see this represented in world events- currently we’re experiencing a Winter. Ideology, philosophy, and discourse are frozen. Our goods and resources are being held in the hands of only a few. Barren circumstances leave us to struggle through hardship, often feeling like we are left to weather the harsh Winter alone.
Over the next 9 days in the spirit of the All-Father’s own experience on the World Tree, I’ll be sharing a dedicated practice reflecting the journey from egoistic consciousness to communal consciousness. I invite anyone who would like to follow along with me for this nine day practice of “planting seeds” for a hopeful future of community and prosperity.