The Star Game, Chess, and the Nine Angles: An Introduction to Chess Hermeneutics

Posted: April 14th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Acausal Theory, Alchemy, Inner ONA, O9A, Occultism, Order of Nine Angles, The Sinister Tradition, The Star Game | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Star Game, Chess, and the Nine Angles: An Introduction to Chess Hermeneutics

Grandmaster © Nameless Therein 2022

– “Grandmaster,” © Nameless Therein 2022

[Repost of: https://luxlycaonis.com/index.php/2022/04/14/chess-hermeneutics/]

The Star Game, Chess, and the Nine Angles:
An Introduction to Chess Hermeneutics

Much attention is given in the Order of Nine Angles to the importance of learning and playing the Star Game. At its most basic level, the Star Game can function as a learning tool or “game” to familiarize oneself with various Septenary correspondences and refine certain imaginative, creative, rational, and abstract faculties. At one of many esoteric levels, the Star Game functions as a way of magickally apprehending “the nine fundamental ‘alchemical’ forms,” which “re-present the acausal manifest in the causal.”[1] These “nine fundamental forms” are represented by the pieces of the Star Game, where each alchemical combination represents an “angle” with respect to the Septenary Tree of Wyrd, alluding to one esoteric meaning of the term “nine angles.”[2] These forms are said to “exist in many combinations within the nexion which the ‘Tree of Wyrd’ represents,” where such combinations “are abstractly symbolized by the placement of the many pieces of the Star Game over the seven boards (‘Spheres’) of that game.”[3] The aforesaid abstraction “makes the [nine fundamental] forms understandable on a level higher than using words and ideas,” which is in turn meant to cultivate “a new form of thinking” – a form of thinking referred to as “acausal thinking.”[4] The symbolism of the Star Game is essentially “a new tool to assist and develope our understanding, and it is via this symbolism that the meanings of the nine angles may most easily be understood without confusion.”[5] The simple or Septenary form of the Star Game is meant to be an introduction to its advanced form, which is a “complete and full representation of the septenary system.”[6] In more advanced applications, the Star Game functions as a “sophisticated magickal ‘clock’” with respect to the Wheel of Life;[7] and in its advanced form, the game can be used for Aeonic magick.[8]

While many associates have some understanding of the esoteric significance of the Star Game and its basic applications, I find it bewildering how so many associates attempt to learn the Star Game while completely neglecting training and experience in the game of chess.

CHESS AND THE STAR GAME

Like the Star Game, chess can be played as nothing more than an entertaining game, rich with complexity and a deep cultural history over the course of its long evolution. But from its longstanding cultural origins, its tangible influence on world history,[9] its influence on global technology,[10] and its usefulness in developing certain higher-level faculties in the individual, the significance of chess has broader socio-cultural implications. Unlike the Star Game, chess is merely a game. But it can be an invaluable tool to develop, refine, and expand the necessary faculties required for applying the Star Game to its many esoteric and magickal contexts. At a practical level, the study of certain fundamental patterns in chess provides a foundation for navigating the boards and pieces of the Star Game. With care, experience, and creativity one can find correlates between the patterns found in chess and the nine fundamental alchemical forms represented by the pieces of the Star Game, which again represent one esoteric meaning of the “nine angles.”[11] Insofar as these nine alchemical forms “are the basic apprehensions of magickal energy … [representing] the acausal manifest in the causal,”[12] and given that these forms can manifest in many ways, the study of correlative fundamental patterns in chess is a worthwhile and important activity. At a more advanced level, discovering correlations between the patterns in chess and the forms of the Star Game can aid in the development of the imaginative, creative, rational, and abstract faculties required for their magickal apprehension and application. At more advanced levels of chess, experience with these fundamental patterns not only finds application in real life – in navigating interpersonal conflict, strategizing, and identifying complex networks of meaning, for example – but can form a bridge between instinct and what with respect to the Star Game is referred to as an “intuition” – a lower form of abstraction that can arise with “acausal thinking.”[13] The capacity for acausal thinking arises from the relation between the abstract symbols of the Star Game and “conventional representations,” such as “archetypal forms; the energies of the pathways; the symbolism of the Tarot and the many and various Occult symbolisms.”[14] This capacity thus arises, in part, from the formation and implementation of the meaningful associations and “deep roots” that I described elsewhere (see my previous articles, “‘Deep Roots’ and Meaningful Associations: Musical Tarot Continued, Auditory Sigils, and Aeonic Chant Magick” and “Techniques for Doing a Musical Tarot Reading & Creating Auditory Sigils”). Thus, in forming the aforesaid correlates between the patterns of chess and the forms of the Star Game, in establishing a bridge between instinct and “intuition,” and in developing and then refining the necessary faculties to apply said patterns to more advanced esoteric and magickal contexts, training in chess is an invaluable tool for learning and playing the Star Game.

Colloquially, the number of possible chess games that can be played is sometimes said to exceed the number of stars or atoms in the known universe. More precisely, the number of possible legal positions was estimated by Claude Shannon in 1950 to be “of the general order of 64!/32!(8!)^2(2!)^2, or roughly 10^43,” which is now referred to as “Shannon’s number.”[15] More recently, Victor Allis estimates this to be around10^50,[16] additionally estimating the game-tree complexity of chess to be 10^123.[17] Again, given this immense number and given the even greater complexity of the Star Game when accounting for the variables involved in its advanced magickal applications at the Aeonic level (which, like our “normal” understanding of the septenary, reflects not just a “‘map of consciousness and the cosmos,”[18] but a dynamic of the universe), it is difficult to imagine how one can approach the Star Game, let alone the advanced form of the game, without some experience in chess.

That said, while one can play the Star Game without any experience in chess, it is my opinion that high-level chess players, including those at the Master and Grandmaster levels, would be of assistance in developing the Star Game. Such players could assist in developing a consistent notation to record and then analyze games, in addition to determining how to approach tactics, strategy, openings, and calculating accurate moves in specific positions. Eventually, we may be able to develop Star Game engines, both to analyze our games and to play against. Without these and similar developments, the Star Game will likely encounter obstacles over the course of its evolution, highlighting an asymmetry between the potency of its magickal applications and the practical limitations of playing and studying the game. It is hoped that in emphasizing the importance and usefulness of studying chess in relation to the Star Game, others will take up these tasks. With the esoteric and magickal applications of the Star Game in mind, it is also hoped that a confluence between chess and the Star Game can aid Internal Adepts and Masters/Mistresses in constructing and then employing new empty formal structures of magick to employ at the Aeonic level. These function as formal structural “models” that can then be populated, directed, and implemented according to a specific magickal or esoteric technique.

With those aims in mind, I will be regularly introducing various chess patterns or puzzles in relation to various levels of meaning relevant the Order of Nine Angles. I call these “chess hermeneutics.” To make sense of what I mean by this phrase, in addition to how these chess puzzles will be applied to the ONA, I will say a little more about the origin and meaning of “hermeneutics.”

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HERMENEUTICS

The word “hermeneutics” comes from the Greek infinitive hermenuein, which means “to interpret.”[19] Hermeneutics is an ancient field with a long history, one that was revived in the modern age and particularly in the nineteenth century. In the ancient world, hermeneutics developed in two contexts: one was Greek and the other was biblical. In the Greek context, hermeneutics took shape with respect to the work of Homer, who is sometimes regarded (and explicitly referred to) as the teacher of Greece. Through Homer we find the ancient myths conveyed in epic poetry, which provided a context for the Greeks to understand the world they inhabited. Though there are disagreements about when to date Homer, we can see from the fourth and fifth centuries that his work guided the Greeks over the course of several centuries. With this guidance and as history began to run its course, the question concerning how Homer’s work could come to bear on the current circumstances of individual lives took shape. The response, broadly speaking, was that some dynamic or process of interpretation was needed. This was also the case in the biblical context of hermeneutics, both with respect to the New Testament and the Old Testament. Hermeneutics was the name given to that process or dynamic of interpretation.

Hermeneutics made its way from the ancient world to the modern one through works like Aristotle’s On Interpretation, which was devoted to the task of analyzing sentences, to the work of St. Augustine in the early medieval period, which was concerned with the question of how the word of God could be understood by human beings. Hermeneutics saw a revival in the nineteenth century through the work of the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, who was interested in the question of scriptural interpretation. Schleiermacher developed a mode of hermeneutics characterized as “romantic,” which in effect concerned a type of understanding or communion between the interpreter and the historical source of the text. Hermeneutics began to branch out from theology as Schleiermacher became interested in the character of understanding generally. Around this time, we also find contributions to hermeneutics in the work of the philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey, whose name comes up in Heidegger’s Being and Time when Heidegger distinguishes his own hermeneutical project from that of philosophical anthropology. Dilthey essentially draws a distinction between the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften), which includes the social sciences developed in the nineteenth century.

Dilthey may have been looking for a way to work within the human sciences that was more appropriate for them than that of the natural sciences. We find, in turn, that the type of thinking appropriate for the human sciences is understanding, which brings along with it a question of meaning. This is contrasted with the type of thinking appropriate for the natural sciences, which is explanation. In short, Dilthey concluded that hermeneutics is the method appropriate for the human sciences.

At this point, hermeneutics began to re-emerge prominently as a development that continued and intensified into the twentieth century. Additionally, the distinction between the natural sciences and human sciences created a division between those who approached the human sciences with respect to understanding and meaning versus those who attempted to work within the human sciences as if they were natural sciences. This essentially involved a division between a hermeneutical approach (sometimes called interpretive social science) and a calculative methodology (sometimes called calculative social science). This division can still be seen in, for example, the difference between Continental philosophy and Anglo-American analytic philosophy, broadly speaking.

Though there are other fields that take a strong interest in hermeneutics – hermeneutic interpretation finds a strong presence in law and jurisprudence, for example – today the term usually refers to philosophical hermeneutics, and specifically philosophical hermeneutics after Heidegger. Heidegger brought hermeneutics into philosophy in a major way through his analysis of Being. In analyzing the structure of the type of being that we are (which Heidegger calls “Dasein”), Heidegger finds that we are “always already” interpreting. This discovery – that a hermeneutical interpretive dynamic is always already at play with respect to the ontological structure of our being – was a major contribution to the Western intellectual tradition and carried hermeneutics into the modern world.

CHESS HERMENEUTICS: SHAPESHIFTING, SATANISM, AND MIMESIS

With respect to what has been written here on the Star Game, chess, and hermeneutics, the phrase “chess hermeneutics” is thus meant to refer to a specific way of interpreting the correlations between certain fundamental patterns encountered in chess and the nine fundamental alchemical forms in the Star Game, which represent one of the esoteric meanings of the “nine angles.” In keeping with the role of the “shapeshifter” in the ONA, studying certain recurrent, fundamental chess patterns in their myriad configurations can help illuminate the many ways these dynamics are interpretive and require interpretation – not just on the board, but in real life. Like the “nine angles,” such dynamics are operative in consciousness and throughout the cosmos, requiring a kind of reflexivity between the operator and their environment: before one can identify the many ways such dynamics manifest in the world, they must first develop the faculties required to identify and then imitate these primordial patterns, thereby “shifting their shape” or “shapeshifting,” to illustrate one esoteric sense of the term.

Many who claim the title “Satanist” have not developed the faculties required for this kind of imitation at even the most basic level – faculties required to approach any magickal apprehension of “shapeshifting.” Beyond Satanism and with greater experience, one learns to approach this basic form of imitation through the more advanced interpretive dynamic of mimesis, which, in one advanced form, alters by way of complex forms of “imitation” certain formal structures of the narrativity of wyrd. This is a clue to what “shapeshifting” actually entails, here approaching the Aeonic level. At that level, “‘Mimesis’ is one method of aeonic magick that has come down over the centuries,” involving the imitation of “some aspect of cosmic/Earth-based movement/working, and then either following the natural pattern or slightly altering that pattern to bring about a subtle change.” Additionally, given that it is this “alteration” that “forms the basis for ‘black’ magick,”[20] it is quite telling that so few “Satanists” have a sense of what that means.

In an attempt to remedy this, and as a practical way of encouraging others to develop the faculties required for advanced magickal applications of the Star Game, I will thus be introducing a series of “chess hermeneutics.” These will involve specific puzzles and positions in relation to certain interpretive dynamics. Those dynamics may include (but are not limited to): 1) relations to certain energies, forces, paths, spheres, and Dark Gods on the Tree of Wyrd; 2) applications in certain interpersonal scenarios in real life; 3) connections to other magickal and esoteric ideas, techniques, or correspondences; and 4) potential connections to the Star Game, when and where applicable. While these are not intended to be comprehensive, they will offer a few ideas on how to identify and then utilize such dynamics with an eye toward broader, more advanced esoteric, magickal, existential, and cosmic applications.

In turn, I will try to select puzzles and positions requiring varying levels of skill and experience on the chess board, ranging from intermediate to advanced. These will be created as I find puzzles and positions worthy of constructing into a “chess hermeneutic,” which may take some time.

In closing, I encourage those interested or experienced in the Star Game to supplement their knowledge with chess. Though there are many online resources to begin studying and playing the game – chess.com is an excellent resource, for example, and has a “puzzles” trainer that includes over 150,000 different puzzles to solve at different Elo ratings – what is important, as with all things, is to get started.

Nameless Therein
Scothorn Nexion
April 13, 2022

NOTES

[1] Anton Long and the Order of Nine Angles, “The Nine Angles – Esoteric Meaning,” in Hostia: Secret Teachings of the O.N.A., Volume I (Shrewsbury: Thormynd Press, 1992).

[2] Long and ONA, “The Nine Angles.” The Tree of Wyrd itself “possesses nine causal angles and nine acausal angles in the causal geometric sense,” which the author notes “can be represented as formed by the corners or angles of a causal and acausal tetrahedron, one a reflexion of the other, the base of both lying in the plane of the middle sphere (the Sun). This double tetrahedron encloses in three-dimensional space the path from causal to acausal – the ‘Initiate journey’ from the sphere of the Moon to Saturn via the other spheres, this path being helical (cf. ‘The Wheel of Life’). The direction of this path is ‘counter-clockwise’.” Regarding the nine angles themselves, the author adds that, “In essence, the acausal is a reflexion (and vice versa) of the causal, so the single term ‘Nine Angles’ describes what is our normal (i.e. un-Initiated) view of the septenary, this septenary being a ‘map’ of consciousness and the cosmos. The realization of the dual nature of the spheres (for example, Mercury is the ‘shadow’ of Mars) arises from Initiation and is the first stage of an esoteric understanding of the term ‘nine angles.’”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. The author notes that the higher-level understanding of these nine fundamental forms “arises from playing the Star Game and relating the abstract symbols to conventional representations (e.g. archetypal forms; the energies of the pathways; the symbolism of the Tarot and the many various Occult symbolisms) – this developes the capacity for what may be termed ‘acausal thinking’: when the conventional representations are abandoned and collocations are viewed abstractly.” The author emphasizes that this abstraction is “not a dry, academic process,” but a “new ‘insight’ (a lower form of which is often described an ‘intuition’),” whereby consciousness is extended “into new and important realms and pre-figures the development of a symbolic language which eliminates the confusion, both moral and linguistic, which exists in words and the translation of complex ideas into such words.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Long and ONA, “Advanced Star Game,” in Hostia I.

[7] Long and ONA, “Star Game: Addendum,” in Hostia I.

[8] For more on this subject, see, Long and ONA,“Aeonic Magick – General Notes,” in Hostia I. Also see the final section of “The Septenary Star Game” in Hostia I, which elaborates briefly on what “Aeonic magick” in part entails with respect to the Star Game. The author notes that, “It is important to understand that the most important and practical aspect of an Aeon is the associated higher civilization – magickal Aeonic workings shape the ethos of this during the transition period between the ending of one Aeon and the beginning of another.” Elaborating further, the author states:

Hitherto, Aeonic workings – when they have been undertaken at all – have concentrated on opening the Gate that presences the power of a new Aeon. Yet is possible to extend by such workings a … [higher civilization] into the … [sulphur] stages. For the present, this implies the end of the Western as c. 3090 AD instead of 2390 AD. This is the first time in history that such a change is possible, since heretofore the process of Aeonic change has not been consciously understood by Adepts – it was approached mainly via mythological symbolism. It is through the abstract symbolism of the Star Game that full control is possible.

However, the following comments from Hostia I, “Aeonics” should also be kept in mind when approaching these advanced esoteric topics: “These are ‘esoteric’ teachings – of necessity, because their understanding requires the insight and knowledge which an External Adept and Internal Adept has attained. Without this insight and knowledge, there is liable to be mis-understanding and a failure to appreciate the finer points (or even any of the points at all).”

[9] Chess has seen many historically significant events over the course of its history. The defeat of the Soviets in the 1972 world championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky is one of many notable examples. See David Edmonds and John Eidinow, “Match of the Century,” ch. 1 in Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005). The authors colorfully expound upon the historical significance of this event as follows:

To Western commentators, the meaning of the confrontation seemed clear. A lone American star was challenging the long Soviet grip on the world title. His success would dispose of the Soviets’ claim that their chess hegemony reflected the superiority of their political system. The board was a cold war arena where the champion of the free world fought for democracy against the apparatchiks of the Soviet socialist machine. Here was the High Noon of chess, coming to you from a concrete auditorium in Iceland.

[10] As evidenced in, for example, the 1996 match between IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, which demonstrates the lasting influence chess technology and chess engines have had on global technology. One can trace these developments to related subjects in, for example, the analytic tradition of philosophy of mind, particularly with respect to consciousness (see, e.g., David Chalmers’ zombie argument), physicalism (see, e.g., Frank Jackson’s Mary argument on qualia), dualism (see, e.g., Descartes’ Meditations and the mind-body problem), epiphenomenalism (see the entry linked here), and, more recently panpsychism or Russellian monism, which is thought to be a resurgence of vitalism and is a rich development in philosophy of mind. On the subject of panpsychism, see, for example, some of the recent work by Sam Coleman, David Chalmers, Thomas Nagel, in addition to Galen Strawson et al., Consciousness and its Place in Nature (Charlottesville: Imprint Academic, 2006). All of these areas of research have more or less had some influence on the concomitant development of artificial intelligence, and thus have some bearing on the rise of chess engines. See, for example, David Chalmers’ work related to “strong” and “weak” AI with respect to consciousness, as well as the famous thought experiment by John Searle referred to as “The Chinese Room Argument.” A great (illustrated) overview of this thought experiment, in addition to notable criticism of it, can be found here: https://mind.ilstu.edu/curriculum/searle_chinese_room/searle_chinese_room.html. For an overview of one of the more famous critiques of this thought experiment, see the “Robot Reply” found here: https://mind.ilstu.edu/curriculum/searle_chinese_room/searle_robot_reply.html. In terms of the rise of chess and artificial intelligence, many of these subjects are relevant to early ideas on Turing machines. See, for example, Claude E. Shannon, “A Universal Turing Machine with Two Internal States,” in Automata Studies (AM-34), eds. C. E. Shannon and J. McCarthy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956). On the question of whether chess computers can “think,” see Claude E. Shannon, “A Chess-Playing Machine,” Scientific American, 182, no. 2 (February 1950): 48-51.

[11] Long and ONA, “The Nine Angles.”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Quoted in Stefan Steinerberger, “On the Number of Positions in Chess without Promotion,” International Journal of Game Theory 44, no. 3 (August 2015): 762, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00182-014-0453-7. Steinerberger clarifies what this number calculates as follows:

The number is known as Shannon’s number: it counts the number of ways to arrange all chessmen (henceforth simply called med) taking into account that no two men can occupy the same square and that furthermore any two identical men of the same color are indistinguishable. This number does not consider the possibility that not all the men need to be on the board (some might have been already captured) and … it also does not account or the rule of promotion whereby a pawn must be promoted to a more powerful figure if it advances to the end of a file (column of the chessboard). However, it also accounts for all sorts of illegal positions that can never possibly occur. This combination of factors makes it difficult to say whether Shannon’s argument over or underestimates the actual state space.

[16] See Steinerberger, “Positions in Chess,” 762.

[17] Victor Allis, “Searching for Solutions in Games and Artificial Intelligence” (PhD diss., Maastricht University, 1994), 171.

[18] Long and ONA, “The Nine Angles.”

[19] Brian Gilchrist, “Questions Concerning Ge-Stell: Heideggerian Confrontations with Technology,” Explorations in Media Ecology 14, nos. 3-4 (December 2015): 240.

[20] Long and ONA, “Aeonic Magick – General Notes,” in Hostia I.


“Where’s Your Will to Be Wyrd?”: An Examination of Wyrd in the Anglo-Saxon Religious Imagination

Posted: March 29th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Alchemy, Culture, Etymology, Fenrir, Inner ONA, O9A, Occultism, Order of Nine Angles, paganism, Rounwytha, The Sinister Tradition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Where’s Your Will to Be Wyrd?”: An Examination of Wyrd in the Anglo-Saxon Religious Imagination

Venerable Bede

– Harry Clarke, St. Bede the Venerable, 1931
St. Cuthbert’s Church, Durham

Reposted from Lux Lycaonis:

https://luxlycaonis.com/index.php/2022/03/29/will-wyrd/

What follows is another article for the upcoming edition of Fenrir. This article covers the subject of wyrd in relation to the medieval Christian influence on the Anglo-Saxon pagan Weltanschauung. In examining the role of wyrd in extant Anglo-Saxon verse, I demonstrate how the role of wyrd as Other illuminates the meaning of the phrase, “elþeodigra eard gesecan” – “to seek the land of foreigners” – in relation to the Hermetic quest (ἄνοδος) of the Order of Nine Angles. In so doing, I then examine how the relations between man, wyrd, and God and three types of human responses to wyrd in medieval Anglo-Saxon verse shed light on the deeper esoteric role of wyrd within (and beyond) the ONA through what in Beowulf is called “forethought of mind,” and what in devotional Anglo-Saxon verse is referred to as “thinking well” or “thinking wisely” – all with an eye toward addressing “the inability of the individual to comprehend the operation of wyrd in man’s daily life and the human endeavor to live meaningfully in the face of that incomprehensibility.”

“Where’s Your Will to Be Wyrd?”

An Examination of Wyrd in the Anglo-Saxon Religious Imagination

by Nameless Therein

monað modes lust mæla gehwylce
ferð to feran, þæt ic feor heonan
elþeodigra eard gesece.

The mind’s urging admonishes the spirit at every moment to set forth, that I might seek far from here the land of foreigners.

– “The Seafarer,” translated by Andrew Galloway

The above poem fragment is taken from the tenth-century manuscript known as the Exeter Book, which “constitutes the largest extant collection of Old English verse.”[1] Some scholars have suggested that the phrase “elþeodigra eard gesecan” – “to seek the land of foreigners” – is a “common expression for a journey into religious exile.”[2] In the poem, “The Seafarer,” the phrase is meant to indicate an “oblique and elusive resolution” as “the speaker passes beyond the world of heroic obligations … to another sphere.”[3] This “passing to another sphere” alludes to a complex historical relationship between the concept of wyrd or “fate” in Anglo-Saxon literature and that of choice, indicated by the verb (ge)ceosan, “to choose,” which appears in the tenth and eleventh centuries.[4] While this relation can be observed historically with respect to the notion of Christian predestination,[5] the relation speaks more broadly to “early English poetry’s deterministic vision of history.”[6]

That deterministic vision of history takes on additional significance when considering how the phrase “elþeodigra eard gesecan” finds application in the modern world, specifically in terms of wyrd. In the complex relation between fate and choice, and much like its central place in the “surviving paganism … [of] Anglo-Saxon literature,”[7] wyrd plays a central role in the Order of Nine Angles. Here, “elþeodigra eard gesecan” can be interpreted as the way wyrd directs each individual across the Septenary spheres of the Tree of Wyrd, thereby “passing to another sphere” or “from sphere to sphere” over the course of their Hermetic quest (ἄνοδος).[8] While many associates have a cursory understanding of what the term “wyrd” means in this context – as an unclarified sense of “fate” or “destiny,” for example – few have a grasp of its etymological origins and fewer still get beyond the apparent duality it alludes to within the practice of the ONA. This duality concerns two horns of a dilemma upon which each initiate necessarily finds themselves impaled – a dilemma involving the emphasis on solitary, individual experience on the one hand, and the confrontation with something other than the self on the other. The dilemma concerns the way one can become ensnared in various “traps” or “deceptions” as the duality “turns in” on itself through the dissolving of the ego, either through the temptation to over-emphasize individual experience, where one can lose their way in mistaking a personal map for impersonal territory;[9] or in deceiving oneself into believing that dissolving has occurred before it has begun.[10] All in all, one must remember that the ONA’s emphasis on solitary practice and pathei-mathos with respect to individual experience is intimately conjoined with empathy as a means to empathic living.[11] More specifically, solitary practice and individual experience are a means to the radical confrontation with something other than the self, which empathy makes possible; and this confrontation recasts each initiate in a shadow of destiny that exceeds the boundaries of the individual.

Wyrd is important in this respect because it involves this “something other than the self.” At one level, said confrontation can take the form of a relation to the other person; but at a broader level, it can reveal itself in the form of fate or nature (physis or φύσις). Though other phenomena can assume this role, the acknowledgement of something other than the self plays an important role in the dissolving of the ego. While more attention can be dedicated to this relation, this article will focus its attention on the cultural, historical, and etymological origins of wyrd in relation to this “something other than the self,” both in terms of wyrd as Other and in terms of the relation between man, wyrd, and God in Anglo-Saxon literature. The purpose here is not to conduct a systematic analysis of these subjects, but to highlight certain recurrent dynamics that can occur in the transformative experiences of ONA praxes like the Seven-Fold Way.

WYRD AS OTHER IN THE MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN AND ANGLO-SAXON WORLDVIEW

The term “wyrd” has complex origins culturally, historically, etymologically, and in terms of its usage in the early literature of the Order of Nine Angles.[12] We find references to it in the Old English poetry of the tenth-century manuscript known as the Exeter Book, in the epic Anglo-Saxon[13] poem Beowulf,[14] and in King Alfred’s Old English translation of the Roman philosopher Boethius’ influential work, The Consolation of Philosophy, which marked one of the last great crossroads between the Classical and Medieval worlds.[15] Though translating “wyrd” was once a “polarizing enigma for scholars of Old English literature and of the history of religions,”[16] philologists of the nineteenth century translated it as “fate” and held that “the presence of the word in the … [Old English] corpus … [represented] one of the few preservations of England’s Teutonic pre-Christian cosmology.”[17] Jacob Grimm, for example, notes the “philological link between wyrd and the Norse norn Urðr, one of the three entities responsible for weaving the fates of humankind.”[18] Wyrd is thus described as a “fixed fate that shaped the pagan world of the Anglo-Saxons,”[19] which, in “pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon mythology” denoted “a force in the universe which controlled the destinies of all things.”[20] In this, its role is similar “to that of fate in Old Norse literature, where it compels even the gods to act in accord with its dictates.”[21] In Beowulf, “Wyrd is the force that eventually destroys the lives of the violators of unknowable universal order,”[22] which F. Anne Payne describes in the following way:

[Wyrd] is the agent in the most terrible experience of the day of death. It is the opponent of man in the strange area of the most intense perception and consciousness. Though it may hold off for a while, the individual in the end makes an error in choice and releases forces whose consequences at the moment of crisis he controls no longer and Wyrd is victorious. Wyrd affects only those with the strength and energy to enter that space where order is at first contingent on their choices. When they fail as they inevitably do because they are human, Wyrd’s dreadful power compensates for their inadequacies. While it is completely accurate to say in epic and tragedy in general that the hero seeks his fate, it is totally erroneous to say he seeks his Wyrd. Wyrd is alien to the individual; it is the force which balances his errors, punishes him, at best tolerates him. Wyrd is always the Other.[23]

In this sense, wyrd thus functions as the form of alterity alluded to at the beginning of this article: a fundamental Other or otherness that we encounter through empathy in the radical confrontation with something other than the self. While alternate forms of alterity can take on this relation, each with their own dynamic in relation to the self (nature or physis being one example), such relations are sometimes sensed more prominently with the dissolving of the ego. Thus, to revisit the phrase from “The Seafarer” introduced above: “elþeodigra eard gesecan” does not just refer to seeking “the land of foreigners” as an expression for a journey into religious exile. In “passing to another sphere” or “from sphere to sphere,” wyrd also refers to exile from the self in confronting something other than the self. In this respect, wyrd as enigmatic, impersonal, and incomprehensible is reflected in the poetry of the Exeter Book, which thematically addresses “the inability of the individual to comprehend the operation of wyrd in man’s daily life and the human endeavor to live meaningfully in the face of that incomprehensibility.”[24] In this, “elþeodigra eard gesecan” indeed indicates a passing “beyond the world of heroic obligations … to another sphere”[25] as each initiate continually immolates and re-constitutes their sense of self in the face of wyrd’s incomprehensible influence across the Tree of Wyrd.

MAN, WYRD, AND GOD

In this context, wyrd does not just refer to fate but “inexorable fate,”[26] one in which “the hopeless pagan vision of a crumbling world” – whose “bitterly cold, inconsolable pagan worldview” makes poems like “The Wanderer” in the Exeter Book so compelling – eventually converges with Christian consolation.[27] In fact, though the Christian influence in Anglo-Saxon works is explicit, there is disagreement regarding its role and origin. While early scholars considered the term “wyrd” in such literature “a rare preservation of pre-Christian belief in the extant corpus,”[28] a more recent scholarly consensus acknowledges the Christian context of extant Old English literature,[29] possibly tracing the derivation of wyrd to the verb weorðan (to become).[30] This Christian context introduces alternate ways of interpreting the term “wyrd.” Though there are various occasions in Old English literature “where wyrd is personified and is distinguished from God,”[31] there are numerous references to God and “God’s wyrd” throughout the poems of the Exeter Book.[32] F. Anne Payne notes that “[t]he relation of man, Wyrd, and God which is represented in Beowulf finds its philosophical clarification in [King] Alfred’s use of the term in his … [translation] of [Boethius’] Consolation of Philosophy.”[33] Payne adds that “Alfred’s metaphor for the absolute relation of … [man, Wyrd, and God] makes Wyrd a great wheel on which men are caught, the worst toward the outer rim, the best near the axle, which is God: ‘swelce sio eax sie þæt hehste god þe we nemnað God.’”[34] On this point, Susanne Weil traces the “many words that express the concept of wyrd” to the term’s Old English root meaning “to shape.” She notes that gescipe, or “destiny,” means literally “that which is shaped”; that the verb sceppen means “to destine, to shape”; and that “one of the most frequently used words for ‘God’ is Sceppend,” which literally means “Shaper.”[35] With respect to the relation between man, wyrd, and God in Anglo-Saxon verse and literature, she adds:

Since the motif of wyrd as the implacable arbiter of men’s struggles resounds throughout the Anglo-Saxon canon like a perpetual minor chord, the synonymous nature of fate and shaping in Old English should not be surprising: the singers of the canon were always aware that the events of their lives had been “shaped” by a force (or forces) beyond their control. Given the primacy of tactile imagery throughout their poetry, their vision of destiny as a process of shaping is characteristic. It is as if their Shaper were a sculptor, carefully crating the form of each man’s fate, molding a rough edge here, a smooth curve there, until the work took on its final cast in the moment of death.[36]

Against this clear Christian influence, however, there does seem to be something mysterious with respect to wyrd in the underbelly of the pagan Anglo-Saxon Weltanschauung. As monks historically moved into Britain and began recording Anglo-Saxon writings, it was assumed that the Sceppend was the Christian God. But Weil raises the important question: “who was he before that?”[37] After all, “The Anglo-Saxon tongue existed before the Christianization of Britain, and yet the Germanic religion which had held sway there had no supreme Shaper.”[38] On this point, Weil finds that, “As we push the parameters of the mythology, every possible explanation seems to lead to another mystery. The Anglo-Saxon universe seems curiously without cause, yet brimming with effects—all subsumed under the murky heading of wyrd, which remains a force, not a figure. Who, then, is the Shaper?”[39]

In relation to wyrd, Weil suggests that a clue to this question can be found in the following lines from Beowulf, where Beowulf says that “Gaeð a wyrd swa hio scel (Fate always goes as it must!),” and also that “Wyrd oft nereð/unfægne eorl, þonne his ellen deah (Fate often saves an undoomed man if his courage is good).”[40] In these two axioms, there appears to be an inconsistency: in the first “fate is unalterable,” and in the second “[fate] plays favorites.”[41] Later in Beowulf, the narrator seems to suggest that fate “is subordinate to both “wise God” and “the man’s courage.”[42] At a superficial level, these differing conceptions of wyrd appear to reveal an inconsistency. At a deeper level, however, that inconsistency may confirm Weil’s suspicion that neither Beowulf nor the narrator are confused here – that it is instead the modern audience who has missed the point of these pronouncements.[43] She elaborates on this in the following way, unpacking the relation between the Christian influence and the pagan Anglo-Saxon worldview:

Critics who see the poem as primarily Christian … view the narrator’s pronouncement on the power of God as evidence that Christian providence, not wyrd, was the Shaper of the Anglo-Saxon world—ignoring other pronouncements that the narrator makes elsewhere about the supreme power of fate. If proving God to be the sole power were the narrator’s purpose, why would he immediately append the caveat “yet is discernment everywhere best, forethought of mind?” He seems to be telling his audience not to count on the power of God or wyrd: the future will be a mixture of satisfaction and suffering even though God (or fate) “rule(s) all the race of men.” What a man can depend on is his “forethought of mind”: this is the core of the individual’s power to endure.[44]

“FORETHOUGHT OF MIND” AND “THINKING WELL”: THREE HUMAN RESPONSES TO WYRD

This “forethought of mind” as a means of enduring wyrd is an important theme, one that other scholars have taken note of. The “narrator’s purpose” Weil refers to above with respect to “forethought of mind” occurs in Beowulf as follows: “Forþan bið angit æghwær selest, [/] ferhðes foreþanc,” which can be translated as, “Therefore understanding is best everywhere, forethought of mind,”[45] or, “Yet is discernment everywhere best, forethought of mind.”[46] As a parallel to the reference to “forethought of mind” in Beowulf, we find an analogue in what Karma Lochrie renders as “thinking well” in one of the poems of the Exeter Book.[47] The reference occurs with respect to a series of “less obvious sequences of poems” in the Exeter Book, ones that “present variations on some particular theme or a series of instructions for devotional exercises.”[48] Such poems are noted by Lochrie to reveal a “pattern of the sacrament of penance.”[49] These form a “thematic group” and are headed by a “Judgment Day” poem, which is comprised of three short poems: “Judgment Day I,” “Resignation A,” and “Resignation B.”[50] These three short poems comprise three different approaches “to the common concern with wyrd and its effect on mankind” in the form of “a homiletic poem, a prayer, and an elegy.”[51] The phrase “thinking well” occurs in the first of the three poems that comprise this triplex: “Judgment Day I.”

“Judgment Day I” is described by Lochrie as a “homiletic poem in the third person” that “switches curiously … to a prayerlike, first-person narrative mode in which the speaker solicits the audience’s participation in his poem.”[52] The poem seems to call the reader to prayer after “a description of the inexorable end of the world through God’s wyrd and the judgment of mankind through His Word.” The call appears to be a “response to the mysterious upheavals and revelations wreaked by wyrd,”[53] where the ending “embarks on a prayer for the recognition of one’s inability to change or postpone wyrd ‘under heaven’”:[54]

Oncweþ nu þisne cwide; cuþ sceal geweorþan
þæt ic gewægan ne mæg wyrd under heofonum,
ac hit þus gelimpan sceal leoda gehwylcum
ofer eall beorht gesetu, byrnende lig.
Siþþan æfter þam lige lif bið gestaþelad,
welan ah in wuldre se nu wel þenceð.

(Repeat now this saying; it shall come to be
that I may not frustrate wyrd under heaven,
but it shall happen thus to all people
the coming of the burning flame, over all this bright creation.
After the flame life will be established,
and he will possess happiness who now thinks wisely.)[55]

This poem points to the fact that “the individual cannot ‘frustrate’ or prevent God’s wyrd under heaven, that in fact that wyrd is destined to frustrate the individual’s plans for the future, and that he or she must endure the ‘burning flame’ which will engulf all creation equally.”[56]

It is in this enduring – specifically with respect to enduring wyrd – that we find a link between the “forethought of mind” in Beowulf and the “thinking well” that Lochrie mentions with respect to “Judgment Day I.” “Thinking well” is also rendered as “thinking wisely,” where “the poet also adds to what might otherwise be a pessimistic outlook that the individual can affect his or her destiny by ‘thinking wisely’ now—that is, in the present.”[57] Whether referring to wyrd as “the speaker’s hardship, suffering, and misery which he cannot understand or prevent” in “Resignation B,” or as “the final conflagration and Last Judgment” in “Judgment Day I,” the lesson is the same: “one must not try to change or appeal one’s destiny; instead, one must ‘think well’ in order to endure it.”[58]

These three poems – “Judgment Day I,” “Resignation A,” and “Resignation B” – present variations on the limits of human understanding in relation to wyrd, and illustrate three “particular human responses to wyrd.”[59] “Judgment Day I” establishes a “triptych” that “portrays these [three] human responses to wyrd” – responses that “[hinge] upon the quality of one’s thought, and … [whether or not] we consider the truth well.”[60] The three responses involve three characterizations or caricatures: 1) the gromhydig guma or “the grim-thinking man”;[61] 2) the earthly feaster;[62] and 3) the deophydig or “deep-thinking” soul.[63] Of these, the first two are “caricatures of the unwise—those who are heedless of the future in their overweening confidence in the present.”[64] The third conversely “assumes the model human response to wyrd.”[65] I will briefly examine each of these in turn.

The first type of response, the gromhydig guma or “the grim-thinking man,” is suggestive of a character who boasts and “heaps scorn on his lord, murders him, and flees to hell with his friends.” He is “the destroyer of peace who, in his grim ravaging of the earth, fails to consider the ‘dark creation’ which eternally waits for him.” As a response to wyrd, “the grim-thinker’s failure to know what lies beyond the present” represents a species of “proud ignorance by which man exploits the limitations of his own knowledge on earth.” Lochrie notes that the remedy for such pride is suggested by the word ferðgleaw, an adjective meaning “prudent.” With respect to wyrd, prudence “is a wisdom in the face of the future which recognizes the limitations of human knowledge and our inability to change our future” and is characterized by forethought.[66]

The second type of response is that of the earthly feaster. Similar to the grim-thinking man, “the feaster is oblivious to his wyrd.” Lochrie contends that the feaster “is guilty of another kind of pride which is associated with the ‘immoderate mind’.” The feaster is additionally characterized by an indifference or lack of care towards knowledge.[67]

The third type of response is the deophydig or “deep-thinking soul.” The deep-thinking soul “considers well his journey hence and looks upon his sins with anxiety, sorry, and suffering.” This type of response marks a soul characterized by prudence, one who, “while not … [presuming] to know or understand God’s wyrd, is able to endure it patiently by thinking well upon the future.”[68]

All in all, these three responses to wyrd are meant to indicate the types of qualities required to endure it: “understanding, patience, and memory.” On this account and in order to receive these qualities, the speaker of “Resignation A” realizes that “he must first learn to ‘think well’,”[69] as indicated by the poet’s words:

Gesette minne hyht on þec,
forhte foreþoncas, þæt hio fæstlice
stonde gestaðelad. Onstep minne hige,
gæsta god cyning, in gearone raed.

(Set my trust in you,
strengthen my forethoughts, that they may
stand fast. Raise my thoughts,
God King of souls, in ready wisdom.)[70]

CONCLUSION

Over the course of this paper, I examined some of the cultural, historical, and etymological origins of the Anglo-Saxon term “wyrd” in two contexts. The first concerned a radical confrontation with something other than the self, where wyrd took on the fundamental role of Other. I investigated this in some of the poems in the tenth-century manuscript known as the Exeter Book, in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, and in the Old English translation of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy. Here, I found that the phrase “elþeodigra eard gesecan,” or “to seek the land of foreigners” could be interpreted as more than a religious exile, referring instead to how an initiate in the Order of Nine Angles is exiled from the self in confronting something other than the self. That other (or Other) can take the form of wyrd.

The second context concerned wyrd’s deeper constellation of meaning when examined through the lens of the medieval Christian influence on the Anglo-Saxon pagan Weltanschauung. We examined different interpretations and possible etymological origins of wyrd in extant Anglo-Saxon verse in relation to God and the three different human responses to wyrd described by Karma Lochrie. These responses centered around the theme of “thinking well,” which I suggested is analogous to the idea of “forethought of mind” in Beowulf. Through an examination of “Judgment Day I,” “Resignation A,” and “Resignation B” in the Exeter Book and their characterization of the three human responses to wyrd, we learned that the appropriate human response to wyrd is prudence: “the recognition that we cannot change or frustrate wyrd.”[71] Hence, “Thinking well and wisely upon our future judgment while accepting the limitations of our understanding of divine wyrd finally means suffering well our present.”[72]

While prudence as an appropriate human response to wyrd may conflict with the Order of Nine Angles’ philosophy – there may in fact be magickal and esoteric techniques to alter or “re-direct” one’s wyrd, which is an element of the ONA’s esoteric system that seems to attract the dogged initiate – it does cast an interesting light on a deep historical complexity surrounding the cultural, historical, and etymological origins of the term “wyrd.”

In closing and as a testament to the importance of activating what has been said here in a participatory manner – one that brings wyrd to life in life, not on paper – I will end with a brief symbolic gesture: long ago, on the trail of danger and adventure in my younger years, I had a close friend who, now on the path to becoming an adept, once said to me: “Where’s your will to be weird?” Like a forethought of wyrd echoing into that present – a present which is now the past but is still very much alive – the question stuck with me. The question returned. The question evolved and took on strange forms. Now, as an echo across history into the present, as a moving anchor into the future, wyrd seems to be revealing itself to itself, providing temporal clues as to what this was intended to mean. Like many of the mysteries or “treasures” revealed in wyrd, I sensed the meaning instinctually, liminally, beyond the bounds of understanding. Until now, I never knew how to describe this “sensing.” In closing and as a clue as to the meaning of the title of this article,[73] I end with a passage from Payne:

The adjective “weird” and the noun slang term “weirdo” describe an event or person whose attributes are suddenly discovered to be outside the bounds of normal expectation and arouse an experience that an observer contemplates with uncomprehending but compelling uneasiness. This combination of attraction and awe in the face of an event in a space whose dimensions are undefined and uncontrollable hovers about the meaning of Old English Wyrd.[74]

Nameless Therein
Scothorn Nexion
March 28, 2022
2775 ab urbe condita

Wudu mot him weaxan, wyrde bidan,
tanum lædan; ic for tæle ne mæg
ænigne moncynnes mode gelufian
eorl on eþle.

(The tree might flourish, abide its wyrd,
sprout forth with branches; I for disgrace may not
any of mankind love in heart
any earl in my native land.)

– “Resignation B,” translated by Karma Lochrie

NOTES

[1] Courtney Catherine Barajas, “Introduction,” in Old English Ecotheology: The Exeter Book (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021), 20.

[2] Andrew Galloway, “Beowulf and the Varieties of Choice,” PMLA 105, no. 2 (March 1990): 199.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 197.

[5] A noteworthy development in this respect is the lesser-known fifth-century Christian heresy known as Pelagianism. Pelagianism, which is associated with the British monk Pelagius, held that “the grace needed for salvation comes from God through creation (which gives humans the capacity to do good) and from revelation (which teaches and encourages them toward goodness).” According to Pelagianism, sin “does not invalidate these gifts, and baptism is not necessary for the forgiveness of original sin.” These teachings were opposed to the views of St. Augustine, who held that “humans pass original sin to their children through reproduction, and that after Adam’s sin they lost the divine gift of love that makes human actions effective for salvation.” On Augustine’s account, “Without love, even things that seem to be virtues have evil motives.” Pelagianism was condemned by the Church as a heresy. Interestingly, a group now referred to as the Semipelagians, “represented by the monks John Cassian and Vincent of Lerins,” agreed with Augustine “on the necessity of interior grace and the effects of sin, but felt that predestination was dangerously close to some kind of destiny.” Predestination in relation to destiny is beyond the scope of this article but is mentioned here in passing given its relevance to this discussion of wyrd. Charles Taliaferro and Elsa J. Marty, eds., “Pelagianism,” in A Dictionary of Philosophy of Religion (New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010), 174-75.

[6] Galloway, “Beowulf,” 197.

[7] Eric Gerald Stanley, “Wyrd,” chap. 11 in Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past: The Search for Anglo-Saxon Paganism and Anglo-Saxon Trial by Jury (1975; repr., Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), 85.

[8] The Greek term “ἄνοδος” commonly occurs throughout ONA literature to describe this Hermetic quest. See, for example, Kerri Scott’s point that, “The symbolism of ω9α philosophy is – as described in the Poemander/Poemandres tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum and in many Renaissance alchemical texts – the ancient one of seven spheres (ἑβδομάς) and of a hermetic quest (ἄνοδος) by the individual from the first, lower, sphere to the seventh, higher, sphere.” Along these lines, Scott also notes that, “The Seven Fold Way involves an individual or a partnership undertaking a difficult hermetic quest, an ἄνοδος, either overtly Occult – as for example described in the Naos manuscript – or based on a non-Occult seeking as described in the text The Sevenfold Seeking And Noesis Of The Hebdomian Way.” Scott adds that, “Those on such a quest, often called the Hebdomadary (singular) or Hebdomadarians (plural) generally concern themselves with their quest, their interior life, their partnership, and family, above and beyond the dialectical machinations of the external world such as those of politics.” Kerri Scott, “Guide to Omega9Alpha Subculture” (self-pub., 2022).

[9] There is a powerful sense in which wyrd relates to the self in a way that exceeds the boundaries of the self. This involves a kind of personal intimacy; but that intimacy is also enigmatic and impersonal in its relation to forces that cannot be reduced to comprehension or understanding. It is, however, rarely abstract, embodied in an experience that can neither be “located” nor locuted, defying all natural forms of expression and grammar; all except, perhaps, music. In this way the map can become the territory, and the way this occurs is deeply personal.

[10] These are two common examples that many individuals fall victim to. Regarding the latter case, said “deception” can occur as an ulterior resistance structure or unconscious defense mechanism that artificially “elevates” the individual above the actual confrontation, sometimes out of fear, denial, unresolved trauma, or a refusal to let go. Small – and sometimes not so small – signs can indicate this type of inflationary response in the individual: in the way they speak, their mannerisms, their response to conflict, their etiquette, and their interpersonal relations, to cite a few examples.

[11] On this point, Myatt notes that, “The Way of Pathei-Mathos is an ethical, an interior, a personal, a non-political, a non-interfering, a non-religious but spiritual, way of individual reflexion, individual change, and empathic living, where there is an awareness of the importance of virtues such as compassion, humility, tolerance, gentleness, and love.” David Myatt, “I. Morality, Virtues, and Way of Life,” in The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, 5th ed. (self-pub., 2018).

[12] Sadly, overuse, misuse, and a lack of knowledge regarding the origins of ONA terminology on the part of many ONA associates has diminished the meaning of such terms; but through a careful examination of some of the complexities that inform their intended meaning, we may breathe fresh life into a terminological framework that has been stripped of significance through years of carelessness. Such investigations will hopefully inspire others to find new ways to describe complex phenomena – phenomena that may appear conceptually contradictory but consistent in experience. There is evidence that the early authors of the ONA were aware of the complexities surrounding such terminology and were possibly attempting to exceed the limitations of such terms in creating clear divisions like “causal” and “acausal.” While such distinctions can be misleading, they lend the advantage of drawing our attention to their apparent limitations so that we may evolve and exceed them in turn.

[13] Note that while “Anglo-Saxon” is often used synonymously with “Old English,” the term and its Latinized form, “Anglo-Saxonicus,” originally applied “to the people and language of the Saxon race who colonized the southern parts of Britain.” The Saxons were distinct from the Angles, who colonized the northern regions. “Anglo-Saxon” does not refer to a combination of Angles and Saxons – i.e., “the people and language of the whole of England.” The latter would be more accurately described by the term “Old English.” Since the revival of such studies in the sixteenth century, however, “‘Anglo-Saxon’ has been used as the general term, without a sense of geographical distinction. Dinah Birch and Katy Hooper, eds., “Anglo-Saxon,” in The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

[14] There is controversy surrounding the dating of Beowulf. See, for example, The Dating of Beowulf: A Reassessment, ed. Leonard Neidorf (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014). Neidorf notes that scholars have assigned dates ranging from the seventh to the eleventh century. Prior to the 1980s, “most scholars held that the poem was composed during the seventh or eighth century.” Interestingly, J.R.R. Tolkien was convinced that Beowulf belonged to the age of Bede, which lasted from 672-735. On this point, Francis Gummere wrote: “There is no positive evidence for any date of origins. All critics place it before the ninth century. The eighth brought monastic corruption to Northumbria; while the seventh, described by Beda, with its austerity of morals, its gentleness, its tolerance, its close touch with milder forms of heathenism, matches admirably the controlling mood of the epic.” R.W. Chambers additionally notes that, “[F]rom the point of view of its close touch with heathendom, its tolerance for heathen customs, its Christian magnanimity and gentleness, its conscious art, and its learned tone, all historic and artistic analogy would lead us to place Beowulf in the great age – the age of Bede.” Other scholars disagree with this assessment. Scholarship on the dating of Beowulf appears to be “uneven in quality.” Leonard Neidorf, “Introduction,” in The Dating of Beowulf: A Reassessment, ed. Leonard Neidorf (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014).

[15] Victor Watts, “Introduction,” in Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy, rev. ed., trans. Victor Watts (1969; rev. ed., London: Penguin Books, 1999), xi. Boethius’ Consolation marks one of the great crossroads between the classical pagan worldview and early medieval Christianity. Boethius is said to have written this work in prison before his execution in 524 AD. Watts notes that, “[I]n the absence of firm evidence to the contrary … [we must believe that] Boethius … wrote [Consolation] in prison, alone, under the shadow of eventual execution, unaided except by the power of his own memory and genius.” Watts, “Introduction,” xxii.

[16] David Pedersen, “Wyrd ðe Warnung … or God: The Question of Absolute Sovereignty in Solomon and Saturn II,” Studies in Philology 113, no. 4 (Fall 2016): 714.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid. Pedersen interestingly cites a long-standing conflict between pagan and Christian interpretations of this term in an Anglo-Saxon context. He notes that “numerous proponents of the preservation of Germanic mythology in … [Old English] literature pointed to the various occasions throughout the corpus where wyrd is personified and is distinguished from God.” This began to change in the early twentieth century, however, as “a predominantly English school of scholarship began to attack the idea that the extant sources preserve some vestiges of Anglo-Saxon paganism, contending that the nearly three centuries of Christianity preceding many of the earliest literary occurrences of wyrd preclude any pagan connotations.” Pedersen, “Wyrd,” 714.

[19] Susanne Weil, “Grace Under Pressure: ‘Hand-Words,’ Wyrd, and Free Will in Beowulf,” Pacific Coast Philology 24, no. 1/2 (November 1989): 94.

[20] Jon C. Kasik, “The Use of the Term Wyrd in Beowulf and Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons,” Neophilologus 63 (January 1979): 128.

[21] Ibid.

[22] F. Anne Payne, “Three Aspects of Wyrd in Beowulf,” in Old English Studies in Honour of John C. Pope, eds. Robert B. Burlin and Edward B. Irving (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), 15.

[23] Payne, “Three Aspects,” 15-16.

[24] Karma Lochrie, “Wyrd and the Limits of Human Understanding: A Thematic Sequence in the Exeter Book,” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 85, no. 3 (July 1986): 324.

[25] Galloway, “Beowulf,” 199.

[26] Dan Veach, “The Wanderer,” in Beowulf and Beyond: Classic Anglo-Saxon Poems, Stories, Sayings, Spells, and Riddles (Atlanta: Lockwood Press, 2021), 41.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Pedersen, “Wyrd,” 713.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., 714.

[31] Ibid.

[32] For example, see Lochrie’s discussion of the poem “Judgment Day I” in “Human Understanding,” 325.

[33] Payne, “Three Aspects,” 16.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Weil, “Grace Under Pressure,” 94.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid., 95.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid., 95-96.

[45] Pedersen, “Wyrd, 726.

[46] Weil, “Grace Under Pressure,” 95.

[47] Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 327.

[48] Ibid., 323.

[49] A reference to L. Whitbread quoted in Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 323.

[50] Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 324.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid., 325.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Quoted in Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 325. Translation by Lochrie.

[56] Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 326.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid., 326-27. There is a parallel between “forethought of mind” and “thinking well” in Anglo-Saxon verse and my analysis elsewhere of the importance of what Hannah Arendt refers to as the vita contemplativa or the contemplative life. That parallel has to do with the role of contemplation in relation to action. The parallel only indicates a relation, however; the two issues are not identical.

[59] Ibid., 327.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid., 328.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid., 327.

[65] Ibid., 328.

[66] Ibid., 327.

[67] Ibid., 328.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Quoted in Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 328. Translation by Lochrie.

[71] Lochrie, “Human Understanding,” 331.

[72] Ibid.

[73] I should note that the phrase “Anglo-Saxon religious imagination,” which I chose as the subtitle of this article, comes from Pedersen, “Wyrd,” 713.

[74] Payne, “Three Aspects,” 15.