Words of the Day: Norn, Oak, Objective, Subjective

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!


manondeltaA Norn is a kind of female spirit found in Norse theology, who can cause great toil and trouble, or bring blessings and happiness. There are a great many of them, but according to Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda, the three most important Norns are giantess sisters who draw water from the Well of Fate and with it water the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. The names of these three Norns were Urðr (wyrd, “fate” or simply “future”), Verðandi (derived from the Old Norse verb verða, “to become”) and Skuld (related to shall); thus they were all concerned with the future, in one way or another.

The origin of the name Norn is unknown. One possibility is that it is related to the Swedish word norna, “to warn, to speak secretly”, which may be imitative (like mutter, growl, and howl, the sound of the word imitates the sound itself). It may also be related to a word meaning “to twist, to twine”, and may refer to the twisting of fate, although the idea that the Norns wove the fate of the world appears to have been borrowed from Greek theology.

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Fiction and the Shamanic Journey

In a series of posts a few years ago, I talked about the function of fiction. What is it for? What purpose does it serve? After all, it’s all a pack of lies — and what’s more, it’s lies that everyone knows are false.

In that article I argued that fiction’s primary purpose was to change beliefs about how the world works. Even though it describes false events, the skillful author writes in such a way that the reader believes they could happen; and in doing so, can change the reader’s beliefs about what is possible, or the way the world works, or human nature. The readers of Tolkien may not end up believing in hobbits, but they may be more likely to believe in things like this:

  • There is a guiding force to events, which works indirectly through seeming ‘chance’ or ‘happenstance’ (e.g. Bilbo’s finding the Ring; the manner of the Ring’s destruction).
  • Despite this, people have free will, and the responsibility to choose wisely.
  • Loyalty to one’s king and country is a great virtue, as is military service when necessary.
  • Greed for power (and knowledge!) corrupts.
  • The world was once much more beautiful and pure than it is now.
  • Not all wrongs can be righted, but even tragedy can be beautiful.

Since then I’ve been thinking more about this, and I think I’ve found a perhaps more direct function of fiction. It’s a shamanistic technique, similar to meditation or trance, which actually operates directly on the reader’s subconscious or spiritual connections.

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Words of the Day: Muslim, Music, Mystic

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!


howimvotingMuslim, and the related words salaam, Islam, and Salem, ultimately comes from Arabic salam, “peace”. In Arabic and other Semitic languages, a trio of consonants represents a sort of “core concept” which can be modified or expanded upon by various vowel combinations. In this case, s-l-m indicates “peace” or “safety”.

Salaam, which also means “peace”, is from the traditional Muslim greeting (as)salam ‘alaikum, “peace be upon you”.

Salem, a common name for towns in the Arabic, Hebrew, and European traditions, is from Hebrew, and also means “peace” (from Hebrew shalom, a cousin of Arabic salam). Jerusalem means “the foundation of peace”.

Islam means “submission” (to the will of Allah), in particular “retreat into safety”.

Muslim means “one who submits (i.e. retreats into safety)” (to the will of Allah). Note the prefix mu-, which indicates “one who…”, just as it does in Muhammad.

The s-l-m root begins with powerful, directed energy that expands like light to fill space, and results in manifestation. Given this, it would be a mistake to think of the s-l-m root as meaning “peace” in the sense of “quiet”. Instead, it’s closer to the phonosemantics of balm or calm – some action which manifests peace.

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At Death’s Door: Thoughts on Immortality and Spirituality

A few months ago there was another breakthrough in geriatrics. This time, scientists were actually able to reverse aging in mice.

draftimgTruthThe very thought of reversing aging has been considered insane for most of the history of science. Getting old happens — to animals, plants, buildings, planets, and stars. Bodies, like everything else, just wears out, and there isn’t much you could do about it. Sure, you could slow aging, you could keep healthy and avoid microbes and so on, and maybe double your lifespan. But reversing aging? Living forever? That’s crazy talk.

There’s no chance for us
Its all decided for us
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us

Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever? …
Who dares to love forever?
When love must die…

Humans have been ambivalent about immortality for a long, long, time. You can see it in our myths. People who want to live forever are almost always portrayed as shallow fools who end up living forever old, or mourning the deaths of their friends, or committing suicide, or similarly unhappy. The moral: quality of life is more important than quantity.

But by the time my grandchildren are born, I might be able to go to the doctor and get started on a simple drug regimen that would make me biologically younger than I am right now. I might have a lot of quality and quantity of life.

Imagine you were given that choice. Would you? Should you? It’s worth thinking about, because regardless of your own choice, some people certainly will.

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Words of the Day: Medium, Mother, Muhammad

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!


meditationfailsMedium began life as me, a preposition meaning “between” in Proto-Indo European. A suffix dhyo was sometimes added to make this preposition into medhyo, an adjective meaning something analogous to “betweenish” or “middle”, e.g. “the middle house” (the one between the other two).

In Latin, medhyo became medius. That is, medius was used with masculine singular nominative nouns — but it could also be medii (masculine singular genitive), mediae (feminine singular genitive), and medium (neuter singular nominative), among others. It was this last form, of course, that was picked up by English in the 1500’s (when everybody who was anybody knew Latin) and used either as an adjective (as in Latin and PIE) or as a noun meaning “middle ground” — that which appears between other things.

Once in English, it began to acquire other, related meanings. In the 1600’s it began to be used to mean a channel of communication, and in 1853 it first appeared meaning a “person who conveys psychic messages”, from the idea that the psychic is acting as a channel of communication with the Spirit world.

Phonosemantically, the word starts with a manifestation / creation (”m”) which is carried forward over some distance (long “e”) to a decision or doorway “d”. Afterwards it may be carried further (long “e”) and released into thought (short “u”) before passing to a second manifestation (”m”). It’s striking, I think, how these sequence of sounds conveys the idea of a message generated at the beginning of the word, carried over distance and crossing a boundary, and released into thought — only to generate another message in return.

It’s fascinating to compare this to the word media: the plural form of the original Latin medius, used today as the plural of medium (but, interestingly, not for psychic mediums). Phonosemantically, it is identical to medium, except no return message is indicated. This fits beautifully with modern usage: television and movies and radio, one-way transmissions, are the media; but the internet isn’t — it’s called a medium.

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Live Deeply II: the Pagan Calendar 2011


Introducing the Pagan Month-by-Month Calendar for 2011. A calendar for a deeper experience of life.

Experience Deeply.

Seasons, Moons, Holidays.

Attune yourself to the rhythms of earth and sky. From Wolf Moon to Flower Moon, from Epiphany to Lughnasadh, from Haiti’s Ancestry Day to South Africa’s Youth Day, set your spirit to follow the dance of the year.


See Deeply.

Images for Contemplation.

Each month, the Pagan Calendar offers you two stunning full color photographs of nature or the pagan world. Meditate on the images, use them as a jumping-off point for active visualization, or view them as part of the larger message of the month.


Speak Deeply.

The Song of Words.

The monthly word is a term to contemplate and roll on your tongue. Read its etymology and spiritual significance, and experience the tension between ancient and modern, meaning and form. Speak, and engage mind, heart, spirit, body, society.


Think Deeply.

Quotes and Thoughts.

From Jeff Lilly’s Druid Journal and Alison Shaffer’s Meadowsweet & Myrrh, quotes chosen to reflect the season, image, and word, to move thought and memory, to stir spirit.


Exquisite Quality

Worthy of your year.

13.5″ by 19″ (the size of a small poster), printed in full color on 100# white linen paper, and bound with a white wire coil.


Available from Lulu for $29.99, or as a pdf download for a donation of any amount.

Click here to order from Lulu for $29.99.

Or click below to download as PDF for a donation of any amount (suggested $10):

Add to Cart

“I might speak of the Song of the World, and how it moves with exquisite harmony and balance and beauty. I might say that it reverberates in us, that it tunes us to that greater harmony — and no matter how deaf we might think we have become, we can always hear that World Song — for it is what sustains and moves us. This is a mercy, a kind of persistence. And in a way, it is also merciful for being somewhat impersonal, larger than any one of us — a way of connecting. “God is merciful” is like a way of saying that beauty and love endure — but it is in their nature to endure, for they are responsive and dynamic, and only things which are so can last, can move as history moves, move as landscapes change.”
— “Peace and the Celtic Spirit: Excerpts from a Journal”, Meadowsweet & Myrrh

Also available: The Pagan Daybook 2011.

DJ2011Cover“Fiction is the literature of the unreal — of the dream, of the otherworld, of symbols in motion. Nonfiction is the literature of the past — of memory, thought, truth, stone. The calendar can be thought of as the literature that sparkles with the present, shimmering on the outer leaves of the past, the tips of the feathers of the eagle riding the whole sky — full of potential, possibility, and most poignantly, your own will. It is that eternal, timeless moment where you make your choices. It is the place you go to assign meaning and pattern to your life, feeling its long arcs and quick twists; to taste of your desires and put your finger to the wind of your passions; and then to exert your will, and act.”
— From the Introduction