August 15th, 2012

The Bad Places

Can places be bad luck or cursed? I have heard of a house in the 6th Ward here in Helena, where there have been four or five suicides in the same house, by different owners/renters.

I am looking at the aspects of place in Helena and in the area, not just "haunted places," but places that have their own "luck," stories, folklore, character that is "good" or "bad," lucky or tragic. Like you know there are certain "black spots" on highways where there are an unusual number of accidents for no real reason. Places in the mountains that feel good or bad. The psychology of the environment. Places that have a definite feeling you can't help noticing.

Certain neighborhoods have a definite reputation, some of which are tied to the socioeconomic trends of the population, sometimes tied to history. The old red light district for example, or a few blocks on Rodney, have troubled reputations. I am, again, not talking only about crime, or about hauntings, or poverty...but a combination of all these things. Of course some families can live in certain "troubled areas" and have wonderful lives too. Some places are "home" no matter what happens of course.

NAUD / NIDHOGG

In some places marked by ill-fortune and poverty, there is a lack, an emptiness. This is symbolized in the rune Naud, as described by Uncle Thor's post on Naud.

Uncle Thor has words of wisdom relating to Nidhogg, the Wyrm at the Root of the World-Tree, and how It relates to such places and people. Areas of urban blight and need are in the clutches of Nidhogg, and all one can do is flee such a place or be mired further, and succumb to Naud. I know. It knows my name well, and I battle daily with the Wyrm here on Rodney Street.

"Low Life/High Life

An episode of the Twilight Zone began by describing the main character as "...a cheap man, a nickel-and-dime man". He was a man who went for a pittance, always aiming at the bottom of the barrel. There are people who do set their sights very low. Policemen have told me that one sign of a criminal's status is the places he robs. Low-lifes invariably go for low-paying targets. Armed robbery is armed robbery, no matter what the take. The penalty is severe. Low-lifes will risk a long sentence for the spoils of a neighborhood liquor store. Those higher up the scale will go for bigger targets. Either way, the penalty is the same.

Would you take a chance on twenty years in jail, just for $200? Probably not - but some folks would! A low-life looks for easy gains and short-term benefits. He's never concerned with possible long-term results. His own benefit comes before anyone or anything else, and that benefit need not be a lot. The low-life will chance a lot, just to get a little.

Several years ago, I ran into a nasty personal and financial setback. Because of it, the only lodging I could afford was in a rooming house. It wasn't the greatest place to be, but it was a place to sleep while I went about the business of improving my circumstances. About 1/3 of the people living there were folks recovering from some sort of setback. The rest were lifetime rooming-house habitues. Some of them moved to the local park when the weather got warmer. Though I didn't spend enough time in the place to get to know people, I did notice a few things. The lifetime low-lifes would stake their entire lives, just to "get over" for five or ten dollars. They rarely worried about later consequences. They never thought farther than three days ahead - and usually never considered even the next two hours. These people, like toddlers, thought only of instant gratification. There was no balancing of value or priority. The immediate and long-term result of such limited thinking was a lifetime of nickel-and-dime living!

I had never seen a sorrier bunch in my life! No friends, no family, and they would sell out their buddies in an instant if it would net them an extra three dollars!

These folks weren't poor - they were low. Being low kept them poor. Their sights were set so low that their was no room for improvement. Greed ran their lives; they would sell their souls for the chance to steal a nickel. On top of that, they were always trying to present themselves as "great people" who had either fallen on "bad luck" or someone was against them.

It is amazing how people can live right down the hall from each other and be worlds apart. The building superintendent told me one day that it was like having two different nationalities: temporary guests and lifetime tenants.

I figured that Nidhogg's folks only lived on the lower end of the economic ladder, but later discovered otherwise. The term for their attitude is "niggardly". Look that word up in the dictionary. It might better be written "Nidhoggly". The mindset pinches pennies, proclaims generosity, and takes whatever it can get away with. Most comical is the facade of respectability, all the while betrayed by greed-grime. Greed is grimy, just like the Wyrm! In the hands of Nidhogg's denizens, things get a misshapen priority: easy nickels become gold doubloons while honest wages are treated like wooden nickels.

The Eddas and Sagas speak poorly of the cheap host. This was not just condemnation of social flaws, but an appraisal of grimy attitudes. (In the Sagas, it is assumed that the reader can figure some things out for himself, based on a description of a character's actions.) No facade can stand for long; Nidhogg's friends are always revealed as Wyrm-folk.

Beware the Wyrm's people! That is the time-tested warning. The Havamal often warns of one's choice of company, with good reason! There are people who will plunder their "friends". Then, of course, mindsets are infectious. Those who descend to the company of low-lifes tend to become low-lifes. Call it "mental contamination".

The lesson is clear- keep your sights high and maintain your sense of priorities. The Runes can help - but the real focus is on you. Nobody has to be a bum, and even the worst can learn to overcome his low aim. Our Tradition teaches us the values of dignity. By raising our sights, we raise ourselves." (http://www.thortrains.com/UncleThors/utmvol2a.htm)

Uncle Thor is a great source of Northern knowledge and wisdom and should be read by more folks.

ALFREKA / GAST

This is different than Alfreka, although I believe that the condition of a place being Alfreka is what lays the possibility of Naud/Nidhogg:.

ALFREKA (Germanic/Norse): Destroyed; condition of having the spirit [alf = elf (nature spirit), sim. landvaettir/landwights] driven from the land. Akin to GAST (Germanic/Saxon): barren land, from which the earth spirit has been driven (East Anglian/Saxon: Pennick), "when the spiritual beings of the land are driven away, complete desacralization, anima loci destroyed."

The condition of the land as Alfreka or Gast can be a result from too-powerful On-lay (intentional historical action/behavior) maintained over a long period; the ultimate result of on-lay in direct conflict with the Anima Loci (the Spirit of the Place, sim. to Genius Loci) is a place becoming Alfreka/Gast.

Alfreka/Gast conditions of a place can also result from physical destruction, as when a holy hill is bulldozed away, a hole for a metro station is excavated where there once was a holy place, or mining almost anywhere. Mining can also release some pretty unpleasant chthonic forces. When the actual locus (physical location) of the spirit exists no more, there is thus no anima. This is common in cities where the natural ground level has been abolished or extensively altered. It also occurs when streams or rivers are rechanneled, dammed, etc. In Helena and much of the surrounding mountains, although much may appear "natural," extensive mining, both placer mining and hardrock mining (deep mines), as well as quarrying and moving and damming streams, rendered many sites Alfreka/Gast.

If a place is rendered Alfreka/Gast, although the intelligence/nature spirit is evicted (perhaps even destroyed), this does not entirely destroy the önd (life-energy, Chinese: chi/qi, Ioway: ni) present there. The önd then becomes subject to whatever other influences are there, good or bad (however one wishes to define them). Thus, if a church is built on such a site, the önd is subject to and shaped by the religion of that church and the actions/rituals of the people who attend it. If a slaughterhouse or jail is built on such a gast/alfreka site, the önd is subject to and shaped by the actions of the butcher and the slain animals or the jailer and the prisoners. Without the oversight and control of the Anima Loci, the Genius Loci, or the Landwights/Landvaettir, the altered önd can thus also attract uncontrolled but compatible energies, spirits, individuals. This is rarely beneficial or to the good of those who reside there.

However this presents us with a hopeful corollary. Since there can be an on-lay put upon an alfreka site, it is also possible construction of an on-lay can be the means to do geomantic remedial work at alfreka places.

If a place has only been partly altered and not rendered fully alfreka through removal of the locus, then human actions can accelerate return of the full influence of anima loci. To do this:

1. Remove deteriorating on-lay remnants. This is essentially a magical or ritual act (series of actions), but must also include the removal of related physical elements of the on-lay. So for example, if one were to attempt to heal a mining site, not only would there be removal of the astral/etheric imprints, one must also remove the machinery, the chemicals, and repair the disturbances, soil, etc.

2. Replace with harmonious artifacts and activities.

3. Neutral remains (not related to the actions that rendered the place alfreka), if any, should stay as witness to the orlog of place. We are not erasing memory but healing the land so life can return to it. So a path or an archaeological site unrelated to the destruction can remain as a layer. Orlog (history) will aways be present but dwindling of the effects of being made alfreka can be accelerated and obliterated through these kinds of actions, then anima loci can be reintegrated and shine through again.

Now if the locus has been utterly destroyed or removed, then one will have to be truly a reconstructive surgeon at a new level, creating a new locus to encourage the return of the original Anima Loci (if that is even possible) or a new Genius Loci, and it may not only not work, but can even backfire. Ok, it will usually backfire. Sometimes you just have to cauterize the stump.

For related materials, check out my posts on:
Sacred Sites and the Genius Loci
Angry Land
and of course my working Geomantic Glossary.