Organic Lifestyles for Travelers

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The term organic has become somewhat of a metaphor these days, taken under wing of the 21st century, the label of organic is used more to sell a product than a qualitative descriptive noun. Eating organic is probably the most attractive of the consumer side of this lifestyle, that is if you can read between the lines. But beyond the certified organic hemp milk, fair trade cocoa, and rare amazonian nut crops that you may find in your health food store, there is more to the organic way of life. It takes a bit of universal knowledge, interest in biology and botany, intrigue into ecological issues, studies of anthropology, product awareness, conscious negation of modernism, disciplined use of substances, and well, I guess you really need to cultivate this type of lifestyle like a farm, with all aspects of your existence working coherently and balanced towards a sort of unified holistic machine, an organic primordial force, rather, that is, You in your fullest potential.

Beyond the diet, the hygiene, and yoga classes, there are deeper ways to go into a sustainable and ‘organic’ lifestyle. Everyone has a hygiene ritual of some kind, but some let it become habitual, then sporadic, then neglected, then not at all. If you have ever tried to monitor your hygiene, speaking from a travelers point of view, it is a tricky thing when on the move. The water you are drinking and showering in, the air you are breathing, what you are putting on, and in, or around your body, as in scent, are all factors to your personal makeup. As a traveler, you pass through the urban megalopolis of the worlds cities, staying in hostels, showering in chlorinated water, drinking the same, cooking on dishware that has been washed in chemicals, sleeping on bed sheets and pillows that have collected the essences of thousands before you, on spring filled mattresses, and probably compromising your diet to eat the continental breakfasts of sausage and battery cage eggs, or buying some inconvenient superstore foods. This is the average European or British hostel. There is an illusion of cleanliness, abundance and proper facilities. The instant resources in every building are attractive, until you start to question. I won’t shy from saying I have spent my own nights in hostels on last resort, but I never stay longer than a couple sunrises, and I always pack in my food, and quick out of the crowded rooms.

At all costs, I am not a tourist, so I prefer to seek out the locals in the countryside, with access to clean well water, fresh breathing air carrying scents of woods, plants, and livestock. Health to me is sacred, and I don’t care if I pay 5 euros for a jar of peanut butter, and another 5 for a couple pints of free range goats milk, I can never bring myself to buy the alternatives for a sale. When I look at the labels of modern industrial food, I see to myself, this is not even food. If you took all the individual ingredients of modern food for example, and you imagine them separated on a table, sometimes over 20 items of unnatural flavors, preservatives, sulphites (poisonous), colors, starches, sugar and derivatives of sugar, modified milk, acids, salt, chemicals, syrups, and pasteurization of perfectly nutrient animal products, then you mix it together, this is no longer even recognizable as food. Why can’t something just be essentially what it is, instead of long lists of unpronounceable ingredients. So people are buying these, and because the label on the front is lying to them on what the label on the back says, they are deceived, thinking, it is all one and the same, consciously neglecting their health for a sale, cutting the minutes off their life, and actively killing themselves by depositing these things in their body. Many people seek a kind of ‘alternative’ source for food when they want to eat clean, and this can be useful, but I don’t like this term. The alter-native denotes something that would have pertained to our indigenous ancestors and is no longer used, an alter native method is proposed, instead I like to think in terms of original sourcing. The ur-product that one always has to start out with, and what is readily available for nature. Nature is the greatest health food store, medical cabinet, supermarket, and pharmacy on earth, if you know how to benefit from it.

It is of extreme importance to me when I img_2307travel to forage, whenever the opportunity provides, even in central Europe where there is limited species available for foraging, you can find abundance. I have been able to find tens of species of berries and wild fruits, leaves, and even roadkill meat some times. This is something I hold belief in, that one should not waste perfectly good life. Not by consuming less than nutrient food, or by buying meat. This is why I have only collected, grew, or traded or caught my meat in the last 4 years, though I have found vegetarianism suitable to a routine diet, in reality and biologically, I am an omnivore. I will eat a dead pheasant, deer, or squirrel found on the roadside if not bloated and still fresh, I think there is no disposition in relating this to an organic lifestyle, and I think there should be no taboo surrounding this in the mass population. It is wild, and free meat, so travelers take note, this is some of the finest dining you can get. Cooked over a fire, at your camp, I have even found fish brought up from the lake shallows by gulls and other seabirds, then dropped on rocks, salmon still with the eyes dark, barely hours old, that ended up on my iron skillet. I see the importance of foraging as well for the connection it brings to our most primordial nature. This form of organic living is a proponent I want to propel into anyone reading this. I have yet to be on a hunt, but now in tumblr_nx3dynmdlq1s5roa8o4_1280Newfoundland island, I have prospects out for the annual moose hunt, which I hope to procure some high quality proteins for the autumn. Hunting is the natural progression of foraging I think, and is not a question of morality or sympathy, but empathy and understanding of ecology.

Beyond food and what I put in my body, I try to advocate for those seeking a simpler and more natural existence, a life without plastic. Yes, this laptop I write on has plastic elements, and I listen to music on a plastic ipod which is a decade old, but I have chosen deliberately to live a life almost completely devoid of plastic. I am always looking for better, more sustainable and reusable products. I have even been investing into a laptop from Africa, running completely off solar energy. From the hygiene products I use made from wood and bamboo, to the surfaces I sleep on and in, a down filled sleeping bag, clothes made from hemp, pure cotton, wool and tweed, my tools and instruments, footwear and even the rucksack I carry everything with on my world travels, built from waxed sail canvas. It is easy to acquire gear and not think about these things, like cheap tenting equipment, books, clothes, and self care items. Often I have rather spent the time building a temporary shelter or sleeping out in the open with just some warm wool sweaters and a goathair blankets under shelter of some broadleaf trees when on the road, for want of not carrying around a plastic house. The modern tents are manufactured with petro-chemicals, polyplastics, fire retardants, dyes, and inorganic fabrics, that are not only claustrophobic, but also carcinogenic to breathing, not biodegradable, not aesthetically pleasing, and stressful to the movements of the person within. A plastic free lifestyle is closer than you think but you have to start from almost nothing. Strip down, naked, and carefully select everything that could be useful for a traveling lifestyle, then work at refining your stock, until everything you own actually brings you joy, rather than just ephemeral use. lifewithoutplastic.com website is a source I found out later, but seems a pretty good start.

Besides being a traveler, I am a farmer, so the fusion of nomadism and agriculture is my main means of survival, and thriving in this world. I find it harder and harder, in the modernized and industrial ‘first world’ countries like those of Northern Europe, Canada, U.S. and the British Isles, but also in the Mediterranean, the prospects of finding good img_1757fertile land. And by that I mean, soil that has not been deprived, and manipulated to only grow a few select crops in the millions, or diverse grasslands that have not been mowed down and seeded with one type of greenery for the specific grazing of one variety of livestock. I wish it were not this way, and I don’t feel any pride saying even my home country is hugely guilty of this. With the loss of cultural tradition, subsistence small scale farming, the shifting of age demographic to older generation groups, and the rise of big-ag. there is increasing difficulty to find work, not only for me, but other young travelers I meet wanting to get back to the land. I have been stuck volunteering for the bulk majority of my work, I would say 8 out of 12 months of the year is spent working for free. Romantic and altruistic maybe, but it is because I can not even find a meager living with a sustaining wage on any farm that uses permaculture principles, multi species grazing, diversity of crops, variety of landscape, traditional slow paced practice, hand tool ethics, and manual labor. People are being replaced my john deere tractors, sorting machines, auto-tillers, and massive equipment, and the people who run them are pressing all the levers and buttons to make it all go. Modern farmers aren’t really working hard, or efficient, they are just getting more done because they have more money behind it, and they still have time to live completely modern lives, watch the news, drive gas guzzling trucks, and live in futuristic houses. Last week I called a farmer on another part of this island, known for its prestigious farm heritage and pioneering. I was answered by an old man, who upon hearing that I was a traveler looking for work, looked past all my experience with old world breed animals, diversity of gardening experience, self style work ethic, and huge curriculum of experience, and exclaimed his disinterest in even getting near me. This used to be the running creed. Young people are now moving away from life on the land and forced into city lives, working barista jobs at starbucks, or marketing. These dead end routines do not conform to an organic lifestyles, and I see no honor or merit in them. Thus I would continue to urge those dirt worshiping feral men and woman to continue to push towards the farming life, there is untold beauty in it’s embrace and one that I can wholly backup.

With work, hygiene, and diet covered, you can think about your housing, most of the population live in cheap housing. Modern carbon copy houses, insulated with fiberglass which carries asbetos, surrounding by brick, or cinder block walls, chemically treated wood, carcinogenic painted rooms, plasticized furniture, gypsum rock which often has hidden black molds, bacteria carrying carpets, and grimy cooking, eating and sleeping surfaces. All for the sake of ‘public safety’, zoning permits, codes and governmental rules. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out when you spend a few nights in a drafty cabin in the woods, how much better your health will be even after 72 hours. You may get a draft of wind, the odd spider or insect, or even a drop of water through the roof once in a while, but the benefits of submersion in raw nature far exceeds the over-safe cocooning in element proof housing built into concrete wastelands. A week in the jungle even further proves this, you are not competing with unwanted destructive sounds like cars, and sirens, no walls of glass and steel outside your windows, in fact you don’t even have ‘windows’, just mesh screens to keep mosquitoes out, the air is not dead and stagnant inside, and there are plants growing just outside your door. Try moving into the wild, and just taking shelter in a natural setting, see how it affects your mental health, your sleep, your dreams. Analyze your thoughts during the day, do you have a long list of chores, or are you content with just sitting in your clearing or on your mountain peak and just being for awhile? There are no cafes nearby to get your morning brew, but fresh air, and unfiltered sunlight are adequate enough to wake you up, and get you going for the day. Then you can even think about bringing others into your company in a set and setting that would are attractive to anyone.

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Your impact on this world is not only for you, and to paraphrase McKenna for a second “we are the meaning of our ancestors lives”. Such a sentiment should be carried everyday, and I would extend to that, we are the progenitors of our descendants meaning. To follow an organic lifestyle, recognizing your health as sacred and uncompromising, your spirit as sovereign, your hygiene is the way you present yourself to the people around you, and yourself, your work is ethical and important beyond filling your ego and your bank account,  culture is not your friend to rap on McKenna again. You need to build your own. You can be unconsciously naive, and never grow, pleasantly idling in ignorance until your shell breaks from revelation, but then you have the responsibility to shift to consciously choosing, what and how you become, as you rapidly adapt to the changing ontology of this game of the fittest.

ALLTHEWAYALIVE.

Heathen Pilgrimage ch.2: Skåne og Uppland

Taking the ferry from Helsingor to Helsingborg, and arriving by sea, to Skane marked my first movements in the territory of Sweden. A new flag to fly on my global journey on this heathen pilgrimage, and what I hope to be, worldwide travel. Though these events happened over a month ago, I am now writing these from the other side of the Atlantic back on the shores of Canada, with time for reflection, and digestion of my experiences in this Scandinavian second home.

Naturally, any ‘pilgrimage’ to the sacred sites of our pagan forefathers must include the kings graves at old Uppsala, I have purveyed a more spiritual account of this in an earlier post, so I shall keep the information here limited to the how and why I came here. Originally a planned visit to Omberg, a mountain in the Ödeshög municipality was intended, but troubles on the road encouraged me to pass blithely on the highway, for lack of adequate transportation. Instead, with all intentions set on the Uppsala graveyard, I took a train from the modern city, a fairly pleasant university center with a high uppsalapopulation of youth, and canals snaking through the town. Uppsala is bordered with Lake Mälaren, and the river Fyris. Nearby historic town of Sigtuna is said to be where Odin himself lived, with Uppsala is where Freyr settled, and owned the land. At Gamla Uppsala, I encamped myself in the nature reserve near the Eriksleden OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtrail. For two nights I slept near the mounds and read the runes on the rocks, sat by the river Fyris, and watch the golden fields of wheat bend and sway in the breeze. I talked to a local farmer with special black breed chickens who told me of an ancient Viking settlement just beyond his small farm. Two terraces were also located near the mounds, probably the sites of two longhouses, like those found at Lanse aux Meadows, Trelleborg, or elsewhere in Scandinavia. The place carried a certain bioregional energy about it, and though the scenes from Vikings did loom in my mind, of the dark temple on the hill, through deep broadleaf forest, from the walking trails of the reserve, this picture was not so far off and made me think of just how elusive this place was. The last reserve of the pagan faith. The mushroom told me things about the Gods, and their ways, that I believe are reserved to those only who sit on the mounds, and with that, I fled with this mead of knowledge.

In Skåne, I took a coastal route through Lund, Malmö and Höllviken, visiting the picture stones once observed by the 17th cent. Danish physician and antiquary Olaus Wormius. From the Hunnstead monument, once located in Ystad, carved at a time that Scania belonged to Denmark. 600px-hunnestadsmonumentet_skane_ole_wormThey were the largest and most famous monuments of their time. Some of the stones were destroyed during for bridge and house building during the modernization of Scandinavia, so it is an amazing piece of historical heritage to even glance at these stones now. One of the runestones shows a man from the Varangian guard, dressed in a longcoat, with the latinized rune inscription. Another one shows a cross, and the other most interesting one shows a hag riding a wolf creature, who is also holding two snakes. She is believe to beOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe giantess Hyrrokin, who appears in the mythology as she who pushed Baldr’s funeral ship into the sea. These were the most fascinating pieces of Nordic art I had witnessed since seeing the Gotlandic picture stones about a month before. Located now at the Kulturen museum, outside, were also three rune and picture stones, one picturing a lion. Lund had several runestones located in the Lundagård, one depicting an interesting picture of two wolves, wearing both shields and swords on their bodies. There is also a mound near the old King’s house in Lund with 6 runestones. After visiting Lund, my count of authentic runestones visited throughout the world probably peaked 20, but of course there are hundred more in the countryside I have yet to see.

After staying in Malmo for two weeks, I went to volunteer in the Foteviken Viking reserve, choosing to live the days in an Iron age setting. I learned how to make traditional flatbread, amber carving, tin smithing, and basic blacksmithing. When the Foteviken reserve was closed, I combed the beaches at Maklappen watching rare seabirds, and seal colonies, and hunted for amber at the Falsterbo peninsula. For a week I lived in a thatched wooden Viking house, on the bay of Foteviken, from my window and across the waters was Copenhagen, and about 500 feet from my door was the mound of the battle of Foteviken. I soon left the Scandinavian shores, it seems as I was just getting my teeth sunk in. The German chapter will have to wait to be written for future travels.

 

My Argument Against a Sedentary Lifestyle

When we look at the history of our species, that is Homo Sapiens, the first thing is apparent to my eyes is the very liminal window in which we have existed relative to other fauna species in the animal kingdom, if we extend this branch to look to our earliest progenitors to homo erectus, and further, still not much of a dent in the history of our evolved ape minds. It wasn’t until extremely late in our evolution that we as an amalgam of collective life decided to transition from a hunter gatherer forager lifestyle, to one based on agrarian holidays and pastoralism. Even then, our forefather and foremothers who tended to a specific tract of land, who felt the earliest notions of bioregionalism, of belonging to places and spaces, never truly ‘settled’ down for the long haul. The early farming ages, or the age of domestication, which also ushered out the building of palaces, cities, walled villages, and fortresses were actually highly mobile communities. This was the human species attempt to create something permanent, that would last through their life, and those to follow, in our great need to control the mechanics of existence. But we failed…

These early villages, farmsteads, and palaces were doomed from the start because there is only cosmic truth, and that is nothing last, as McKenna described ‘not your fortune, not your misfortune, not your luck, not your children, and ultimately not yourself’ and I would extend this to the place you call home. I often think about what our earliest ancestors had to deal with in the everyday life. The problems were not whether the morning coffee was brewed dark roast or made instant, or the problems on the news, or not being approved at work for what they wore, or having to deal with a hangover and depression from an ill disciplined life, or any trivial details that people concern themselves with. The early homesteaders were at their core, a hard people, that would have to deal with a lot more, fires, animal starvation, invading tribe, stormy weather problems, keeping warm, food shortages, debts and threats from landowners, theft, these were almost constant problems, and for those transitioning from a nomadic existence, it was not uncommon to completely uproot everything one knew and move off to another country. The mass migrations of Irish, Scottish, Icelanders, Polish and other Europeans to ‘the new world’ is testament to this, even those who seemed to have a stable lifestyle, an inheritance, and multi-generational owned land, move away from the comforts of home to start over.

We are largely the descendants of these earliest ancestors who came to North America, or those who stayed behind, while even those who came early would often return with a new family, and returning to the homeland, re-establish themselves in their primordial culture. We still have this wanderlust in our spirit to move around. As a traveler I can tell you this, because I have been on my feet for six years, the first half of these living a domestic life, while still moving every 4-6 months, and the second half, a completely nomadic life, carrying everything I own, and living with new horizons by each full moon. After 3 years of this, I tried to settle, but I realized the train was going a lot faster than I knew, and it was going to take some time to slow it down. Once you get started, you come to the full understanding of what it means to be in flux, to adapt to new places, and be in almost constant movement. Our bodies were meant to move, not only in our local habitats, whether we are walking through the forests on a blazed hiking trail, or sharing the sidewalk with thousands of pedestrians. But more so, we have evolved to be active, and deeply involved with our landscapes.

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If you try sitting down all day, you will notice you feel a lot of pain at the end of the day, because instead of being outside for instance, brachiating through trees, running by the sea, climbing hills purely to see what is on the other side, and navigating virgin terrain, your muscles did not get the daily momentum is has been built to get. Thoreau advocated the need to get out of doors at least once a day, to take a walk or alter your routine even slightly, so one may experience the novelty of the days, for as long as one lives. To go beyond this even, and to ask the question; how do you feel, being in one city for a full year? 5 years? 10 years? As the time falls through the sand glass, the need becomes even more great to experience new sights, smells, foods, cultures, sounds, and re-birth your own spirit in places you have only then read about or seen in movies, or heard from those that have been. There is a paradox of this because those that stay at home never know the feelings of that that have actually been.

Who travels widely needs his wits about him, The stupid should stay at home: The ignorant man is often laughed at. When he sits at meat with the sage

He often degenerates, and domesticates from any further growth by cutting himself off from the world, like a hermit. His body becomes tired, weak, and ugly who stays in one place. Our skeletons are forming and changing to accommodate the lifestyle we are leading, do you want your offspring to be hunchbacked, weak, and unhealthy humans because your habits today are lending to the image of our descendants, as Daniel Vitalis put it ‘Homo Fragilis’. Well we need to evolve into those Vitalis species, the elite human who has learned not to have ultimate control his habitat, but adapted so well that he is ultimately thriving there. Our ancient dna is still remembered to us, and can be activated in this hunt to reclaim mastery of the sedentary lifestyles some unconsciously choose to adopt.

Rewild. To reverse the process of domestication. 2. To return to a more wild or self-willed state.

To lead a sedentary lifestyle ultimately snuffs out the primal fire we were born with in this privileged age, and though there are benefits to staying in one place; for the right to tend land, have animals, build culture, and root in community values, there will come the times when this is not satisfying in itself and one is compelled back into the world, to re-establish his values, and feed his hunger for far away lands, and boost his mental health. It is essential to rewild ourselves to deal with the changing climate of our demanding age, and though we don’t need to traverse hundreds of kilometers to find our next meal, the majority of people will still drive this far in their cars to work and back each week. The domestic life is ill positioned to thrive in this society, and our needs are not always readily available when modern cities our so nature divorced, or homogenized to such a great degree than nothing of any quality can be extracted from it’s culture. This culture is not your friend, because it enforces conformity, and the only thing that can arise from this, is a limited perspective of being where one is only seeing through one window of their house, on the vast panoramic of the world beyond it. We need to keep moving, even the most sedentary, the scientists, and scholars of the world know this. We are trying to colonize other planets, what will we become then. We need to constantly get out of our boxes and comfort zones or comfort counties and feel the nuances of the new world all over again, and stop being submissive to it.

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Unlearn & ReWild.

B.

Memories in a Mason Jar: Those Were my Friends

I’ve always wondered how the funeral speeches of truly great men and women would sound through the mouths of those he met and loved and left, who stood to say a thing or two about his life. Like the first world explorers, the heroes and heroines of the viking sagas, and the men and women sung about in folkloric ballads, their nature sounds so exotic and far away from us that we can hardly imagine meeting such people in our day to day life. Those with such a persona and commanding presence so as to be even worthy of reverence. I have crossed paths with a few, but none so often. I’ve met a few thousand more, in hostels, on the street, at festivals, and forgot them easily, because they were swimming with the school, they didn’t stand out. Now there’s nothing wrong with that on most good days, it’s a lot easier to move around the flock unnoticed sometimes, but those that whose memories have really stay with me, are those who have changed their direction and gone upstream, against the herd, lived long and humble lives, behind every action was a means of inspiration, and behind every story a life experience, these were some of my friends…

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I met a man an old storyteller Wales, his name was Hymn, nothing less, nothing more, he was a weather Scottsman actually, but we met around a fire, covered in ash, giving our selves to pacha mama. He was a master of Reiki, but would never say so himself, instead in in primal slow dance movements linked in body at all times, he could work some pretty magic healing. Like a skeleton becoming aligned again after being bent and grown in the wrong direction. He was a wanderer of the W.I.S.E. isles, living off his art, writing poetry  on the sidewalks in chalk,  and you might be able to meet him in the streets of Camden, on the trails western England or where I found him, at a rainbow gathering. His candor was like the wise grandpa most people wish they grew up with, talking always in rhyme and poetics, a voice that spoke with a calming and humble attention. Each line of his face was a thousand miles traveled barefoot, as he gazed always on the horizon, the sunrise, the sunset, and into the wind, smelling for the fauna and flora ahead.

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I met a vagabundo from Spain, an old hobo to most eyes, a young spirit in heart. He told me he came from Bristol, the week before, where he lived in the Cheddar Gorge. He slept in a cave there for one year, and would meet thousands of tourists during the season, offering them coffee, exchanging stories, some even wanting to film him or get his picture. This soft spoken old man, weathered with the miles, but equipped as a soldier, we drank the black medicine together by the early warmth of a kindled fire, in a sheepfold somewhere in Welsh country. Knowledge known only from places been, small advice’s and vices on life that I could yield or avoid. He drank from the springs, and collected wood for the sacred fire, an indigenous soul held in his rib cage. I listened to his tales, of his days as a farmer and cowboy, until some Irish gypsies stole his horses, he continued to wanderlust on his own hooves.

I met a girl in Newfoundland, she picked me up on the road on a foggy cold morning. She said she was camping in the National park, and had parents that lived on the island. She drove me a few miles and we exchanged stories. She was a barista in Halifax, but wanted a change in lifestyle. After awhile I took the boat back to the mainland and we met again, we went around the city, trying to find her some more work at a coffee house, but it never paled. Instead she decided to apprentice on a local farm, though she would say it was I who inspired her, I found it mutually inspiring back to witness such a profound lifestyle change almost overnight. We kept on in contact overseas when I moved away, and a year later I found she had finished her apprenticeship, and was looking for a new one on yet another farm, she had learned so much by the time when we met again, and every so often I hear from her, and her times on the farm.
And sometimes the woman you meet you tend to fall in love with. When tramping in the deep south across the Arizona desert, I met the woman who would change my life in such maturing and profound ways, she has never left into fleeting memory. A mother of four sons, and a natural born gypsy, she was from the state, but moved to Texas to live an independent existence, cleaned up her life, and had her own house. Tall, dark, and mysterious, a feral woman at heart. She gave it up in the end, and sought a life of travel, so she bought an ambulance from the 80’s and ran her tumblr_n4x421shJZ1romrx1o1_1280apothecary business out the back of it. We met at a truck stop in Tucson, but we ‘knew’ about each other before. I helped her through a grief, and she helped me with mine, we painted the ambulance black, with red pinstriped ravens and runes on the sides, and built in a queen bed to the back, I helped her get the apothecary going again, and we lived in the desert for a romantic week. She told of one of her sons, who hunted deer at only age 9, and we cooked it slowly in spices over the flames, talked into the night, slept in a tent and fought of raccoons who tried to steal our meet. I had to leave her one day, and head to Canada, little did I know it was the last time I would see her, borders can be rough, and relationships harder and more defeating than the canyons and mountains I crossed. My heart pined for something left that never came, but I remembered and cherished to even know her…

 “The only thing I miss is my friends.  And it’s almost impossible to have any friends, at this level.  Jealousy is a great power.  Jealousy and fear.  Your fear goes to your worst, and asks for help to destroy your fear.  But in truth, your fear is your best friend.  It protects you, it protects everyone you love.” ~CM

Stick and Poke Tattoos Dublin/Cork

Just a word out to any followers in the Republic of Ireland, around the areas of Dublin, Cork/Munster, Wicklow, and the rest of Leinster. I’ll be offering stick and poke tattoos if you make it worth my while. I’m moving in on September 09 and staying approximately a month. You could come to me or we can work something out if I travel. Willing to do some simplistic stuff like; runes, letters, symbolism, numbers, nothing too complex, but anywhere goes. Preferably we do it in an outdoor setting, for hygienic reasons. Message me if you want me to mark you for life.

Journey to Visby: the Medieval City

Coat of arms of Visby

Something peculiar about travel, is the primacy of moving into a kind of instinctual route, towards the places and spaces where you need to be at certain times, or even just those countries and cities that captivate so much of your imagination that you never forget them. This was the case when I came to visit the medieval city of Visby on the island of Gotland. Few ‘cities’ have cultivated such awe and inspiration in the world as this one, and those few that I hold near to my heart have usually a common bloodline of similarity. I have lived and traveled in some of the globes most historic and popular cities and capitals; Copenhagen, London, Oslo, Seattle, to name a few but these really don’t register in my mind as worth my time. I find them dirty, crowded, loud, busy and distraction, but then there are those which I have entered, sometimes by accident that have left an imprint forever in my memory, places I would love to call home; the blue city of Chefchaouen in Morocco, the Faroese town of Tórshavn, north of the polar circle in Ísafjörður, the hamlet of Aberdaron in the Llyn peninsula of Wales, the maritime of Bonavista, Newfoundland, the eco-village of Christiania in Denmark, and this place, Visby, with both a modern and medieval aesthetic.

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But aesthetic isn’t everything, from the formerly named place marks on the map, a sort of continuity of community and tradition has existed. In Chefchaouen and Christiania for instance, you won’t find any cars, you are more likely to see donkeys passing you on your way up the cobbled walkways in the former, or eclectically clothed homesteaders with their children sitting on the porch of their unique hand-built houses. There is beauty, and calmness here, multi-generational heritage, old history, and thriving subcultures and organic modes of living. When I leave, I always know there will be a return, because I can not become full of these places. Experiencing them is like living in second, third, and fourth homes. A place where I can really put some roots down.

When I came to Visby, and why I feel the impulse to highlight such a place, is for its modalities of society, its architectural magnificence, and its pioneering nature. The city itself is surrounded by a wall, from medieval times, but not an ugly wall, like you would image at a prison or separating old Berlin from their neighbors, but a rather beautiful piece of preserved history. Instead of razing the wall and building entirely modern infrastructure, the city has kept it mostly intact, and even incorporated the building of small entrepreneurial businesses into the existing structure. I was here during the middle ages week, held every year, and perhaps to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Several concerts were being held in the many church ruins, the townsfolk were dressed in period clothing, and traditional markets were set up all over the millennial age streets. There is an abundance of museums housing ancient relics like the Gotlandic picture stones, and remains from the Iron age, and several plaques around town detailing the background information of different sites and landmarks. You can stay in a hostel converted from an old prison! The level of the city is not on even ground, so it affords great views wherever you go of the surrounds, and the vast ocean that links one back to Sweden. The roads are never straight, one can walk forever in the mazelike alleys and pedestrian ways and never get bored, you can always approach a building in a new way, and in traditional fashion of many early European settlements, the central locus of the city is an open square where people can mingle, or take their rounds of the markets, where you can expect to find dealers selling sheep skins, meat, plenty of useful wares, and several artisan cafe’s. I know I am giving Visby free press by publishing this, but maybe someone out there working in the travel industry will make me an attractive job offer?

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From the mainland of Sweden I took a ferry from the port of Nynashamn, where from the same port, one can also choose to go to Poland or Latvia, this time I crossed a 3 hour section of the Baltic Sea by boat which arrives at Visby. Ironically, this was not even my original destination. First spending some time in Stenkyrka, Fårö and Roma. When looping around to Visby, I discovered much of the gems this place had to offer, from the western shore, one can take a hike along the cliffs to a scenic area called Högklint, or in just outside the wall you can walk up to the high point of the land, and get a panoramic view of the sea, and the city in its fullness, with its terracotta tiled roofs, church spires, and crumbling battlements. It also has Scandinavia’s only gallows left standing, though of course not in use. In the nature reserve, there are some wild springs and opportunity for camping in caves, and dense broadleaf forest. Back in the city, and you can wander and see the sites. I found it really easy to forage and scavenge, people often leave their unfinished meals left out in the open air restaurants/cafes, so if you are not interested in spending much money, it is easy to collect some morcels of good food while passing along. From my personal experience, I was also able to forage from a lot, there are several black cherry, pear, apple, and mulberry trees growing that were fully ripened and falling off their branches. During the middle ages week, a food market was set up also selling wild meats from Boar, Moose, Elk and Fish. Though I would not say the average visitor would hold my interest in communication, I found there to be several interesting personalities lingering around, and it was easy enough to strike up a conversation. It’s just places like this that really provide fuel for the fires of my worldly journey, and I have barely touched the core of Europe, let alone the wider vistas of Asia, South America, and the Australian continent. Not even dreams are good enough, I must see and live more!

Gamla Uppsala Utiseta & The Secrets in the Moss

What follows is a journal account of a highly personal experience at the Kungshögarna (Burial Mounds) at Gamla Uppsala.

A man without a hamingja is a mere mortal, as good as cattle they say in the Sagas. For a man to seek the Gods, he must enter the mound, and commune with that which never truly dies. The legend of our religion, it’s heroes and heroines lies buried but not forgotten. The last stronghold of this heathen faith was at the cultic center at Gamla Uppsala, where every nine years, the Ting of all Swedes (allra Svía þing) was held, and nine of every head were sacrificed in a special grove. The Vikings would also seek favor from the Gods and Goddesses in return for these sacrifices. This ancient paradigm mirrors the ur-ritual of Óðinn, giving his self, to a more improved and updated version of his Self, and his Tribe. On the mounds there is an ancient dead ash, with tree rings numbering in the hundreds. At the time of it’s growth, the sea in Östra Aros (Gamla Uppsala) was higher, and there were many natural reservoirs of water here. I believe this could have been the ancient ash. ‘Next the tree roots were the Rabenbrot mushrooms, said to grow where a man had been hung. Strange and convincing dreams came to me, as I lay in my tent on the first night next to the mounds in a nearby nature reserve. Dreams of wandering the barrows in a haze, making etchings of the stones with charcoal and moss, rubbing them on every surface, onto vellum paper, and revealing a lyndworm of runes, and barely legible but clear runic staves, as well as the pictures of men in procession, beast heads, and Christian symbols. This happened in the subconscious, and the next day after examining the stones, which appeared to be nothing more than rock deposits left from the last ice age, did actually show these runes, animals and men! Confirmation for the curators at the museum grounds confirmed this for me, and I was told there were several of these stones in the vicinity that were not studied, or moved that were unknown to the public. The grey blue mosses lining the shallow trenches of the stones effaced :Runes: not gone but barely readable.

The mounds grew in obsession as I strolled patiently around them, and something kept me off them, an ancient code of respect and honor, the sun was still high. These menhirs that obfuscate the secrets of the never dead were of deep intrigue. The plaques erected near the base of the mounds spoke of Kings and Women found within, but was it instead the Gods images themselves? I would have to find this out for myself, for this was Valhöll itself, the hall of the slain. The sacrificial tree grew on the dolmen, with it’s roots growing into the well of Urðr, from the river of Fyris. I knew from the Ravens of my mind, that it had been time. 9 years since I had become conscious of the existence of Uppsala, thousands of miles on this heathen pilgrimage, and I now stood at the central axis of our heathen religion! I needed a heiti, and hamingja. I sought to be marked by the Gods on this night, given a weave in the eternal tapestry of the Norns. I knew I would lie in utiseta on these hills this night, and I would either be cast back to Miðgarðr a mere man, or given the honor of a name and a purpose.

Dusk fell, and Thor’s rain pettered the dark heath, Skaði’s winds bent the grass in uniform, and the clouds took on a shade the skin on Hel, but a calm resisted the night, and I sat at my tent, waiting to be informed by the Runes. A man must visit the mounds to learn from the Norns, impersonating the God of Death, he must separate his Lík from his Sál and ride the wooden stead down to Hel. He must carry a taufr of his own, in this case, a braid of my longest hair wrapped in the grass of the mound. Then sit in silence, until he is let in…

Taking courage from the solitude, I ingested the five or six grams of Icelandic psilocybin mushrooms I had left, and waited for the effects to take course. Making my way to the mound in patient stride, I approached and entered.

‘It is time to speak from the seat of the High One,
hard by the Well of Honor,
I saw and was silent, I saw and pondered,
I listened to the speech of men’There are the Maidens, all things knowing
three in the hall which stands beneath the tree
One is named for Honor, the Second the Coming,
The Third, who engraves on tablets
They lay down the law, they choose out life
they speak the fate of the sons of men’

No turning back now, the mushroom works it’s way into my body and I feel a disconnection from the reasoning mind. The lamp lights swagger with shadows on cow fields, and the birch trees sway in a melancholic dance. I meet a Dís in my intoxication, and I remember. ‘He must pass their tests, he must answer their riddles, understand their secrets, and know the true meaning of their sacred verses. He must be chosen by them in order to be reborn again’. The hamingja must be earned, here and now, rightfully claimed from the judgement of the Norns, earned from the rites of Honor in the world of men. The valuables of the burial mound are mine to know, and I remember…

I remember the shining sanguine Sun
the frozen forests and fallen leaves,
and the hollow hill under the sky.

I remember the complex cold caverns,
the long tranquil tunnels
and the large underground lakes.

I remember the dim depths of the Earth,
the lucid lady in the light
and her sacred stanza.

I remember the bright beast in her boat,
the tall troll telling her tales,
and the honey in the haunted hollow.

I remember the protected password,
the secret soothing symbol
and the old Oðal objects.

I remember the red runes on the rock,
the spell of seeing being sung,
and the bold opening up of the beautiful burrow.I remember the coming of man reborn,
the birth of Baldur the bright,
the return of a world that was woefully lost.

I come down, trembling, shaking, cold, and hungry. Bound to eternity, I have passed this test. Váli has seen to my recovery, and I saunter back to my tent. I look back at the mounds, and remember my ancestors, the kin of my folk, and the high ones, their last home in Miðgarðr. Here they were, when the new religion imposed, and the Vikings made blót for the Gods. They buried them here so we can remember too, where they fought and sacrificed, and celebrated and lived again, for the last time, and each and every day. Dying and being reborn with each sun! The webs were spun, and I could merely find the strands that let back to the center of the Hagal matrix. The spiritual light was emitted with the warm runs of Sunna’s gaze, and life went on, but not as before. Ásgarðr and Folkvang are not heavenly realms but are right here on earth, for those who can see, but only for those with hamingja. It knows no law except that on consequence, and obeys no impulse except that of nature. It is a sweeping world force set free upon man and woman, left to work itself out in the universe. It renders the events of life as inevitable as the Sunrise.


Where do your roots go? and where do your branches grow?
May I continue to sit with Saga in her hall of stories, and sing to my own mythology…
Hail the Old Gods! Her ék em Gróa.
:RtR:

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Heathen Pilgrimage

This one has been kept a bit secret for awhile but in traditional fashion I would like to write here a little about my recent foray into the world. This time on a self styled heathen pilgrimage though the whole of Scandinavia, from Iceland to Faroe Islands, Denmark onto Sweden and Norway, Gotland and Finland. This will be the first part of a several chapter diary of my experiences through some of these countries, some will remain only spoken in the oral tradition to those I meet along the way, for I see no purpose in documenting every minute detail. The focus of this trip is to visit sacred sites, cultural landmarks, Runestones, Viking settlements, ancient ruins, and Iron/Viking age museums, to learn and experience as much as I can.

On the Danish chapter, my heathen foray began in Copenhagen as do most trips, I stayed with some old acquaintances along the canal. I was to meet an artist at a local tattoo parlor for a tattoo of the runic futhark, but this fell through, so I was not in the city for long. The next day I traveled to the open air museum in Lejre. Here volunteers lived in different periods re-enacted villages, from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and Viking period. A traditional lifestyle was brought to fruition in the open heath of the countryside. This was set near a few ship barrows and the burial mound of the Egtved girl.  It was fascinating to be standing on the grounds that this young girl was once buried, her body now lies in the Copenhagen museum. Several modern rune and pagan stones were carved in the landscape. A farm with traditional livestock like heritage pigs and boar also existed here. I met a father who was teaching his young son the art of smithing, and met other modern day Vikings who travel to different villages like myself.

From here I took a train to Slagelse and Hyllinge to walk at the Trelleborg Fortress on the island of Zealand. This was ordered by Harald Bluetooth in 980 to be constructed. The circle fortress would have kept 16 longhouses within its bounds, and it is the best preserved of the other Trelleborg that exist in Denmark and Sweden. It has been fully excavated, so I had the chance to see the relics of the foregone place, lain in the ground for hundreds of years. Seeing the skeletons of actual Vikings that lived, raided, farm, and loved is something I can barely wrap my head around, seeing their weapons and ships is another thing but their bodies, and for that matter, those of their animals is a truly connecting experience. In the higher mounds, horsemen were found, while there may have been Christian influence in the smaller graves. One woman carried pearls, game stones, a wooden casket and a bronze bucket. Several domestic items were also found like whetstones, utensils, combs, scissors, needles, locks and keys. It only shows, that our lifestyle is not so different. Some of the men in the graves were even from what is now Poland! This Trelleborg was known as a stop of Ibn Fadlan on his journey out of the east, and naturally marked a place of extreme curiosity for me since readings Ibn’s account of the Russiyah.

The Roskilde fjord was my next sojourn, but before this I took a side journey to Faxe, a place known for it’s brewery and lime quarry, but less know for the mythology behind the name. In Norse mythology Faxe means the horse’s mane, while Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are the horses of the day (dagr), and they pull the chariots of the day, while his mane lit up the sky and midgard. The name of Faxe comes all the way back from a poem called Vafþrúðnismál, but I digress, there was no Viking presence in this town that I know of, but I spent one night at a lime quarry before getting back to Roskilde. During the afternoon, I met some of the tradesmen working in the boatbuilders guild who were re-constructing the Viking ships at the harbor, then I was able to go out into the fjord on a sailing in a replica clinker built ship, seating fourteen, while rowing and gaining some experience about working the mast. The museum located here also housed five original Viking ship remnants, the infamous Skuldelev’s, which were sunk into the fjord to prevent access from a raid on Roskilde. There are 9 other ships ranging from the Iron age and medieval age found in further excavations. They were ranging from the clinker war ships, cargo boats to simple fishing skerries. Roskilde was of course a Viking trade town in league with other Scandinavian cities and foreign ports like Birka, Trelleborg, Ribe, Bergen and Dublin.

This marked the first part of my Danish adventure in the island of Zealand, but I am dreaming up further travels in Odense and western Denmark for the future, to visit such towns like Jelling, Jutland, Aarhus, Ribe and Hedeby. Next time I will talk about my travels in Uppsala and Skane in Sweden.

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A Walk in the Faroe Islands

The last time I saw Torshavn, I was on a ferry headed to Hirtshals Denmark, and I was not allowed to get off the boat, this was just a docking stop, it was a cold 5 am, and the rains were falling over the village, I would have to wait another year before I had the opportunity to step off the gangway, and claim the Faroe Islands to my travel itinerary. This time I was traveling with a friend from Australia, whom I met in Canada. She was also touring Scandinavia, a Europe virgin, so it was rewarding to both be experiencing this country for the first time.

Our first night was dreary and grim, after having spent one day and one night at sea, I couldn’t sleep, so I was looking forward to some decent rest in the tent when we went ashore. This didn’t happen. The cheap material of the tent leaked water like broken skin does blood. We chose to set the tent up near the lighthouse right at Thor’s harbour, which was idyllic enough, privacy and seclusion, close to the sea, darkness, but alas, I woke up in a literal lake of water that had flooded the tent and my sleeping bag, not a good start, so completely soaked to the bone, I waded out of the shelter, and roamed the streets of Torshavn looking for an awning or early morning cafe where I could take refuge…

The rest of the trip was not so miserly as this, in fact it was rather comfortable, so what follows are the stories of two walks in the Faroe Islands. I had decided to take a hostel at a highpoint of the village for the next two nights, though surrounded in fog, you would never know you were about the center of Torshavn. The Summartonar festival was underway downtown, and after getting my bearings in the cobbled pathways, and winding roads, I leisurely paced through Tinganes. Every house with low lying roofs, grown a foot thick with turf grass and wildflowers, one would expect goats to graze on such rich earth. The traditional matte black walls, red door, and white window panes, and the stone walkways between the hof, this was like a picture of my future home, and I had waited years to be here. I continued my walk through the town, and was able to catch a concert from Yggdrasill and Kristian Blak, the night coming to a close, I climbed the misty path back to hostel past old wooden houses, and sheep fields. The next day was Torsfest, and to my delight, the two names I have wanted to see for years, namely Tyr and Eivor were performing on the same day, though tickets were sold out, I was able to sneak in from one of the side gates before any of the bigger bands came to stage, so I was able to witness Eivor sing a full set. The rain came down in torrents, and it would still be 6 hours until Tye would come on, so I opted for not standing at the festival freezing without any cold weather gear. I knew they were touring Europe as well, and I would be attending Midgardsblot with Enslaved, Skuggsja and Wardruna in a month. In the morning, I stepped into the Domkirkja to see Gudrid Hansdottir, and spent the evening by the port, and walking in the sculpture park.

After a restful slumber, I packed my gear and talked to a biker from Denmark over coffee, then head out on the road and started hitchhiking. This was really very simple in the Faroe Islands, and I never waited longer than 3 minutes for a ride, in this case it was the second car. By this time I was alone, and my friend had continue her travels. On the ride, I met another girl from Australia, and two guys from England and Holland, they had all met in the hostel the day before, and now we were four from different countries. They told me they were headed to Gásadalur, a small cliffside village with a waterfall that tumbles off the edge straight into the ocean. The foss poured from the lush greenery, as I quaffed dark ale in the same fashion. We then headed to the port, the Australian girl and the Englishman were to catch a boat out to Mykines (proncounced mitch-en-es) by the locals. This was a famous island known for its bird life, guillemots and puffins and several rare nesting species exclusive to this island. Unfortunately the boat was cancelled due to storm. People have been known to get stuck on the island because of the weather, so instead we made way for Bosdalafossur, another waterfall that plummeted into the sea, on the edge of a high plateau, emptying from a river that was right beside a cliff, making for an extremely interesting panoramic vision. This spot where it fell was called Trælanípan, a place where the Vikings threw their worn out slaves. It it reached from the Midvagur village, along a hike through a feral sheep field. The bird cliffs are comparable with those in Vestmanna in my opinion, and for those with vertigo, here is a chance to overcome it. We walked for a few hours here, taking in the sites of stones polished by running water, and the many intriguing sheep varieties, some appearing to have black mask markings. I ended up staying in a different hostel on the island of Vagar this night with my new friend from Holland, and we traded sagas from our travels.

The second of my walks was in Vestmanna, after walking nearly the full way to a small bay Viking village with the remains of an old settlement. I met a local who picked me up and we talked about landholding, farming and life in the Faroe Islands. Before leaving Sandavagur I tried to gain access to the church to view the runestone, but alas the priest was not in. I asked a woman walking in the cemetary where he lived and we walked to his house, still no answer, so I didn’t get to see it, but instead made my way to the Iceland wax Viking museum in Vestmanna. I was really impressed by the displays and stories learned of the heritage from Faroe Islands, I continued through the town, and walked in between the lonely roads, viewing the bay from the high points, and observing the life of this out of the way place, humbling myself to my placemark on the map. Again, the sky brooded with the dark egg of rain, and I headed back to the refuge of the hostel. In a few hours I was off again, to the solitary airport of Vagar, a one track runway, on my way to Kobenhavn, It was a fast four days here in the Faroe Islands but I only scratched the surface of the rune stone so to speak, the rest is yet to be carved into place.

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Organic Camping Tents for an Organic Lifestyle

So, I am on the hunt for an organic camping tent, because like most travelers who are used to sleeping out in the woods, I am stuck with the in-organic, brightly colored, chemically laden, plastic tents that easily break down, rip, and cause all sorts of problems to the environment, both to produce and to use. I detest this method of living, not the camping itself, but spending my nights inside this claustrophobic structure, while the morning suns rays emit harmful air into the tent for those who dare sleep in, while the polyester walls leak with rain, and cause a tumult of wind flapping in the slightest breeze. There must be alternatives beyond the MEC and Fjallraven higher end brands, who are also using the same materials, are there any fellow nomads or travelers out there who know?

I know there have been limited tents made by Vaude a German company that produced a high quality cotton tent, then a Middle Eastern company that used bamboo poles and organic canvas, I have also seen festival tent designs with a front entering design and canvas roll, and an Irish tent made from sustainable cork, but both of these were only designs, not actual tents on the market. If anyone knows of some non fire-retardant, non-chemical, natural color, organic material and lightweight tents for single or couple camping, please write to me. Until then I will keep dreaming of a beeswaxed natural hemp fiber tent with bamboo poles and sky windows that I can fit in my backpack.

Happy travels!