Calling Up Courage

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In the wee hours of a day in late March, I caught a glimpse of a horse, a spear, and a beautiful bronze shield. In an instant, I was in a woman’s presence standing in a temple that was partially open to rich, green fields. The woman’s red robes caught my eye. She smiled warm and strong, her glistening spear held firm in her right hand. I knew she was Macha. I stared in awe, whispered “Your Majesty”, and took a knee. She appreciated the show of respect and reverence. Smiling broadly she took my hand and tugged upward for me to stand. Once I was on my feet again, she kissed my right cheek and gave me welcome in Gaelic. Her words were unclear at first because I don’t speak her language. She observed my confusion and switched to English.

Her words poured over me along with images of spears and horses, warriors at the ready, and Macha herself on horseback. She was battle-ready, laughing and riding free. She told me to be courageous, to stand bravely no matter the enemy at the gate or the fear deep in my heart. She demanded that I fully and boldly express myself in the world and in every way that matters to me because so-called “Others” living unapologetically is a vital aspect of Resistance as we work for change in the world.

I tearfully accepted her guidance and then she was gone.

Audre Lorde Quote

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Hamingja: Essence of Luck and Resiliency

Luck, often called hamingja, is an important Heathen concept, one that encompasses ancestral aid, as well as a person’s ability to be in the right place at the right time, the whole constellation of a person’s skills and talents, and a person’s ability to rally the support and confidence of others. From my perspective the above mentioned aspects are the bright-side of one’s hamingja. They are the manifestation of one’s luck when one is “winning”, when things are going right and well. But what of luck’s shadow? With what does luck gift us in times of unavoidable darkness and struggle? Are we to assume that times of trouble come when luck has left us?

Luck isn’t gone when trouble comes our way. It’s when things get rough that our luck is tested. Most folks are made of fancy stuff when times are good. It’s when times are bad that we see most fully what destiny and fate have woven into a person’s soul. When life delivers hashtags of failure, pain, and disappointment, luck is still there in the form of resilience. Resilience – luck’s shadow – is a person’s ability to regroup/take stock and bounce back in times of adversity. Luck’s Shadow demands that we make good use of even the most meager resources. It involves learning new skills where old one’s have failed; finding new supporters where old one’s have chosen other champions; and, paying attention and learning even/especially when in the wrong place at the wrong time. Resilience does not always demand a smile and a good attitude, but it does demand self-awareness, self-knowledge, and a willingness to bend with life’s changing winds.

As a psychologist (in training) I am versed in positive psychology and strengths-based clinical work. I know something about the dark and difficult work of making a way out of no way and using personal strengths to do it. But strengths – as anyone who has struggled and emerged more whole and authentic on the other side knows – are not the only forces within that forge us, they are not the only forces that constitute our luck, shape our orlog, and weave our wyrd. We human beings are just as crafted and empowered by our challenges, our struggles, our points for improvement as we are by our easy successes, hard-won victories, and character strengths. Luck is just as much about how we navigate adversity (i.e. our resiliency) as it is about the relative absence of difficulties.

The strength of our hamingja is shown in the world by the ease and greatness of accomplishments and by how we labor, how we struggle, how we hurt, how we cry, how we supplicate, how we problem-solve, how we make use of what very little we have, and how we become a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday. The key to resiliency and reaping its Dark Harvest is knowing what crops grow in those shadowed fields, where in one’s psyche they are planted, and what tools are best suited to bringing in the fields’ yield. Always winning or winning with little difficulty leaves half the Soul’s harvest unreaped.

Hamingja has as much value in its darker manifestation (i.e. resiliency) as it does in its more often talked about lighter manifestation (i.e. “being in the right place at the right time” or effortlessly “winning”). So turn your mind to your struggles and examine your efforts to breakthrough. Are you slowly but surely demonstrating your capacity to work through adversity in ways that improve your soul-caliber? Are you waxing in wisdom and gaining in soul-might with every small and large challenge you toil to overcome, no matter how many attempts it takes you or tears it costs you? If you answered yes, then you just might be luckier than you thought.