Repeating History and The Broken Path
In writing The Weekly Rune last week, a nuance came up in it that I wanted to explore further, though was outside the scope of the actual runecast. I will elaborate here. Please come along with me and share your thoughts.
To preface, my approach on the runes in general is how to live them, how to make them actionable in everyday life. With Sowilo, we’re talking about the sun, which much (not all) of the planet relies on to function healthily. A way in which we can live that is to shine on others. We can embody the life-giving attributes of the sun in how we move among on the planet.
I started thinking about the Sowilo of lineage, as in our lineage shines on us. We shine on our descendants. People who aren’t even here anymore affect us, and what we do right now is affecting and will affect those who come after us. That got me thinking about this statement: History repeats itself, as if that’s a bad thing, and that the repetition stems from not knowing our history. The connotation is history only repeats bad things.
When I unpack that, though I get this: history repeats itself. Yes. This is in part due to the pattern matching capabilities of human brains. We are excellent at it. This repetition is also orlog, in that we make choices based on our circumstances, which are largely limited to ancestral and systemic parameters. They are familiar, thus easily replicated, even when they are unconscious, even when they are unwanted and undesirable. This repetition is also wyrd, in that the tapestry is what the tapestry is, and much of it is beyond our knowing. We work within its parameters, and if that’s repeated, so it is. Given that, repetition, itself, isn’t the problem. So what is?
The “bad” projection is what concerned me, and is where I got tripped up with Sowilo. As the sun shines on us, we shine on others. Thus, history repeating itself isn’t the problem. Repetition of patterns already in motion is merely the boundaries of the pluriverse as intended. We could even call it tradition.
We often take Sowilo as implying bright, positive circumstances, though the sun isn’t good or bad. It’s just shining. Human-persons, though, have choice in how we shine. Deeper implication there is that how the sun shines on us is how we shine on others. Again, depending on our personal or collective circumstances, that may be good. May be not so good. We pay forward what we have, and we don’t all have the same thing. This observation changed the way I see Sowilo.
The problem, of course, is that we pay forward a pervasive history of violent divisiveness and othering, which we know to be undisputably true, and we repeat it, anyway. Repetition doesn’t happen because we don’t know that we are causing harm. That history repeats isn’t an issue of not knowing history. The issue is what we choose to repeat, which by and large is dynamics of supremacy.
We know that regardless of whether we have elders bearing forth unbroken living traditions of sacred place, rituals, and cosmology, we are still bound to the deeds, thoughts, beliefs, and traumas of our ancestors. We still carry their gifts, wounds, strengths, and their biases. This is how history write itself, thus repeats, in our cells, in our psyches.
Most of us don’t have such lived traditions, and I’ve long-called this lack The Broken Path. We don’t know that we’re kin with Nature, and as such we don’t live as kin with Nature. But if we did have an unbroken tradition of elders bearing forth living traditions… Would we choose different patterns to repeat? Would we have the empathy to know better and the roots in tending all of community to actually do better?
When we put together that historical repetition is part of how things work behaviourally and cellulary, along with our penchant for using that natural rhythm to generate and compound harm, we have to face the wound of the broken path. We have to fully acknowledge it as our history and our present, and realize that repeating patterns of divisiveness are continuing to break the path. Division of some is division of all. We have to start to care about what histories we repeat, and learn to act beyond them. We have to educate ourselves about the systems we live in and why (again, the inherent history-repeating part), so that we outcreate these systems with more supportive and inclusive ways of moving among.
We are going to repeat what we see, feel, and experience. This is how we function, and that isn’t the problem. Our task isn’t to stop repetition from happening. Rather, it’s to plan for that repetition in how we live now by doing better, so that we set precedents for healing, tending, and unifying. It’s that we make the conscious effort to repeat the healthy, uplifting, interdependent ways of being, so that they become what is repeated. So that they become our history.
This… is where my thoughts go when the runes reveal themselves each week. If you’d like to wander through similar meanderings in the future, let me know. Thanks for coming along on this one.
S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div.
I’m an animist, author, deathwalker and death doula. For the last 25+ years, through Soul Intent Arts I’ve helped others to ethically build thriving spiritual paths as fit, embodied elders, who upon death become wise, capable Ancestors. My work is Nature-based, and focuses soul tending through the Elder Futhark runes, animism, ancestral healing, and deathwork. I’m author of Runic Book of Days, and I host the podcast, What in the Wyrd. I also write The Weekly Rune as a celebration of the Elder Futhark in season. Full bio.
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elder well, die well, ancestor well