Wyrd Words: 10 Pieces of Practical Advice from the Hávamál (Part 2)

Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, every other week here on Agora!

This week, we will be continuing our incredibly deep and serious spiritual exploration of the Hávamál.

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5- Just Shut Up and Drink Your Mead.

You’re about to go to a feast, when a friend of yours asks to tag along for the ride. You figure, “Sure, why not? What’s the worst that can happen?” At first, everything is fine. You’ve settled in, had a few drinks, and you’re having a grand time flirting with that shieldmaiden who’s been giving you the eye all evening. Suddenly you realize that while you’re on drink three, your friend has apparently made it to double digits. Without any warning, the levees in his brain have buckled and opened the floodgates to a vast and unstoppable font of STUPID.

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I swear I don’t know him…

We all have that one friend who we’re occasionally just embarrassed to be associated with. But fear not! For the Hávamál tells us EXACTLY what advice to give to these friends.

A witless man,
when he meets with men,
Had best in silence abide;
For no one shall find
that nothing he knows,
If his mouth is not open too much.
-Hávamál stanza 27

(Translation: If you keep quiet, nobody will know that you have NO IDEA what you’re talking about. So just shut up and drink your mead!)


4- Respect “The Line.”

There’s a lot that can pass between friends without incident that would start fights in the wrong bar. When you know somebody well enough, you know what buttons you can press and how hard; chances are they know yours too. Unfortunately the addition of alcohol tends to make those buttons more sensitive than normal, while at the same time making it nearly impossible to avoid pushing them. The result is what I like to call the “OH SNAP Cycle of Escalation.”

In layman’s terms, the O.S.C.E. is a process by which two or more friends’ playful banter becomes unexpectedly antagonistic. As each party becomes more annoyed, their comments become more offensive, which further annoys the other party. This system usually continues to escalate until somebody “crosses the line” and says something so offensive that it simply can’t be topped by another quip; resulting in a climactic “Oh SNAP” moment.

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Friendly of mind | are many men,
Till feasting they mock at their friends;
To mankind a bane | must it ever be
When guests together strive.

-Hávamál stanza 32

(Translation, leave the quips and banter to less inebriated people. Many a friendship has been lost over drunken “Yo-Mama” comments, and nobody wants two of their buddies to have a boxing match in their living room.)


3- Real Friends Get Schadenfreude

There are many different kinds of “friend.” There’s the “Friend from work,” who helps pass the time, but that’s about it. There’s the “friend by extension,” who seems okay and you’re nice to them because they’re your friend’s friend. There’s the “Friend of the family,” the “friend with benefits,” and a massive variety of people ranging from “acquaintance” to “long lost twin.” So how do you know who your real friends are? Which one among your gaggle of associates is the person who will cover your rear and help you move a body (or twelve)?

Well, the Hávamál has got you covered! You know those friends who will totally call you on your BS and laugh when you do something stupid, but still help you out when you need it? Like that time in high school where you tried to impress your friends by swearing you could eat a raw habanero, so your friend bought you one. Then they handed you gallons of water laughed as you nearly CHOKED TO DEATH.*  Those are the keepers.

Affection is mutual when men can open
All their heart to each other:
He whose words are always fair
Is untrue and not to be trusted.

-Hávamál stanza 124

(Translation, ———–v)

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2- Don’t be the straggler

It’s 3A.M. and the party’s been over for half an hour. You’re halfheartedly cleaning up the debris, wanting nothing more than to crawl into your bed and sleep straight through Ragnarök. Unfortunately for you, there’s THAT GUY. Despite your best efforts to clarify that the party has concluded, and you need to be awake the next morning, this person seems content to remain on your couch and chat the rest of the night away. They may even offer to help with cleanup, adding guilt to the steadily accumulating awkwardness.

I sincerely believe that these folks have a special place reserved in Helheim right next to people who talk in movie theaters.** You don’t want to be rude and shove them out the door, but after the third failed “Okay buddy, it was great seeing you!”, there isn’t much choice. It’s a no-win situation that makes everybody involved feel like a schlemiel, and it’s a dilemma as old as time. (Or at least as old as houses!)

Forth shall one go, nor stay as a guest
In a single spot forever;
Love becomes loathing, if long one sits
By the hearth in another’s home.

-Hávamál stanza 35

(Translation, Don’t be THAT person. Seriously. Just don’t. Even Óðinn thinks it’s creepy.)


1- Where Did I Put My Pants?

So here we are, at last. You’re looking for the #1 BEST piece of advice from the Hávamál on how to party like a Viking. Well, take a seat, and let Old Óðinn One-Eye share some personal life experience.

Hávamál  stanzas 12-14:

Less good there lies, than most believe
In ale for mortal men;
For the more he drinks, the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold.

Over beer the bird, of forgetfulness broods,
And steals the minds of men;
With the heron’s feathers, fettered I lay
And in Gunnloth’s house was held.

Drunk I was, I was dead-drunk,
When with Fjalar wise I was;
‘Tis the best of drinking, if back one brings
His wisdom with him home.


12- Beer has a way of making perfectly reasonable people do some remarkably DUMB things.

13- This one time, at Gunnloth’s house, I got so plastered that I could barely remember my own name. (Much less how to get home.)

14- It was probably FRIGGIN’ AWESOME, but it’s kind of a blur. It would have been better if I could actually remember it…

Later in the poem we discover that Óðinn basically spent three days drinking magic mead and sexing it up with a giantess. (Which seems like three days one would want to remember!)

The moral to this Heathen tale? The party’s no fun if you can’t at least remember enough of it to know where you put your pants!



*- We’ve all done that at least once. Right? … guys?… Oh…

**- 10 points if you caught that reference. 20 points if you can write the original line in the comments!


Message from the Editor!
Wyrd Words will be participating in the February “Pagan Tea Time” event!

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PAGAN TEA TIME: GET FACE TO FACE — If we want to build a strong Pagan intellectual culture, we need to know one another more deeply than words on a screen allow. During the month of February, consider speaking with a fellow writer or commenter face to face, in person or via video chat. (http://ow.ly/sL18Y)

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About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/