Among the European pantheons, there are two fairly well known mythological tales of destruction and renewal. In the Norse myth of Ragnarök, a conflict ensues between the “light” and “dark’ gods. All is destroyed, including the gods on both sides, and Baldur, the Son of Odin, re-emerges to lead in the rebuilding of a new world. There is also the Greek myth of the Phoenix, a great bird which lives for a certain period of time, then builds its own funeral pyre and flaps its wings to ignite the flames. With its great wings, the Phoenix purposefully fans the fires of its own destruction. When the fire has burned out, a new Phoenix, mightier than the old, emerges from the ashes.
It seems the biggest difference in these similar myths is the agent of destruction. Baldur is slain, essentially, by the trickster god Loki, while the Phoenix destroys itself. Ragnarök can be seen to represent the workings of polarized forces in the eternal cycle of life-death-renewal. This cycle governs civilizations. The Phoenix, however, with its lack of interacting forces, seems to encompass the self-generation of the forces of life-death-renewal in ourselves. These are the forces of self-overcoming.
This aspect of life is very important to our movement. Self-overcoming is a painful yet necessary experience. We have all endured many trying events in our lives – lost love, lost lives, failure, even the transition from childhood to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood. These are everyday human manifestations of the rise of the Phoenix – in each endeavor, part of us is lost, yet we emerge stronger than before. The greatest significance of the Phoenix is that its life-death-renewal process is eternal, and therefore its greatness infinite.
What does the Phoenix represent to us now, as members of a revolutionary movement? If we take an honest moment to consider the movement, we will recognize many “Phoenixes” which plainly refuse to overcome, to build the funeral pyre of their unsuccessful paths, their once good but now stale stances, their outdated regalia. The flames of that fire are indeed difficult to bear, especially when they consume, by our own will, the work of years, sometimes of a lifetime. Yet the Phoenix, true to its cause, dutifully builds its pyre, ignites the flame, and fans the fire of self-destruction with an eye to the future – to the re-emergence of something more noble than what is lost. The newborn greatness is worth the painful fire. When this natural process is forsaken, stagnation and decay settle in. We see this in our society; we must now see this in our movement.
It seems obvious that when the duty to carry on the eternal saga of the Phoenix is disregarded, the destruction necessary to allow the renewal process to continue will come eventually, via Ragnarök, and inevitable destruction from without.
How many of us have looked forward with eager eyes for the advent of Ragnarök, while we did not even deal adequately with the cycles of our own existence? Can one who refuses to accept the fires of his own self-overcoming, due to vanity or weakness, really hope to survive the destructive fires of an entire civilization?
Many pagans have known and taught the significance of Ragnarök for a long time. It is now time to fully understand the numinous meaning of the Phoenix. How can we demand that civilizations in decay must be destroyed in order that a new, brighter civilization may arise, when we do not adhere to the same cyclical necessities in the lives of men, and of the movement as an organism? The barbarians who crash the gates of the city thereafter crash our front doors!
Mythology, it has been said, is something that never was, but always is. Let us heed the wise messages of our great progenitors. We will never forget the majesty of the Acropolis, the enchantment of Homer, the wisdom of Socrates, or the might of the Spartan warrior. Let us likewise never forget the fires of the Phoenix.
There is much that is new in our movement, much that is fresh and invigorating. Why does the old, stagnant, proven-ineffective, stand beside it—crowd it—like a vulture beside the shining new Phoenix? We must collectively contemplate our philosophies, our thoughts, our actions, and ensure that each is not fit to be hurled upon the funeral pyre. If we see things that are, let us build the pyre with perseverance and a sense of duty, never forgetting that new heights shall be reached when the fires have died. Let us be willing to sacrifice parts of ourselves, even parts we have come to love and admire, so that greatness, and not custom, carries the torch of the moment.
Only thus can we, as a movement, continue to evolve as our environment evolves, and play a principal role in the events of the future. The many temporary deaths we will suffer as the fires of the Phoenix are ablaze are nothing compared to the eternal death, with no possible re-emergence, that our people win suffer if we are not always new, always strong, always prepared to defend