We Don’t Have Time

“Where is the horse gone, where the young rider? 

Where now the giver of gifts? 

Where are the seats at the feasting gone? 

Where are the merry sounds in the hall? 

Alas, the bright goblet! 

Alas, the knight and his hauberk! 

Alas, the glory of the king! 

How that hour has departed, 

dark under the shadow of night, 

as had it never been!

The preceding poem is from an Old English piece called “The Wanderer,” and is likely familiar to any fans of Tolkien, who used it as inspiration for one of his own most famous pieces of poetry in the Rings trilogy.

Its words and sentiment were heavy in my mind this weekend after returning from a 3 week long motorcycle trip across the continental United States – from the monsoon storms of Texarkana to the dry burning deserts of Arizona, and back again across endless plains.

Our return date was already set – for us, one of great importance, as our tribal organization the Wolves celebrate our ritual of Baldr’s Funeral every year on the first Saturday in June.

The story of Baldr is one about time, and cycles, and death.

During our ritual, which culminates in the burning of Baldr’s funeral ship, I told my brothers and sisters that “we don’t have time. Time has us.”

We don’t get to make the decision as to when we will pass out of this life, and so our only choices are what we do with the time allotted to us. 

In the account of Baldr’s death, re-told to us in dramatic fashion by one of our members during the rite, we hear that Baldr’s father Odin whispers into his ear as he rests, a corpse on the funeral ship waiting to be burned.

We are told that Odin whispers to him – but not what he whispers. This cryptic piece of the story has always fascinated me, and it is my belief that Odin imparts to his dead son the cyclical nature of time, of heritage, and the bloodline.

Later in the story, we hear that after the final battle of the gods, Baldr “returns.”

It was a known belief of the people of this era that members of the family returned into the family line, their spirits or “souls” or what have you finding expression in a new member of the clan, and children were often named after recently deceased ancestors perhaps as part of this belief. 

I believe this, and even though we ourselves do not “have time,” I also believe that we master time and attain dominion over it through the invincibility of legacy.

Whether this is our own physical offspring or the lasting nature of our works and deeds, immortality is not about a survival of the individual – it is a survival of their essence on this plane of existence.

In my journal before leaving out for my trip, I addressed my son, who, if all goes well, will arrive in two short months:

“I’m mindful of a new responsibility, and plan to write some of this account to you, Viktor.

Whether or not I make it back home will be up to fate, God, luck, or skill – whichever one is strongest or realest, I reckon.

If you’re reading this and I ain’t here – I still am.

If I didn’t get to meet you in person, son, that’s ok – I am you.
Don’t forget that. I’ll always be with you, because that’s how all this works.

I am my father’s son and that means I am my father, and his father, and his father before him. They are a real part of me, wrapping my shared soul in the flesh and blood of my people, a living testament to the power and pride of my ancestors.

I am never alone, Viktor, and neither are you, because they are always with us, and my life’s work is to make our blood stronger, more potent, to add glorious deeds and epic adventure, acts of loyalty and honor, all of it- into the swirling red river of our heritage.

Don’t forget this, my son.

You were born for greatness. You hold my name and the name of our fathers: WAGGENER.
Your first name is auspicious: VIKTOR. Winner. Conqueror. Champion.

I love you, son, and I can’t wait to welcome you to the world once again.”

As I watched the flames of Baldr’s funeral ship lick the sky, surrounded by my brothers, my sisters, my wife and unborn son, I was overcome by a feeling of gratitude, of calm, and of the simple knowledge that I am doing the right thing with my life.

I will not depart, dark under the shadow of night, as had I never been!

I will endure, and my works and the works of my son and his sons will endure.

Together, we will conquer time and death, and the waterfall of our blood will flow forever.