Why we do it
Another way of thinking
“I was brought up with the stories of our indigenous religion, so it was always there as a reminder of our forefathers and a different world before this one.
What I find appealing about the Nordic Mythology, (and similar indigenous world views), is that they lack the dualism so typical of the modern world view. Humans are profoundly connected to the world, part of a web of forces. Compared to the modern world, this old world view is at the same time more alive, more complex and transmit a more responsible relation between us and our environment.
In the Nordic understanding of the world, Man lives in the centre of Cosmos – in Midgaard, surrounded by other realms and all sorts of different forces to be reckoned with. Animals, gods, jotun (giants, natural forces). When it comes to mythology, we are used to thinking in these Tolkien –Harry Potter terms of confrontation with evil forces. Norse religion doesn’t see the world like that.
The Nordic gods relate to trolls and giants in many ways. They do fight them yes, but they also learn from them, have children with them, marry them, bargain with them, descend from them etc. This is a world where the forces of nature are not evil, but ripe with potential blessing.
The myths are filled with amazingly visual figures, gods riding chariots pulled by cats, wielding hammers or getting their arms bit off by giant wolves, and so on and so forth. But strangely enough very few archaeological findings show these things. What is depicted in abundance, however, is a myriad of dragons, snakes and strange creatures twisting and intertwining.
I think our forefathers saw the world as an intricate weave of dangerous and beautiful powers. Not the Disney-esque understanding of Good and Evil, this came later with Christianity. For them, the other side or the forces that made the “world wheel“ spin, were the dragons, the giants (Jotun), The midgaardswyrm – Jormungandr, the gods and the fates spinning their thread.
Beautiful, powerful, but also dangerous beings.” -Uffe
“An old Nordic myth tells about a king: Frode Fredegod (Frode Peacegood).
The myth tells of a magic millstone in the middle of the kingdom driven by two female giants – two Jotun, called Fenja and Menja. The millstone grinds blessings and prosperity onto Frodes Kingdom and all is good. But, in time, driven by greed, Frode decides to press these forces of nature to work harder for him giving him more wealth, and thereby breaking the pact with the Jotun. The result is that instead of blessings they start to grind an unstoppable curse that eventually destroys the land.
This dynamic relation between culture (The King and his kingdom) and nature, (The two Jotunesses Fenja and Menja) is what we see in much of the historical imagery. For instance, many rune stones have snake-like creatures that circle the world like Jormungandr and in the middle of this world is Yggdrasil, the world tree. Like Fenja and Menja are bound to a pact with the king, (until he gets greedy). The power of the Jotun is connected to the tree as if the tree grows out of the circling snake. The world is “powered” by forces of the jotun, just outside our view, but connected to the world of humans.
The creatures portrayed are often bound or restrained. To bind and to set free is a very fundamental metaphor in Nordic religion. The controlled deity of Chaos, Loke, is bound under the earth, the giant wolf of Fenris is bound until Ragnarok.
Therefore, the forces of the creatures are often portrayed in a weave of knots and twists in what we typically think of as Viking art.
When I tattoo dragons, wolves or masks on my clients, I don’t try to copy something that a very different kind of people did a thousand years ago.
I instead try to give my contribution to that tradition and bring it to life, with the thought that we are connected to the world and its powers.
And, that the world is a weave of beautiful, monstrous powerful dynamics, a living colourful multifaceted reality.
In the modern way of thinking, Man seems to be placed at the top of a pyramid (possibly with God above) with everything else below us to be governed and used (up) by us, but as can be seen, this way of life is not working.
We have forgotten that we are part of everything.
Animals are our brothers and sisters and the earth is our mother. To me this is inherent in the way humans used to exist in the world, this is what we need to realize again.” – Uffe
The Presence and getting out of the way
“I don’t define myself as “Asatru” as I find the term rather loaded. It sort of implies a whole set religion with dogmas and rituals.
Indigenous worldviews, including my own heritage, certainly make a lot of sense to me spiritually and this is also a big part of my drive to make tattoos.
There is a certain type of anxiety connected to the process of my work. It is a feeling I get every time I start a new project. Almost like stage fright. The first year I tattooed I felt completely terrified, on the verge of getting up and quitting, several times a week.
I have now learned to recognise this fear as the presence of spirit (in lack of a better word). The very best pieces I have made have also been the most terrifying ones to make.
What sometimes happens when I start on a new project, is that I manage to let go and become a channel through which the tattoo can come into existence. To me it has to do with a Nordic Spirit of sorts. But I am convinced this is exactly the same that happens to anyone who manages to “get out of the way“, or let their sense of self go, and let whatever it is that they are doing take over. Some would call it “being in flow”, which might cover the same thing more or less.
Sometimes when I’m making a piece dedicated to a specific deity or fylgja (guardian spirit/totem), I pray for help from that entity, and then I can feel the help coming.
The presence of anxiety or even fear, I have learned to recognise as, well – Presence.
To be able to be a channel, one has to get the ego out of the way, to do this, you must recognize that it is the ego that is feeling the fear.
So for me the feeling of fear has now become very closely related to the feeling of complete joy. A feeling of ecstatic joy. Because I am no longer there, I am no longer important, what is important is that which is created between the client, myself and that elusive Nordic Spirit, and that is bigger,- and much more interesting than anything I could ever be, or do myself.” -Uffe
“There is a big interest for Nordic Mythology these days. A lot of people think it is cool to wear a Thor’s hammer (and nothing wrong with that, I’ve made quite a few of them). A lot of people are attracted to this “religion”. But Thor or Loki, as examples, are just names for certain dynamics. The obvious question is: Can we use these dynamics for anything in our world today? I certainly think so. That is why there is such a huge attraction to these older ways these days. Whether it be Nordic or Native American, I think it is basically about the same thing, in my view.
There is a feeling of something lacking. I think we can all feel it. That there’s something wrong with the world. We are letting the wrong powers rule ourselves and the world, and we are supressing the powers, we should make way for.
To embrace for example Asatru as it is popularly portrayed today and then accidently keeping the habit of judging other belief systems would in my view be an enormous mistake, closing the opportunity for spirituality immediately.
No matter which spiritual label we identify with, we have for a thousand years been taught that the only way to meet god is through dogmatic Christianity and I think it is difficult for us to imagine, how deep we have to dig and how much of ourselves we have to unload to see beyond that.
What I am trying to do everyday in my work, is creating a temporary sacred room in cooperation between the client and myself so that a channel is opened.
My purpose is to every day strive to make myself a better tool for this process in any way, from the artistic, to the craftsman, to becoming better at opening myself to it.
What has surprised me is that it seems my clients can feel it too and accepts it. To me that means that we are on to something that we recognise when it is there, even if we cannot name it. Something that has always been with us.” -Uffe