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The Eternal Return

This piece was originally spoken by me to my tribe, the Wolves, celebrating our Summer Solstice ritual in 2008. I believe it is more true than ever, and that the words are equally applicable to the strong men and women of Operation Werewolf around the world. -PW

Baldr’s dreams are foreboding ones.

They see a bloody end to all things.

A destructive force leveled at the world of gods and men, an unstoppable entropic ruin.
The fiery burning of all green places and the dissolution of life everywhere.

He forsees his own death, and this feeling of doom remains with him as he wakes.

Steps are taken by his loving mother to protect him from anything and everything that might assail him.

Like any mother she wants only the safety and security of her child, but nothing can stop the cycle of renewal, and that renewal can only come through death, decay and rebirth.

This is the core truth of our tribal belief: the eternal return- that being, becoming, passing away and new birth that sustains and ultimately destroys every living thing.

Baldr’s dreams come to him not only at the end of a personal life cycle, but at the end of an age. His death is significant because it means not just his own demise, but heralds the final breath of an era.

We too, are living in a season of demise. The world around us is crumbling, not only socially, but literally. The green things on the earth are being withered by the flames of Surt’s children. Industry, greed, reckless power and excess.

The branches of the world tree tremble.
We sit at the cusp of destruction, waiting for the Fall.

Like the twilight of the gods, our time here is crucial.

We are anomaly and anathema to the dying world around us- our way is completely opposed to the rest of modern society and makes us a tribe unto ourselves.

All those who hear this ancient call are relegated by the world out there to the shadows at the edge of the firelight.

The rune poem for FEHU says “the wolf grows up in the woods.”
This is our place, then, away from the wretched entanglement of modern hatred, the great expanses of the industrial waste, the spiritual wilderness that pervades the hearts and minds of this world.

All this hopelessness finds remedy in the mysterious passage in Baldr’s Dreams describing Odin, Baldr’s father, approaching the funeral pyre and whispering unknown words in the ear of the corpse as it lays silently awaiting the flames.

The final war occurs, the gods are destroyed, the earth is burned.
The world tree crackles with fire- 

but it survives.
Its heart remains evergreen, and uncorrupted.

Within its sheltering boughs, a seed springs forth to renew mankind- the land rises from the sea and supports new life.

Baldr returns as the lord of the gods, coming back from the dark and dreaded Halls of Hel to once more take his place on the high seat. The man and woman Lif and Lifthrasir represent that which is best in humanity, the unkillable root of our people.

As we live our lives here, at the end of an age, and the ruinous fires sweep the face of this earth, it is more important than ever that we keep these old roots alive, the unshakeable truths and bonds of faith, friendship and family- because that is what is best of humanity.

Our tribal ways value love over all.

Savage, fierce and willful love for our brothers and sisters, our families, our own ferociously independent way of life.

These are the things that will stand forever against the onslaught of time and destruction.

Like Baldr, we must each of us live forever as symbols and touchstones for our people.



Take mastery over your life, and be that symbol, a living representation of these things we value most, what is best in us, and live it without faltering.

From the gods we worship, to our tribe, to our valued friends- though oaths bind the Wolves together, we first had to find each other in this burning world of shadow and poison.

Once found, we recognized kindred spirits and we held onto those things that brought us together like a priceless treasure. 



With no irony or insincerity, we swore under black skies to be family forever.

Families quarrel, families fight, and families disagree- but they are family, and a man’s back is bare without his brother. When the fire comes, the one without a tribe will burn alone, instead of facing his death shoulder to shoulder with a worthy comrade.

May our bonds grow stronger.
May friends become family.
May we stand strong together in the face of everything this world can put against us.

We hail Baldr, and the eternal return of the sun.

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Minimalist Training

I received many questions last week from young guys who wanted to know how they should be training to achieve their fitness goals. Mostly they had a lot of questions on programs, diets, methods, and so on, and used a lot of fancy words or phrases that I was largely unfamiliar with. 

Here is my answer to all of you in regards to what style of training or programming or eating I think is best:



Minimalism. 

It’s so easy to get pulled in by new gimmicks, training fads, diets, and so on.

Every time you turn around, people are repositioning old methods as new “systems.”

Example: TUT or “Time Under Tension” training used to just be called slow, controlled reps.
Intermittent fasting used to just be called “not eating all the time.”

Butterfly pull-ups used to be called “having a seizure.”

Paleo, gluten-free, keto, whatever.

All are probably fine and have their place (don’t get too triggered here, keto guys!) just don’t get caught up in the hype.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Unless you are training specifically for competitive bodybuilding, the following rules hold true, eternally:


Use barbells for sure, dumbbells and kettlebells if you want, machines sparingly or not at all.

If you are spending more time with chains and bands and gadgets than you are under the bar, putting in smooth, quality repetitions with an intelligently (but simply) programmed regimen, it may be time to ask yourself the important question- what am I training for?

This is a completely reasonable question and usually has a simple answer, if folks are being honest. It will usually be one of four, or a combination thereof, with some emphasis on one or the other:



I am training to be stronger.

I am training to be healthier.


I am training to look good. This also holds true for those who want to look more intimidating, or a harder target, or whatever. Training for aesthetic is not “unmanly.” All animals posture, especially aggressive ones, and anyone who says they don’t train with a certain amount of this as their reasoning is probably a liar.


I am training because I enjoy it.

The last should always hold true, but so often, people start to get caught up in ways that they think they *should* train, or what some “movement coach” is telling them, rather than the ways they actually want to train. Then, training becomes some kind of chore in which technical movements are performed for their own sake, and the sheer pleasure and raw, furious joy that should accompany moving heavy weight is lost in a shuffle of numbers, equations, and boring details.

Push weight, not pencils.

If you are lifting to get stronger, to make progress, to maintain discipline, and to grow thick, gnarly muscles- stay minimal in your approach, and maximal in your effort and discipline and consistency.

Squat, press, deadlift and row. If I could only do four things in the gym forever, these would be it for me, and during my 8 months on the west coast, this is basically all I did (especially if you count weighted chins as a kind of vertical row).

I ate for strength, which means I ate big meals, usually 4 or so a day, that were pretty high in protein and fat, and tried to keep my carbohydrates for after my meal, so I wouldn’t eat as many. If I started getting a little fat, I would eat one less meal a day and do a little more moving around. Walking, pushing or pulling a sled, working the heavy bag, whatever.

My numbers were not phenomenal, but I was pretty strong, with a 415 squat, 505 deadlift, 365 bench and 205 overhead at between 185 and 190 pounds bodyweight most days.

My body fat was never so high that I couldn’t see shoulder and arm vascularity and at least the top set of abs, which is, I think, a reasonable level to maintain even if you are “permabulking,” which I find is usually just something fat guys with no discipline and poverty lifts call “eating like a human garbage can because I can’t stop myself.”

A lot of guys get so worried about the details that they lose the essence of the Riddle of Steel.



Train hard. Lift heavy. Eat well and often. Get good sleep. Be consistent.

If you are training solely to build muscle and get strong, these are your watchwords.

Don’t make it harder than it already is, and remember: 



Strength is the least egalitarian thing there is. It’s something that you don’t deserve to have, and cannot have, unless you do.

You have to put in the time and work for it, and it demands sacrifices.

No one can have it handed to them, which is why we find it so beautiful, so worthwhile, and so brutally honest.



XCII



PW

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Aesthetic.

by Paul Waggener

“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”

These words open the film “The Departed,” one of my favorite Scorsese movies, spoken by the character Frank Costello, an Irish mob boss.

The words resonated with me strongly when I first heard them, and have stuck with me for years. I felt like this was the perfect delivery of a truth I had always believed and held as one of the major principles of self-creation.

If we are living lives of mythic action, our every word and deed becomes a spell of creation or destruction- shaping the malleable fabric of the world around us, changing our environment to reflect where our will is applied, and how. Gandhi famously said “be the change you want to see in the world,” a statement often seen on Pinterest styled bumper stickers on soccer mom’s vans, or bright eyed hipster idealists’ rusted beaters. Cliche, but only because almost all statements of basic truth seem that way through overuse and under-application.

In order to “be this change,” one must apply consistent, consonant pressure in the direction he wants to see that change. By consonant, a word I use often, I mean that it has to “make sense together.” Like notes in a music scale, or a well done painting, your actions must find congruence in order to become as effective as possible.

Consider it: what is a more sound strategy in war? Focused, tactical strikes at high-yield targets that eliminate them with brutal efficiency, or random squads sent out in all directions to take potshots into the trees, hoping they hit something?

In order for our lives to achieve this consonance, we must begin to view our life as a whole- as an artist looks at a canvas, or a sculptor his block of stone. From here, we should consider our lives as a work of art in motion, and shape it in a way that has a narrative, a direction- many elements working together in a flow toward some kind of completion. The idea of goals, and plotting the steps toward these goals is certainly one way to achieve this, but on a more visceral level, attaining consonance is done through aesthetic.

The word’s definition is given as “a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.”

This view of aesthetic permeates the entirety of a life, and when we think of individuals who typify certain concepts or ideals, we are thinking of them as archetypes, or paragons of a certain aesthetic. Their lives have become “a line of poetry, written with a splash of blood.”

Choosing an aesthetic is a crucial element of building your own legend, the framework within which you will operate, the filter through which you will see the world around you, and the body with which you will interact with that world.

The highest principle of humankind is to create.

It is the way in which we imitate the gods, and emulate the impulse they experienced when they created us in the myriad mythologies of humanity, spread across the aeons.

So many human beings sleepwalk through life, unaware or not stopping to consider and develop these ideas into something that can make their life more than what it is- a sweeping saga of their principles and ideals writ large on the stones of human history.

No one wants to be forgotten, although we are all likely damned to that same grim fate- but we have the choice to attempt the mythic, the timeless, to strive for higher things, even if our outcome is sealed.

In Norse mythology, the gods walk to their final battle aware of the outcome, but choosing to perform the duty for its own sake. That, as Spengler said, is what it means to be a thoroughbred.

To achieve aesthetic and consonance in our lives, we must begin by choosing one to embody.
In writing, they often tell you to fake a voice, or use someone else’s until you find your own, and the same holds true here.

This is why the stories of the many gods and legends of our various peoples exist- to give us archetypes, not simply to revere, but to emulate- to actually spend each day attempting to become them with everything that this implies.

There is so much strength in this practice: losing one’s temper, or making a poor dietary choice becomes so much more removed, or seems so much lesser to us when we are waking each day and choosing to embody a legendary archetype, a specific aesthetic.

We begin to view our lives as “a set of principles,” rather than a random collection of meaningless actions. The environment around us too, should be considered. If we are building ourselves into a monolith of ideals that guide us as sure as a compass point, how can we apply this creative impulse elsewhere?

Obviously, we can do this through a host of actions, such as honing the crafts of writing, engineering, art, music, carpentry, but we can also begin to reinforce  our aesthetic in our immediate surroundings by bringing first our physical form into agreement with our stated aims.

When one considers Achilles, Thor, Hanuman- he does not think of a couch-locked, skinny-fat form, atrophied through years of poor diet and sedentary living. Our emphasis on the ideas of physical training and healthy lifestyle come from many positive principles, but this is their quintessential one:

We cannot emulate the gods in a neglected body.

Beyond our bodies, our domiciles and places of work or training- how can we better bring them into alignment with this aesthetic we have chosen, in order to increase a harmonious interaction between increasing areas of our life?

One can begin to see this architecture grow and expand, as we can no longer neglect our immediate surroundings, but must cultivate them like a garden of the soul. Our dwelling-places and studies, our gyms and our work areas are where we spend many of our waking hours.

Why should they not become temples to the Work, visual reminders of who and what we are seeking to become?

This practice becomes the weave of our own developing mythology as our strength grows, our practice becomes ritualized, our ritual becomes bedrock- the transformations within transform what is without, and ever widening ripples emanate outward from the core of our being into the material world, penetrating and transmuting raw elements and material. This is how men become symbols, what I have called “lliving runes,” and from there can aspire to pass into legend.

Every action is a lesser or greater degree of one that came before it.

If we can change ourselves, we can change the world.