Saturday, 11 July 2015

huginn and munnin

Though it is probably more likely that the later Czech sociologist Karl Deutsch expressed the sentiment to the effect that, “the essential part about nationhood is getting one’s past all wrong,” rather than the earlier French historian and orientalist Joseph Ernest Renan (whom it’s been attributed to), Renan did certainly write that the coalescing of a state requires that people have a lot in common as well as a collective amnesia—remarking that no respecting member of the New Republic dare own up to the frenzied, shameful massacre of the Albigensian Crusade.
This theologian who had a crisis of faith while looking deeper into the historical personage of Jesus and was unable to reconcile Church doctrine with the time-line was writing during a period of transition, the late nineteenth century, generations from the French Revolution, the terrors and resurgence with the Napoleonic Wars and during a time sadly insatiate for what was called progress. Posthumously, and despite Renan’s own critique of tribalism, certain elements of his readership championed his works as justification for colonialism, empire-building, and later eagerly advocating fascism and the politics of race. It nonetheless rings true, I think, that it’s an essential part of a founding, abiding myth—from Rome, England and to America—that a people joined or lumped together be mistaken about certain contexts and have heroes to worship. The later Deutsch, inheritor to all this misguided zeal, in contrast, helped people realise their folly and installed counter-measures.  Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Remembrance) are the pair of cosmic ravens that surveyed the Earth and roosted with and reported to the Norse god Odin—sort of like the private counsel of a conscience or complimentary set of shoulder-angels.