The Body is Holy

[Due to a death in my household, I’m taking a bit of a hiatus, but I will be back soon! In the meantime, here is a guest post from Sarenth Odinsson, addressing HAES from a Northern Tradition viewpoint.]

Lich. When most people read that word they are thinking of this:
However, I am referring to the Anglo-Saxon word, which means body or corpse. In the Northern Tradition, the body is a part of the soul. As such, a healthy body is as important as a healthy rational mind (hyge) and a healthy, creative mind (mynd). The physical is no less spiritual than önd, the sacred breath given to us by Odin.

Our body is given to us by our Ancestors, who, when you trace it back to Ask and Embla, received Their bodies from Jörð, the Goddess of the Earth. Their bodies were found along a shore, washed up as driftwood. Odin poured His breath into Them, while Vili gave wit and the sense of touch, and Ve our form, the ability to speak, hear, and see.

We are also related, in this way, to every living thing on Earth. Not only in the sense of health, but in the sense of spirit as well, we are connected to this world. If we treat our environment poorly we suffer, as does the world, and spirits around us. When we take care of ourselves we ought to be better able to take care of the world around us.

When I say ‘take care of ourselves’, I do not mean ‘we all need to be at this BMI’ or ‘everything must be right with our bodies before we can act on the world.’ Hardly. There is no such thing as perfection in nature, and there is no such thing in our bodies. The world around us is full of diversity, and humans do not reproduce asexually. There is no reason, morally, medically, or by nature, for us all to look the same. We are each holy unto ourselves, whether we recognize it or not.

What this does mean, though, is that there is a moral and religious obligation to treat our bodies correctly. In my case, as I am a diabetic and have high blood pressure, this means I do things to reduce my sugar levels to normal ones, and work on ways to reduce my high blood pressure. A good part of this work is watching what I eat. By treating my body well I can treat the world well. By not eating, for instance, as many high-carb meals, I reduce my blood sugar, and my impact, little by little, on this planet. By cutting down on my eating of meat, I help my kidneys, and cut down on the amount of cattle and the feed required to feed them in turn. I hasten to remind that what works for my health may not work for another’s. We each must maintain our temples by different measures. Even between diabetics, or those with high blood-pressure, though we may have commonalities, there are probably a good deal of difference between how we handle our particular circumstances.

By treating my body as holy, it means that I have had to realign my feelings in regards to my body. This did not happen overnight, and body issues are still things I am working through. Years of bullying and teasing do not vanish overnight. However, looking at my body as holy has definitely reworked my view of myself. I no longer look in the mirror with disgust, but thanks. Some days this is easier than others, even with a helpful partner. I do not pretend for a moment this is easy; I look nothing like what magazines say a man should look like. If we are to treat our bodies as holy, however, this work must be done. It is done every day you make the choice to treat yourself well, as a holy person.