Saturday, August 9, 2014

Warrior Chief of the Erils

Dreams educate me more than any history class ever has. My nightlife resurrects such specific bits of history in the living, breathing context of me. I had never heard the word gulag, for example, until years ago when my dream showed me as a little boy, slogging through the snow in a daily will to survive. Nor did I know that Phoenicians used the purple dye of the Murex shell as currency. Or that the Jews of 14th century Spain faced expulsion and massacre under Catholic rule. I experience these stories subjectively, living them in poignant and personal detail.

Last night my dream taught about the Erils. I'd never heard of them before, but there I was, confronted with their warrior chief, who came back from the dead to yell at me. Minutes before, I had reached into a bed of rocks to pull out a large iron dagger, one of many that looked as though they'd been forged by the same person. I held it in my hand, and gave it a joust, to see what it felt like. It felt like a child's curiosity, and nothing more.

But now here comes the Chief of the Erils, a hulking giant, who I see emerge from the same bed of rocks. In my audio dream journal, I portray him thusly: "Holy shit, he is a big motherfucker, with a deep, deep voice... Oh. My. God." In modern times, maybe he would be considered "genetically abnormal" for his size, but in his time, his size and power made him chief of the warriors. His deep, gravelly voice conveyed all his might: "You took something that wasn't yours."

"I'm so sorry," I say, gesturing to where I'd already put it back.

I wake up. I consult Google. It just seems like the kind of dream that will yield search engine results, and I find this page about Erils as Legionnaires:

Roman sources tell about the Heruli, but on our runic stones they name themselves Erils [...] That is why I use the Scandinavian word [...] It seems logical to think the Erils were heirs of the early Bronze Age traders and metallurgists since the metals and skill of working had to be imported. My other books tell about their ancient roots. For the Romans, the Heruli were only mercenaries, while in Scandinavia the Erils were the upper class that managed a normal society in the sparsely populated times. 

I should mention here that my Scandinavian ancestors and gods are extremely active and present. I have been afraid of the Nordic shadow (which is my own shadow) because I've had some shady dealings therein. (Yes, a pun.) But now I feel comfortable in my skin and theirs.

In the dream, the chief was also affiliated with the Celts. I suppose the terms we use (Eril, Celt, etc.) lack storyline and fluidity so that we can use words and pretend to know things, and then to organize these fictions in ways that nevertheless bestow meaning. 

I digress. 

Empowered artifacts were often put out of commission when their wielder died. You'll find that magical implements and musical instruments have been bent or broken. Drums have been smashed. Horns have been separated--the mouthpieces disappeared, and the body of the horns offered to the depths of the bog. Is it the same with weapons of war? I get the sense that there is no one answer, but that they can be inherited by others in future generations (i.e., now). In this case, though, certainly not by me. 

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