Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Prettiest Feet: Skadi's Lesson in Discernment

Day 28 of the spirit guide challenge asked: "How can I strengthen this view, or improve my relationship with self?" I drew Justice/Skadi from the Giants Tarot.

I pulled a version of this card back on day 10 for "how my guide is helping me primarily now," so it was nice to see it again here. Some puzzle pieces start to fall into place. The other day I drew "Air" (from the Earthbound Oracle) in response to what my guide sees in me that I can't or don't, and air is the element associated with Justice. 🌬 It seems to me that my guide is helping me recognize and honor this part of myself and in turn requests that I continue to spend some time exploring those aspects of myself and how they pertain to my personal development.
There are a lot of attributes of Skadi that connect to concepts of justice, fairness, adjustment, and even retribution. But one of them strikes me as particularly relevant: Skadi had to choose a husband solely by the looks of his feet.

Skadi's father, the Giant Thjassi, wanted the Aesir goddess Iduna for his own, and when caught in a tight spot, Loki agreed to arrange that for him. But of course the Aesir were upset and demanded that Loki find a way to bring her back....which he did, however it resulted in the death of Thjassi. So Skadi came to Asgard demanding compensation or war, and the Gods made her an offer. Ultimately she agreed to two things: they would have to make her laugh, and she would get to marry any Aesir/Vanir of her choosing. Odin agreed to the first (which Loki successfully accomplished) but for the second, Odin consented on the condition that she would have to choose her husband based on the looks of his feet alone.

Odin severely limited her perception and then obliged her to choose a life partner - an impossible task. But then Skadi executed her power of choice through rather superficial means. She assumed that Baldur, the God of beauty, peace, and light (who she was planning to select), would surely have the loveliest feet. She was quite surprised to find that they in fact belonged to the weathered sea God Njörd, whose extended time in sand and surf had kept his feet looking quite youthful and elegant.

So what does this all mean?

Well two sayings come to mind immediately: "Don't judge a book by its cover," and "Assuming makes an ass out of u and me."

When Odin restricted Skadi's perception, the wise thing to do might have been to expand her thinking rather than only considering what was before her. She chose based solely on what she could see, and was quite confident in the accuracy of her decision, despite knowing that she was only getting a small fragment of the whole package. In the end she found her logical approach to be faulty. (This isn't a criticism, because without the story, there is no lesson.)

So, when confronting a situation in which we must make important decisions, we have to use careful discernment. We must consider not only what we can see, but what we can't. We must open ourselves to the bigger picture, to a variety of the angles and possibilities inherent in a matter - we must be willing to accept that there may be more than what meets the eye, and then make a choice to explore that nebulous territory. And then, part of discernment is knowing when we simply don't have enough information to make a truly balanced decision at all, and being willing to embrace that challenging space.

The fact is that we don't live in a concrete, black-and-white world. This story shows us that there is beauty in the haggard, and there are imperfections in the seemingly perfect.

Njörd and Skadi tried to make it work (she gets a lot of points for sticking with her pick, and he does too, for agreeing to marry a woman he knew didn't prefer him) but neither were particularly happy. He missed the sea and she missed the mountains. In the end they parted ways as friends, which is just another powerful lesson in the benefits inherent in making decisions and agreements from a fair and whole place.

This seems like a small and humorous part of the whole story of Skadi's search for justice, but I think that it is a deeply meaningful one, and that the lessons it teaches are critical to walking our paths with mindfulness and balance.

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