Children of Ratatosk

The Grimnismál tells of a squirrel named Ratatosk living in the World Tree. We know this creature to run between the eagle at the top and the dragon at the bottom, carrying taunts to agitate the two. With each trip, it spreads anger and hatred, causing the recipients to shake the Tree itself. It looks as though we have a similar issue in our world today.

When the World Wide Web came on the scene, some Asatruar made the connection between it and the Wyrd that combines the entirety of the universe. In general, it does seem like a fair model. Like the Wyrd, the web connects people from all over the world, both good and bad.

As much as the Wyrd is one way to look at the universe, we also use the model of the World Tree. It is the same thing as the Wyrd, but is presented differently to help our human minds interact with different aspects of its nature. Both the Wyrd and the World Tree are far more complex than we can manage with our human senses, so we see the parts that fit.

Where do the squirrels come in? A quick look at the reactions of people to things they find on the Internet are a quick answer to that. There are those who have taken to the Internet to create hatred and anger in others. Sometimes these people have a specific agenda, but others do it just for their amusement. The Children of Ratatosk scurry around, try to get others angry enough to shake the tree. It's an interesting coincidence that many of these people are called trolls. (Others include advertisers, politicians, and general busy bodies who may or may not mean well.)

We know that someday the eagle and the serpent will break free and both lash out in their own manner. They will do that during the Last Battle, that we strive to postpone as much as we can, as Vidar instructs us to do. It leaves us with the question, though, what will the people angered by the trolls do when they break free?

The World Wide Web is a great tool with much potential for good. It improves communication and education. It can really help make the world a better place. Like with many advances in technology, many people are not ready for it culturally. We have Internet all over the place, but people don't know how to handle the flow of information or how to separate the good from the bad. The troublemakers thrive on this.

We may not be able to stop the squirrels entirely, but we can help minimize the damage. The first step is to make sure that you aren't one of their victims. Always verify what we tell you and see if it is really true and if it was presented in the correct context (something wrong in one context may be right in another). Try to make sure your sources for data are reliable and be sure to cite them when you explain why you do or do not believe something. Be comfortable stating that you cannot verify whether something is true.

This doesn't mean that you can't get angry. There are plenty of things to be angry about. Just be sure your anger is directed at real things and that you aren't being goaded by some squirrel. Anger can be a clue that something is wrong and that you need to fix it, but anger is really poor for determining how to fix it. Worse, anger at the wrong thing means that you may expend energy trying to fix something that is just a symptom or was just misrepresented.

Once you've gotten yourself into a position where you can defend yourself, you can set an example for others. There are plenty of people who don't want such example, who enjoy being angry, but you can't worry about them. Also, if the squirrels notice that you are not affected by them, they may try extra hard to anger you. If you persevere, you will be an example for the people who do not want to be angry. You will be helping them withstand the onslaught as well. Eventually, as everyone gets more skilled at using the Internet technology, the squirrels will lose their effectiveness (though they will never go away entirely).

So, please take the time to think about what you see and hear. Understand that anger itself is not a solution. When you encounter a real problem, ask if you can do anything about it, in the moment or in the future. If you can, then take care of it and be done with it. If you can't then being angry doesn't do you any good, so let it go and get on with your life. Either way, don't let the Children of Ratatosk win.