My current television binge is a series shown on Amazon Video Prime, Vikings 2013-2020, Vikings. The series has the Vikings transporting the viewers to the “brutal and mysterious world of Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking warrior and farmer who yearns to explore – and raid – the distant shores across the ocean.” Since I have not completed the series, I am leaving it unrated. So far, though, I am enthralled with the story as the actors are well cast; and the series has good production quality.
(Spoiler Alert) In the episode that shows the death of Athelstan played by actor, George Blagden. Up until this episode I wondered why Ragnar took interest in the Christian monk, Athelstan. Ragnar played by actor/model, Travis Fimmel took Athelstan in a raid instead of silver and continued to protect him as his friend seemingly over his own pagan tribe. This friendship causes a rift between Ragnar and his shipbuilder and warrior, Floki played by actor, Gustaf Skarsgård. “Who needs a reason for betrayal? One must always think the worst Ragnar, even of your own kin. That way, you avoid too much disappointment in life.”
(Spoiler Alert) In another scene: Ragnar: “So have you returned to your faith, renounced ours?” Athelstan: “I wish it was so simple. In the gentle fall of rain from Heaven I hear my God. But in the thunder, I still hear Thor. That is my agony.”
Floki kills “the Christian.” Ragnar carries the shrouded body of his beloved friend, Athelstan, up a hill to bury Athelstan’s body. This poignant scene shows the depth of Ragnar’s sorrow and unwavering trust in his Christian friend. Athelstan fought next to Ragnar in raids and indulged Ragnar’s curiosity of Christianity. Ragnar believed he could only trust Athelstan because Athelstan never judged Ragnar. The friendship and love were mutual.
Athelstan never blamed his inner spiritual turmoil toward Ragnar or on anyone else. He allowed himself to be drawn away from his faith into the pagan world and felt desire. Even so I believe Athelstan left this inner turmoil at the feet of God. He dipped himself into the spiritual wells of goodness, kindness, self-control, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, peace, and love until he was finally ready to fully commit himself to the joy of Jesus Christ.
Athelstan would never see himself as courageous although by declaring his Christian faith, he knew it would mean certain death at the hands of a pagan. In turn, Ragnar never judged Athelstan for rejecting Ragnar’s gods to return to his Christian faith. Ragnar and Athelstan’s friendship was formed in the spiritual well of love – being rooted in gratitude and acceptance.
The courage of curiosity
As I begin my writing project with researching my family’s collective history, I am not unlike Athelstan. Will my beliefs be challenged as I journey to foreign places to uncover buried secrets and potentially inspiring stories of long-forgotten ancestors? Or will I be critical and condemning like Floki judging the characters of my family’s history without exercising the compassion of kindness and the graciousness of their hardship or in their prosperity?
Our names with our individual stories like smoke rise, dissipate, and are forgotten if not shared by the generations. So then, what was the purpose for these lives if only to be forgotten?
Inspiring the harmony
I have begun my research by dipping myself into two of the eight spiritual wells of self-control and patience – resisting reaction to allowing reason to rule. And to borrow from Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of PBS’ Finding Your Roots series, “Are you ready to turn the page to find out?”
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