REVIEW: Centre of Excellence – Norse Mythology Diploma Course

For the last decade or so, I have been very keen on many online education providers such as EDX and Coursera, and firmly believe in the MOOC Revolution. MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) are a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. Their value really comes from their ability to deliver high quality higher learning classes for free to places that have no access to such a service. When EDX started, for instance, I was taking classes constantly – ones about epidemics, and space science – just all sorts of random topics.

I have used these platforms to broaden my horizons past what I learned during my university education. Rather than waste money, I tried not to venture to far out into my “comfort zone” when I was in school, and only took classes that pertained to my major or minor. To take a page from Odin’s playbook, I hunger for new knowledge and strive to better myself in any way that I can with new knowledge being my point of attention. Granted, I’m not sure I would sacrifice a body part for said knowledge, but who knows.

Sooooo. that brings us to today –

Last week I got a targeted Facebook ad for a UK-based company called Centre of Excellence, which is a for profit online course provider backed by professional accreditation from CMA:

Our courses are accredited by the CMA (Complementary Medical Association), which is internationally recognised as the elite force in professional, ethical complementary medicine by professional practitioners, doctors and, increasingly, by the general public. Upon completion of the course, you can gain membership to the CMA, which in addition to supplying a professional accreditation, offers a number of benefits. Our courses are also endorsed by the ABC Awards and Certa Awards Quality Licence Scheme.

COE Website, FAQ Page

I figured, what the heck – Normally, courses from COE cost upwards of $135.00-$150.00 USD, but I was able to use a coupon code to get the class for around $30.00. The price really isn’t that bad, and they run coupon codes constantly, I’d imagine its hard not to take a class at a large discount. Upon completion, this class comes with a few certificates – Granted, I took a humanities class, so I’m not sure how useful a certificate in this would be in the real world, but that really isn’t my concern. I wanted to test this new service out and see if I can recommend it to everyone.

Compared to the previous two companies I mentioned, Coursera and EDX, there is the fact that there is a giant pay wall around the content. The way those two work is that the material itself is free, but if one wants to get a certificate, a “donation” of sorts for $25-$50 dollars is required. and with EDX, you can only take tests if you have purchased the class. I prefer this method, because you could easily try to take a class way over your head and have to back out – not having wasted money would be a good thing.

Another key difference between those two and COE is that they usually contain video lectures from top teachers in their field, some that are renowned Harvard or MIT professors. This COE class is entirely text-based and reads like an old-school correspondence class. This isn’t a bad thing at all, the material was very well formatted, and just as good as a video, but it makes it come across more antiquated somehow.

Note: Some COE classes may have video content for all I know, this one did not.

This class was split into 12 modules, usually containing 4-5 lessons in each module. at the end, each had a short quiz to make sure you comprehended what you just read. The information contained and structure is reminiscent of a high-level high school, or Gen Ed college class about the same subject. There isn’t much in the way of in-depth analysis on any given topic, and everything is somewhat broad. This class could be used as an outline to further your studies.

Something that could have made this class better would have been assigned readings. Often times, this class makes reference to various sections of the Havamal or Eddas and just gives a quote. Perhaps having guided readings would have given a further understanding of the material. Honestly, as it stands you could probably learn the same material as this course from reading a basic book or, in all honestly, the Wikipedia page for Norse Mythology.

That isn’t to say that this class was bad, I just feel that it was too basic for me, which I can’t really fault it on since this was an experiment, and it lacked the amount of content I am used to from other providers. For example, in my article Free Pagan Learning, I looked at a class on The Icelandic Sagas from the University of Iceland. This was akin to a higher level university course on the subject, and was full of videos, readings, interviews and much more. For the same price, I felt like I had a more complete experience.

One good thing I can say for COE is that they have a WIDE variety of classes that may interest readers of this very blog. A quick glance though their listing for the more metaphysical and religious classes yields courses on Wicca, Khemetic shamanism, and a few Viking classes. Due to this (assuming I can find a coupon lol) I will likely try these guys one more time to see how a second class would go.

In conclusion, this class is a solid introductory class for Norse Mythology, and while its not flashy, the information is sound. Honestly, if I had to pay full price I would have felt ripped off due to the structure and format of the course, but for $30.00 it was not a bad deal. Similar MOOCs are technically the same price, if not more, if you get the certificate. My only issue is the pay wall, I wish the info was free with an option to upgrade. If you are even somewhat well-read in Norse religion, you will feel like you way ahead of the class, so I would only get this if you want to perhaps teach your kids about the subject, or show a total novice what you are into etc.

Stay tuned for more educational posts on here, and perhaps I will revisit COE and see if they are worth your while.

REVIEW: Valhalla Awaits #1: A Journey Through the Viking Afterlife (2020)

A Comic by Phil Buckenham, Agnese Pozza, Justin Birch

The Cover, or at least one of them

Sometimes, when scrolling through Kickstarter, I go on little shopping sprees and snag a bunch of digital comics that people are trying to get off the ground. I’m a sucker for anything pro wrestling-related, as some of you may have gathered, and anything dealing with Viking history or Norse Paganism. The good news is that those topics are very hot with pop culture right now for whatever reason, making it much easier to find content! While I’ve had this comic for a little bit, I’ve only recently got this onto my kindle, I wanted to discuss one of these such comics –Valhalla Awaits #1: A Journey Through the Viking Afterlife

Valhalla Awaits is a comic series that draws heavily from the Poetic Edda and Viking and Norse mythological themes.

The story follows characters Hildr and Erik and their journey through the Viking afterlife, where they encounter Norse gods, and legendary creatures.

From the Kickstarter Page

This is a relatively short comic that serves a solid introduction to the story, this is fine because issue two isn’t too far on the horizon. The story follows a slavegirl named Hildr who is imbued with the power of Odin in a ritual to save her village from a sacking by Erik Bloodaxe. The raiders get to the house before the ritual is completed, so she is unable to fully gain these abilities. Erik, who we find out was there to find a Valkyrie to to prophecy, takes Hildr under his wing and teaches her the ways of a warrior. She grows very strong and begins to challenge his leadership – thus resulting in both taking an early trip to the afterlife.

Interior art sans any of the dialogue, from the Kickstarter page

The art inside this book is fantastic, lines are clean and expressive and the colors are top notch. some of the art is a bit anachronistic, if you are a stickler for authenticity, taking cues from the modern “pop-culture viking” aesthetic of brown leather, furs, and tribal eye make-up. You also see things with huge “Valknut” logos and other ahistorical additions. Many arguments can be made onto whether that’s akin to Wagnerian horned helmets, but I’ll leave that up to everyone else to bicker about. I’ve had my share of hundreds of posts of people mad at Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s art style this week to last me quite a bit. To me its fine, and it doesn’t detract from the story or art.

After the initial 32 page run there were some previews for a few other books from the same publisher. I bought this comic digitally, so I’m speaking specifically on that edition, so I’m not sure if this was in the print version. All-in-all I was very happy with my purchase, and I will definitely follow this project. Here’s hoping volume two delivers on more great action and we get to see some of the Gods show up.

Here’s additional information on Volume 2, which is supposed to ship very soon. If you know of any other great pagan comics that I should read, drop me a line! I’d love to see them.

WWE: An Unlikely Place for Positive Pagan Visibility

The wedding of WWE wrestlers Sarah Logan and Raymond Rowe

Introduction – The Importance of Visibility in Media

What they (media) exercise is the power to represent the world in certain definite ways. And because there are many different and conflicting ways in which the meaning about the world can be constructed, it matters profoundly what and who gets represented, who and what regularly and routinely gets left out; and how things, people, events, relationships are represented. What we know of society depends on how things are represented to us and that knowledge in turn informs what we do and what policies we are prepared to accept.

Miller, David 2002. ‘Promotion and Power.’ Pp. 41–52 in Introduction to Media (2nd edn), edited by Adam Briggs and Paul Cobley. London: Longman.

Paganism has recently started to escape the shadows and become far more visible to the general public as pagans have become more open in their beliefs and practices. This seems to be a newer trend as many old-school pagan branches used to adopt a silent, secretive nature in regards to their beliefs as a direct result of hundreds of generations of persecution from Abrahamic religions.

Last summer, I attended an event somewhat near my house called Kansas City Pagan Pride Day, to which I assumed would be met with Christian protesters and be disrupted in some way. I’ve seen protectors at Planet Comicon, of all places, so I figured a religious celebration for something seen as “evil” to the less intelligent folks out there would be expected. Thankfully, this was not the case, and the event had a fun, family-friendly vibe that I was not expecting, I am a relative newbie of being “out of the pagan closet” as it were and honestly I figured everyone would be in defensive mode. These public events are popping up all over the country, and are an attempt to show a more visible presence of a wide swath of religions that are usually taught in history classes as dead mythology or spoken about as evil in some way in the church pulpit.

One thing we, however, need more of is a positive media presence – something that usually does not happen. I spoke a bit about this in my review of the popular film, Midsommar, where pagans are the convenient whipping boy for film and TV – need a villain? – here’s an ignorant take on a Witch Coven that eats babies! Need a way to look down on a politician? – talk about their past dabbling in Witchcraft! Now you can see my apprehension on how the public would treat such beliefs. But, you know what? There has been one TV medium in which this has not been the case, and its surprising – World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the largest professional wrestling company in the United States.

WWE? What are you smoking?!

It honestly wasn’t that long ago that professional wrestling was full of heel (bad guy) gimmicks designed to anger southern protestant sensibilities. Every promotion had a scary Satanic guy, an effeminate homosexual man, and an overdressed wealthy northerner that thought everyone in the crowd were stupid rednecks. This works great for smaller events and it especially worked in the past – but a lot of these tropes did not move the the medium of nation-wide Television very well. There have been decades of questionable wrestling gimmicks that, if portrayed in just about any other media, would cause boycotts and protests. An example that immediately comes to mind is a match between WWE legends Virgil and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart in which the latter came to the ring dressed as a Klansman, and hung the former (a black man) by the neck with a rope – good quality family entertainment folks!

To relate this to the spirit of this blog, I’m not touching on racism in wrestling, I just wanted to point out how bad wrestling can be when its at its worst; I wanted to touch on their takes on paganism in the past and present. Take John Nord a.k.a. The Viking, The Berserker, or Nord the barbarian up there. In a time for little nuance, his character lumbered out to the ring yelling “Huss! Huss! Huss!” donning a horned helmet and shield. This was basically a take on the overwhelmingly racist trope of “look at this man we found in deepest (Borneo/Uganda/Fiji! etc)” gimmick, made nonsensical by using a Viking Template.

Something like this may have worked in the 1970’s with Superfly Jimmy Snuka simply because of the inherent ignorance of Fiji and how people live there, but nobody has thee same reservations for Northern Michigan last time I checked. Sure, there might be some Norse Pagans up there, perhaps some living off the grid – but a lost clan of historical Vikings? Ones that Mr. Fuji just happened to come across and convince one to wrestle under his tutelage? Riiiiiight.

1992 was weird

At the risk of angering Christian right-wingers, this was also the time where the generic “Satanic evil guy” gimmick took off – toss somebody all in black, make them wear a robe to the ring and play scary music – BOOM – super heel. Guys like Kevin Sullivan and the Undertaker became household names scaring people from coast to coast.

Then slowly, but surely something changed – Perhaps WWE was starting to acknowledge that using storytelling techniques more suited for a younger or (cough*or less educated*cough) audience just wasn’t cutting it anymore, or a genuine fear of running afoul of any number of protected groups that could possibly sue them or result in bad media attention. Accusations of using detrimental portrayals of homosexual characters in the past have led to massive condemnation and protests from rights groups such as GLAAD, so this would not be out of the ordinary. Or, honestly, this was seen as a marketing scheme – “let’s get these Goths, Wiccans, Pagans etc all on board!”

The Change

Rather than presenting someone of any background, other than Christian, as a binary “Satanic” villain, a wrestler named Aleister Black made his debut to NXT (WWE’s developmental show, think minor leagues) with slightly more depth. Aleister Black, Formerly known as Tommy End, is a Dutch martial artist and professional wrestler formerly of a group called “The Sumerian Death Squad”, one of the most successful tag teams in the European circuit during the early 2010s. After competing in a WWE sanctioned UK tournament in 2015, word got out that Black had indeed signed with WWE full-time. Vignettes began to air in March of 2016 showing Black sitting in a room full of candles meditating. Black spoke of how there is not any real good or evil in the world, and that we all carry sides of both in our hearts.

During his TV debut in May of the same year against Andrade “Cien” Almas, commentary did a fine job talking about his personal beliefs, stressing what it meant to be of the Left-Hand Path and talking about Thelema as a distinct philosophy that he practiced. The best part of this – If anything, Black was debuted as a “babyface” or good guy character – usually attacking others that did less than righteous things in the ring.

Aleister Black

This was incredible to me, not even a full decade prior, a popular character named The Undertaker was the defacto villain of a lot of the major storylines. While he was a fan favorite, the things he did were not family friendly and included things such as attempted murder, ritual sacrifice, brainwashing, and cartoonish magical powers, taking on cult members, crucifying a man in the ring, and even channeling Satan himself (who confusingly turned out to be the owner of WWE, Vince McMahon). But here we had a guy, a man who the fans jokingly called him a “Satanic Ninja Wizard” due to his martial arts prowess and philosophical leanings, openly talking about real religious beliefs, and not being used to scare small children. Granted, things never got “preachy”, it’s not like Mr. Black sat down and gave a TED talk about the history of Aleister Crowley or anything, but progress is progress.

Black does dabble in the darker side of his persona, In an interview with Colt Cabana, he revealed that his father grew up in a religious cult. In the same conversation, he credited this as the inspiration for a lot of his dark and occult-driven personas in professional wrestling.

Another example of the tides changing is the tag team The Viking Raiders (FKA The War Raiders, War Machine etc.) When they first appeared in NXT, they had a vague “guys that like the renaissance festival” aesthetic, but didn’t really have a clear cut gimmick to really show any personality. They were big dudes built like Mack Trucks, wearing shoulder pauldrons and headbanging. As they days and weeks went by it was revealed though promos that Raymond Rowe was likely some sort of Norse Pagan as they showed them doing rituals to psych out their opponents before a big PPV match. Later, the duo, would be flanked by a legion of fully-garbed viking re-enactors to the ring.

It was at this time that videos started to be posted to the WWE performance Center Youtube Channel showing that Rowe and his, at the time, fiance Sarah Logan (also a wrestler) were members of an organization that taught the ways of the ancient past through combat and lifestyle, and both were avid members. Those aforementioned vikings were their friends form that group. In all fairness, this was not on a national TV broadcast, this was obscure additional content that one had to look around to find, but it was there.

A far cry from the Berserker

This all culminated about a year ago, when they actually showed the wedding of Rowe and Logan, showing that they had opted to have a traditional viking wedding of sorts, complete with pagan rites, vows, and rituals clearly shown in the video. To me, this was incredible. Horns on helmets had been replaced with some semblance of actual respect to someone’s culture and beliefs.

Yeah, WWE is still very problematic at times. Vince McMahon (The owner) is very tight with President Donald Trump and likely shares many of his views. I doubt Mr. McMahon knows about these videos too much, much less cares about the positive portrayal of paganism in many forms, but its a start. In 2020 its a good feeling to see yourself represented on TV and not in a way where you are “the bad guy”, “evil”, or being ridiculed. Even if by accident, hats of to WWE for actually helping get a positive image of modern paganism out there.

Free Pagan Learning: Top 5 Courses Currently Available for Pagan Learners

For the past decade there has been a revolution in regards to how college educations are attained. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. I have found five courses for this list that I would like to share with everyone! I have personally completed all of these, and enjoyed them a lot. (In no particular order)

For this edition of Free Pagan Learning, we’ll concentrate on history classes. Ones that don’t delve too much in practical magic, or modern practices, but the historical foundations we all use to further our own beliefs.


Via Coursera – Free class, with optional fee if you want a certificate / credential. Self-paced with deadlines, but you can reset them if you fall behind.
There is also a companion class called A Voice of Their Own. Women’s Spirituality in the Middle Ages, but it’s not really Pagan per se.

From the site: “Magical thought has always attracted human imagination. In this course we will introduce you to the Middle Ages through a wide conception of magic. Students will have an approach to medieval culture, beliefs and practices from the perspective of History and History of Science. Popular magic, as well as learned magic (alchemy, geomancy and necromancy) will be addressed. Moreover, we will also deal with how eastern practices and texts influenced western culture. In July 2016, the course will contain a brand-new module devoted to astrology. Magic in the Middle Ages offers a captivating overview of medieval society and promotes reflection about certain stereotypes associated with this period.”

Link to Course HERE


EDX.org – Free class, self-paced. Only problem is that class is archived so you can no longer pay to get a certificate nor track your progress anymore.

The Medieval Icelandic Sagas is an introductory course on the single most characteristic literary genre of Medieval Iceland. Mainly written in the 13th century, the Icelandic Sagas are comprised of roughly 40 texts of varying length. In this course, you will learn about three Sagas, written at different times, with the aim of giving an overview of the writing period and the genre as a whole. These are Eyrbyggja Saga, Njáls Saga and Grettis Saga. We will explore the landscape and archaeology of Iceland to see how they can add to our understanding of the Sagas as well as take an in-depth look at the most memorable characters from the Sagas.

Link to Course HERE


TGC/TGC+ – While this may appear to be insanely expensive, one can actually get a free one month trial for “The Great Courses Plus” and burn through this entire class before the month ends then cancel. If you want to keep it, its about the same as a Netflix subscription. Or you could do like me and buy used DVDs of the $400.00 course on Ebay for $20.00!

The Vikings: Kenneth W. Harl: 9781598030693: Amazon.com: Books
Why Pay $400?

As explorers and traders, the Vikings played a decisive role in the formation of Latin Christendom, and particularly of Western Europe. In this course, you will study the Vikings not only as warriors, but also in other roles for which they were equally extraordinary: merchants, artists, kings, raiders, seafarers, shipbuilders, and creators of a remarkable literature of myths and sagas.

Link to Course HERE


Via Coursera – Two classes, but they are basically halves of one class. Free classes, with optional fee if you want a certificate / credential. Self-paced with deadlines, but you can reset them if you fall behind.

Colossal pyramids, imposing temples, golden treasures, enigmatic hieroglyphs, powerful pharaohs, strange gods, and mysterious mummies are features of Ancient Egyptian culture that have fascinated people over the millennia. The Bible refers to its gods, rulers, and pyramids. Neighboring cultures in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean wrote about its god-like kings and its seemingly endless supply of gold.

Link to Courses HERE and HERE


Youtube – Free series of Lectures on Youtube from an Ivy League school. additional info found on the course website

Major developments in the political, social, and religious history of Western Europe from the accession of Diocletian to the feudal transformation. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the “Dark Ages,” Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.

Link to Course HERE

REVIEW: The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition (2017)

A book by R.C. Fordham

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Cover art for The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition (2017)

I did a review sometime last year for R.C. Fordham’s book Iron Alchemy of the Gods that, while not a bad book, was an odd detour into a subculture of obsessive gym rat heathens that somehow believe that exercising will get you into Valhalla. The entire book was half a manifesto on male weakness and a criticism of what he sees as the effimization of manhood, and the latter half was a workout guide. I honestly read it out of confusion, but did come away with a few tidbits that I liked such as a before workout prayer idea.

Once I read this on Kindle Unlimited, I started getting recommendations for some of his other books including more that I assume are macho bravado such as a book on how to be a modern berserker, but then I saw this, The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition, and was intrigued. What does Mr. Fordham believe the building blocks of Asatru are considering his predisposition to all things MANLY?

This book was written for those seeking answers to the Asatru tradition. It is a comprehensive guide that offers all the basics of the religion and much more. It is broken into 3 parts. Part I discusses the proper views of the Norse Religion and Cosmos. Part II details the cosmology of Asatru. It includes in detail, the descriptions of the gods and goddesses, as well as the realms of Yggdrasil. Part III then takes a look at the practices of modern Day Asatru as long as with advice on how to grow your spiritual life and connection with the gods and goddesses of our ancestors.

Amazon sales page

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the colossal trainwreck that I was both expecting and honestly hoping to see. You see folks, I’m a connoisseur of cringe, and I was eagerly chomping at the proverbial bit for some. What I did get was a competent, albeit basic overview of Asatru, and how one can start practicing it. It reminds me of all of the Wicca books geared towards teenagers I would see at the now-defunct bookstore I worked at many moons ago. While no means a classic of literature or scholarship, The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition lays out a baseline set of views and practices that one could follow if they were just starting to dabble in the Northern Traditions. It isn’t bogged down with too many long Icelandic words or complex mythological descriptions, so it is a bit too basic for anyone that has actually been studying lore for a while.

Fordham does occasionally sneak a bit of his trademark philosophy in there, but its not too “in your face”, and honestly isn’t as bad as some of the stuff I’ve seen in more folkish publications.

So, can I really recommend this? Since its VERY cheap, possibly free, and isn’t a total trainwreck….sure? It depends on how well-versed in Norse Paganism you are. Its very possible you will leaf through this as if reading a Wikipedia article and gain no substance from it. If you are new to Asatru and want an idea of what certain terms mean, how to hold a Blót, how to do a prayer, and a list of Gods to pray to, this might be a good fit.

If you would like a copy of this book for Yourself, please click HERE

REVIEW: Midsommar (2019)

Image result for midsommar film

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

Horror is a genre that rarely gets much, if any, recognition from Hollywood at all – usually most cinema-going people and executives treat the entire genre much like how many treat professional wrestling – a entertainment style that is assumed to be for only uncultured people to watch. Well, that was until recently, when we started seeing yearly Arthouse horror films getting all sorts of buzz from the staunchest Hollywood suit. Films like Jordan Peele’s Us, and Get Out as well as Ari Aster’s Hereditary seemed to prove that horror could be done in a way to almost make it into the award scene. I have enjoyed most of these films despite the relative over-hype in the media, so I was excited to see what was coming next.

I’m not going to lie, I was initially worried, of not annoyed by the original trailer for Midsommar, the newest film by the aforementioned Ari Aster. I even wrote an article based solely on the trailer and everyone’s reaction to it making me nervous. I feel very strongly that Pagans are the low hanging fruit of easy targets to demonize in films, ranked almost as high as Russian mobsters and Satanists.

Examples of this trend are The Wicker Man (Celtic Reconstructionists / possible Neopagans depicted as a human sacrifice cult). Halloween III (Same as The Wicker Man, but worse because it’s on a sacred Celtic festival). The Serpent and The Rainbow (multiple voodoo stereotypes all rolled into one). Pet Semetary (Druidic magic is only good for raising the dead to do your bidding). Drag Me to Hell (Romani people, or pejoratively Gypsies, are willing to feed people to demonic abominations if wronged). And that’s just a few films out of the hundreds like this.

Thankfully, I was wrong about Midsommar.

The film centers around an American couple, Christian and Dani, that seem to be having troubles in their relationship. Dani has just gone through a hash family trauma, and has little help from her boyfriend, who actively is seeking a way to end their relationship mostly due to his college friends trying to tempt him into leading a far more promiscuous lifestyle more to their needs. Hoping to get some relief, the pair decide to take an offer for a vacation in Sweden with their friends, Mark and Josh, hosted by a Swedish transplant named Pelle to a small village that is hosting a festival held once every 90 years. Unbeknownst to them, the festivities are not exactly within their cultural wheelhouse.

I spoke early about my fear of the demonization of the rural Swedish Pagan characters in the film, but they really aren’t the bad guys. If anything, Christian and his friends (especially Mark) are far worse, and most of the movie was spent, for me at least, was waiting for them to get their comeuppance.

We also are not 100% sure what the beliefs of the actual villagers are. Like most folk horror films, Midsommar borrows from here and there, and tries to keep it deliberately vague. We can make assumptions based on the fact that the number nine pops up a lot, and the use of Elder Futhark runes, that these people are the remnants of some sort of Norse Pagan group that somehow escaped Christianization or reverted back at some point. This is never really talked about in the film, as the events really don’t open up room for this sort of dialog. People well versed in the motifs of what we presume to be Viking religion can definitely pick up on “Easter Eggs”.

While I can assume that all of the deaths in the film would have likely happened anyway considering that the brothers Pelle and Ingemar were specifically told to bring back people to be sacrificed, I’m not sure it would have happened the way it did. For example, two characters tried to flee the compound vowing to “call the cops” after witnessing a cultural “rite of passage” wherein everyone that reaches the age of 72 commits ritual suicide. Mark spends the entire film lusting after women and urinates on an ancient tree that is seen to house the souls of all of the village’s ancestors. Josh is seen taking pictures of a sacred text from the group despite being specifically denied doing so. and Finally, Christian spends the entire film basically ignoring his girlfriend, and betrays Josh in order to work on his college thesis about the village despite knowing Josh was going to do so as well. These characters made themselves embody, greed, lust, and evil – all things anyone would abhor.

Image result for midsommar film

The whole film is a study in coming face-to-face with cultural relativism. By judging the village’s actions that are seen as holy and traditional as being evil one could come away with a sense that the village are the villains, but the film handles the ambiguity so much better than films such as The Wicker Man, as it avoids the preachy modern know-it-all character that tells everyone off before getting covered in bees and burned alive ala the aforementioned film. I can’t really say none of the villagers acted in malice, as they did manipulate Dani to such an extreme that she seemingly suffers a psychotic break at the end of the film, but everyone that dies are bad people for various reasons. it’s a tough situation Aster has put the audience in – who’s the bad guy here?

For me, the film has a happy ending. In many ways Dani is the happiest that we know her to be at the end of the film. Her family was all killed in a shocking murder-suicide by her sister months before, so she’s not exactly on a level playing field going into the events. Pelle steps in to be the love interest that she needs, a man that is going out of his way to check on her and make sure she’s okay and can relate to her plight. She is accepted into the group, and allowed to be happy for the first time in her life. In the final thirty minutes of the film, she is crowned the May Queen of the festival and paraded around town like a living goddess – she is given purpose in life for the first time, feels accepted and loved. When she witnesses Christian cheating on her, albeit coerced, she is quick to choose him to be the final sacrifice of the nine to be given to the gods. At the end of the film, as everyone that wronged her is burning inside a wooden pyramid, she smiles. She is home. Her past life is dead.

The juxtaposition of the bright happy setting and the disturbing deaths is very off-putting and far more scary than what happens in many actual horror films. I can see why some horror fans would not like the film as it was presented as a hard horror movie, and its honestly more of a thriller or drama film with a VERY shocking final act. This isn’t too far from how Aster’s previous film, Hereditary, was viewed by many.

Image result for midsommar film

I loved Midsommar despite my previous misgivings about my perceived reaction to the film. It is artistically a beautiful film, a VERY disorienting film, and just shocking enough to have power without being gratuitous like slasher films.