Modernity is a drag. Not an outlandish conclusion for anyone to reach--especially anyone who reads the daily news. The writers of Tyr, a thick journal of neo-pagan crypto-scholarship now releasing its second issue, arrived at that station long ago, jumped a train and kept going on foot. They now find themselves in a rather remote intellectual country.
Hard as it is to say exactly what readership Portland musician and artist Markus Wolff expects for his Tyr essay "Ludwig Fahrenkog and the Germanic Faith Community: Wodan Triumphant," it seems safe to assume he's not expecting to outsell The Da Vinci Code. And mass popularity is hardly the point of a volume probing esoterica such as "Heathen Holy Places in Northern Europe" or early-20th-century "panentheism" in Germany.
The point, at its most ambitious, is the creation of an alternative intellectual reality. Tyr's contributors--who include former Portland musician/provocateur Michael Moynihan--reject most modern habits of mind (tidy typography excepted). They trade presumptions about progress (inevitable!) and technology (beneficial!) for fascination with archaic mystery.
For a reader from outside Tyr's small subculture of origin, the idealized Beowulfian warrior-scholar-priest society the journal synthesizes from dusty texts and obscure cosmologies is perhaps less vivid than the collective authorship hopes (I couldn't help thinking of the spear-wielding Riders of Rohan in Lord of the Rings--perhaps not the evocation the relentlessly self-serious Tyrlings would choose).
It's hard not to find the recurrent interest in a posited tribal "homogeneity" a little discomfiting (indeed, a section of this issue's preface attempts to dismiss "The Fascist Accusation" before the fact). Yet a mind of healthy curiosity--even one sharing none of the conclusions about life, the universe and everything championed in Tyr--will find plenty stimulating here. Tyr is a first-class artifact of, ironically, modern Bohemia.
(Ultra Publishing, 425 pages, $22 includes CD sampler of music "inspired by tradition")