Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?

I Hate Daylight Savings Time

I Hate Daylight Savings Time

Are We Already Cyborgs?: Taking Control of Our Evolution

Are We Already Cyborgs?: Taking Control of Our Evolution

It sounds like something out of science fiction, but I think I’ve got a case for saying that we humans have gone beyond simply using our technology and now becoming — dare I say it? — cyborgs. I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and people. We know that humans aren’t the only species in the world that use tools.  We know chimps and crows have used tools sequentially, thus making the usage of tools as what defines us as human suspect.  So, some researchers are suggesting that what makes us human is offloading tasks onto machines.  It’s an interesting concept, to be certain.  I would take it one step further: we are human because we can change our own evolutionary path.  Let me explain…[Read More and all the other premium posts for just $1 at my Patreon feed!]

Why Do You Believe in the Gods?

Why Do You Believe in the Gods?

I’ve run into several interesting videos lately by the atheists who are working what is called Street Epistemology (just search for it on YouTube).  It’s a method that Socrates (the Greek philosopher) used to have a discussion with his students to logically challenge their beliefs.  The atheists who use this interesting method are using it to foster doubts in various religions.  To be quite frank, most of the people they talk to tend to be Christian, and the Christians tend to have no fucking clue why they believe what they believe.  Or how they came about their beliefs.  I’ll admit that some of the video is painful to watch to the point where I would rather have my dentist drill my teeth than watch the Christian evangelists preach.  Still, you have to give points for the stones the atheist has asking how people arrived at their belief systems.

How I Feel About This

I understand why the atheists do this.  Street Epistemology uses logic to foster doubt in irrational beliefs people hold dear.  They allow the interviewee to make their case and then gently tear it apart when it is shown to be illogical.  It is a friendly discussion, but its intent is to foster doubt.  Far be it for me to say avoid them.  They actually give us a good reason to examine our beliefs and why we believe what we do.  As Heathens, we often pride ourselves with our “homework” and the antiquity of our beliefs.  Some of us–yours truly included–have had UPG and contact with deities.  Talking with atheists do not necessarily make us atheists.  It simply helps us define what we believe and why.  If you don’t know why you believe something, other than faith or a gut feeling, you should probably define why you believe what you believe.  And quite honestly, if you decide you don’t believe, that’s okay, but for reasons other than you think.

The Heathen Gods Don’t Need Us

Unlike the Judeo-Christian religions, our gods really don’t give a damn if we follow them or not. (Okay, maybe they care a bit, but not the way the Christian god purportedly does.)  I’ve been told several times now by Tyr and Skadi that it really doesn’t matter what I believe, if it is my destiny to do something, I will do it.  (You gotta love the Wyrd, there.)  Science may agree with this assessment of free will.  In a block universe, everything has already happened.  We are just moving forward in time because that’s how we perceive things.

The Heathen gods really don’t need us to worship them.  They’ve existed quite fine without us for some time, but since we inhabit a world they deal in, they do deal with us, at least in their elemental nature.  They like dealing with us because they’ve “created” us or at least put the entire mechanism of evolution into creating us. At least, that’s how I understand them.  Having doubt in your belief system is okay because it fosters further study and research.

Asking Questions and Getting Answers

So, I looked at Street Epistemology and considered the questions asked.  Why do I believe in what I do?  In many cases, the religious types responded that they believed that their religion is the right religion because 1. their parents taught them their faith, 2. they believe the Bible/Koran is 100 percent infallible,  3. their god purportedly saved them in an accident or some other dire situation, or 4. they have “faith” in their god.

I thought about the question of why I believe what I do, and my answer was “none of the above” to the answers the people whom they talked to gave.  My parents taught me Roman Catholicism, and I saw inconsistencies in the Bible from the start.  I certainly don’t believe that the stories our people wrote down (including those in the Eddas) are completely accurate.  No god ever saved me from an accident, as far as I know — those accidents I’ve been in, I got my own butt out of them, or someone else helped.  If  an all-powerful god really wanted to help me,  I wouldn’t have been in the accident in the first place. As for faith, I have very little of it when it comes to believing in something I can’t see.  That’s why my belief in the Heathen gods is rather odd.  My answers are a bit more flexible, which would probably drive those performing Street Epistemology batty.

Challenge Your Belief in the Gods

If I were approached by a Street Epistemologist about my Heathen faith, the question of how much I believe in my faith would probably be around 70 percent.  That leaves a fair amount open for questions.  Why?  Because the moment you go into lock-step dogma, the more someone is manipulating you rather than you thinking for yourself.  I know, it’s a radical idea for a religion and a religious person, but there you go.  If you think you’re always right and your religion has all the answers, you’ve lost your ability to think critically.  And that, my friends, is the difference between wolves and sheep.  A wolf may follow a pack, but in the end, the wolf still uses its brain to make decisions. Sheep, on the other hand, follow the herd.  Which one do you think is more likely to be slaughtered for dinner at the end?

The next question would probably be how I came to my belief.  My guess is that my answer would send the interviewer packing, since it sounds fucking crazy.  I mean, how do you explain that you were contacted by not one, but two, gods?  Yeah, yeah, there are enough of us who have gotten a call, but seriously?  Assuming the interviewer wasn’t fleeing for his life, he would ask how I knew it wasn’t just delusional.  I’d say, “Bro, why do you think I’m at the 70 percent mark?”

As I’ve said before, you should challenge your belief in our gods and come up with logical reasons why you believe. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up like the people you see in those videos who just state that it’s faith and nothing else. While that may be good enough for you, it isn’t logical or well-defined.  And makes you look like an idiot.

Nothing is 100 Percent Certain

As Heathens, we know that not everything is 100 percent certain.  We know that there is possibly more to reality than what we can currently measure, and science backs us up when it comes to other dimensions. We know different dimensions might be the mechanism our gods use, along with basic quantum physics, but we are just guessing.  For all we know, there could be nothing more, something more, or something we haven’t postulated yet.  It’s okay to say “I don’t know” and accept that if we were presented with facts which contradict our beliefs in the gods, we would have to go along with them.  Or we could consider another explanation as to why we still believe in the gods and why the information is not a contradiction.

I’m reminded of an old Enterprise episode where this race of people sent their bodies into another part of reality.  They believed that the bodies would return to life and live happily in their newfound paradise.  Only, they didn’t.  They sat on a moon and rotted.  The news was so horrific to the inhabitants that they could not accept the truth and disavowed all ideas that something could be different.  In the end, the Enterprise crew did pick up energy readings that circled the moon.  The implication was that maybe these people did indeed “live on” in the form of energy.

Our Beliefs May Change

If you don’t want to be a Luddite, you’ve got to accept that your belief system may change.  Look at our ancestors’ beliefs.  We know that the Earth is really not a Frost Giant’s body.  We know that the Earth is not the center of the Universe. We know that our Earth is very old, and the Universe is older still.  Our ancestors did not know this.

Those who insist that we not only reconstruct the ceremonies and beliefs, but stay mired in them are idiots.  Heathenism must grow to suit our knowledge and modern sensibilities.  Nowadays people can live to more than 100, with an average US life expectancy of a little over 78 years.  Consider our ancestors in Viking times.  They were lucky to make it to 50 years old (which was considered advanced old age), with a third dying in childhood.  It would be accurate to say we’ve doubled the life expectancy. Thus, our experiences are vastly different than our ancestors. It’s cool to study them and learn the lessons they learn, but we must fit our beliefs into our modern times.  No, I have no desire to return to an age where I’d already be dead, where disease ran rampant and I have none of the conveniences of modern day.  Hel, my electric stove gave up the ghost the other day and while I made do, the next day I had to get a new one.  I do NOT want to spend my time cooking on a hearth.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found some of these ideas enlightening.  Let me know what you think.

Medieval People Were Prejudiced (Just Not the Way You Think)

Medieval People Were Prejudiced (Just Not the Way You Think)

Our medieval and Viking ancestors were a prejudiced lot.  They routinely attacked, enslaved, and killed people who weren’t like them.  Furthermore, there was a lot of fear associated with those who were not like them.  Does this sound familiar?

If you haven’t read my posts, you’re probably thinking that I’m talking about their prejudice and how it had to do with race.  (Never mind that race is a construct.)  But, you’d be wrong.  I’m talking about their prejudices when it came to beliefs.  Particularly, religious beliefs.

What’s a Color?

People in Medieval times didn’t think much in terms of skin color.  Those who traveled through lands where the Mongols, Indians, and other peoples lived didn’t bother describing the color of the skin or the superficial characteristics that people nowadays seem to pay attention to.  In fact, it was common for people to believe that the skin color was changeable and had to do with where you lived rather than what “race” you were from. It was genuinely thought that if you lived in the area long enough, you too would have the same types of features and skin pigments.  Maybe it had to do with your skin tanning if you were out in the sun?

Those who traveled abroad and kept journals seldom, if ever, mentioned the color of the skin, unless it was pertinent to the story at hand, such as using something such as white markings on the skin to mark where the opponent was going to cut.  Marco Polo mentioned skin color or other defining features only 10 times in his writings, and all had to do not with the color, but with defining a particular action or to clarify why something was done (like the white markings on dark skin) so it made sense to the reader.

Race was an Odd Concept Back Then

Race actually encompassed not color, but religion and even the station in one’s life. For example, nobles were considered another race entirely from  serfs and even freemen, Christians were considered a different race from Pagans, and clans were considered different races from each other.  In one of my posts, I talk about the “differences” between the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotunn.  In our modern way of thinking, they come from the same “race” or same stock — the Jotunn actually intermarry with the gods and beget other gods.  What makes the Aesir and Jotunn different races is their clans, kindreds, and beliefs.

Rig in Great-grandfather's Cottage In the Rígsþula, a story where Heimdall sleeps with three women from three different houses and begets Þræll, Karl, and Jarl, we see that even though these are all children of Heimdall, they are considered very distinct and different.  They aren’t just separate classes, but actual separate “races” that should never mingle, even though technically they could have children, should they do.

People Traveled (Surprise!)

People had feet (now, there’s a surprise) and they actually journeyed to other lands, even in the Viking Age. Sure, there were people who stayed stuck at home, (serfs and slaves, for example), but the Middle Ages was a happening time.  People went on pilgrimages.  Traders who sought a livelihood by bringing goods from the East certainly traveled. Many spices people used didn’t grow where they lived — someone had to travel to get the goods and bring them back.  (As an aside, did you know spices were considered so valuable that people locked them up?)

We know that people from Africa, both Christian and Muslim, traveled in Europe. Coins from Africa turned up in Europe and yes, even England.  I’ve seen a Viking cache with a Buddha statue in it.  People encountered other races all the time.  If you’ve read the tragedy of Othello, you know that he is a “Moor,” that is, black.  You don’t get racial overtones from that play and even though Shakespeare lived in the 16th century, which was more the Renaissance than the Middle Ages, you can already see that having a black person as a tragic hero wasn’t a far stretch for people.

You’re Not of the Body!

Philpot, Glyn Warren; Richard I Leaving England for the Crusades, 1189; Parliamentary Art Collection People didn’t really care about color.  Instead, they cared about who you were allied with and what your religion was.  Consider the Crusades.  It wasn’t against people of Arabic descent.  It was against the Muslims taking Jerusalem.  Now, granted when Crusaders went on the Crusade, they would consider sacking just about any city that looked different, but that is more unfamiliarity and the desire to earn wealth.  (Many Crusaders were willing to overlook the moral implications of sacking another Christian city, if it meant gold.)

We know that slave trade existed, but Christians generally didn’t own Christians; they owned Pagans, Jews, and Muslims.  Muslims generally didn’t own Muslims; they owned Christians, Jews, or people of other beliefs.  The Vikings had a huge slavery economy (because someone had to tend the farms while they were off raiding) and the slaves were (surprise!) Christian and Muslim.  I won’t say that there weren’t exceptions (there were), but those were the rules (more like guidelines, actually) and if you were of a particular belief, you generally didn’t own someone of that same belief.

People also cared about where you came from and who you were allied with.  As countries started to solidify, you had people being more nationalistic, like the English considering themselves one country. There were still “others” in the country: Pagans, Jews, Muslims, heretics, and other beliefs. Those were different and were considered “less than” those who were Christian. (Note: it was not race, but religion that separated them.  You could easily move from those “others” to Christian if you swore by the beliefs and weren’t labeled a heretic.)

Vikings made this concept very clear when it came to raiding.  Other people hated them not because they were blond and fair-skinned (and not all were), but because they were pagan, raided the heck out of them, and held different allegiances. What ended the Viking era was that they found lands and became assimilated into the cultures they conquered.

What’s the Point?

The point is that yes, our ancestors were prejudiced, but they divided the world into those who held their beliefs and those who didn’t, those who were in their class and those who weren’t, and those who were in a particular kindred, clan, or followed a certain leader, and those who didn’t.  Note that there really wasn’t a distinction when it came to color or “race.”  Race to them was something that distinguished them from the “other.”  But the “other” had to do with beliefs and not physical characteristics.

The Concept of Beauty and Ugliness and Good and Evil in Heathenry

The Concept of Beauty and Ugliness and Good and Evil in Heathenry


I have a snippet of the last post that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the post, being its own subject. I looked at it and realized that I should probably expand the piece further, so I figured it belonged in a premium piece.  This is the snippet in question:

“Medieval people put a lot of stock on good = beautiful and evil = ugly.   So, when Loki’s children are born from Angrboda, they’re automatically  considered evil because they are arguably terrifying/ugly.  Hel has rotting flesh on half of her body, Fenrir is considered terrifying  because he’s a gigantic wolf, and Jormandr is, of course, the world serpent.”

Wow, that’s a lot to talk about in one post.  Read this premium post and all my other premium posts for just $1.

When the Muse is a Bitch: Old Dogs; New Tricks

When the Muse is a Bitch: Old Dogs; New Tricks

Well, shit.  After banging my head for some time with the current blog platform, I realized I had to upgrade and go with WordPress.  It’s sort of my worst dream come true, and much sooner than I expected, but the functionality will make me eventually very happy.  Read More of this, get to be a Beta reader, and get access to the test blog before it goes live for Just $1!

Gods Don’t Knock–Making Room for the Heathen Gods

Gods Don’t Knock–Making Room for the Heathen Gods

My life is stupid busy.  It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, nor is it something I wear like a badge of honor. Which is why it befuddles me why a god–much less several–would pop into my extremely busy life.  It’s not like I actually opened up a door, even though Tyr says that I did.

(Am I really arguing with a god?)

Information Addiction

Okay, back to something less esoteric (and I swear all this has a Heathen point, so bear with me).  The truth is that someone like me is a real information addict.  Which is why when I start writing anything, I get distracted–oooh, shiny!–and I start researching stuff that leads me to not working but instead hoarding information, and occasionally disseminating it.  Take this piece.  I had no fucking clue what to write about (a constant issue with me) and so I went to some of my favorite sites for inspiration.  Only, there wasn’t inspiration but shit that is just distraction.  Here’s a sample of my browser’s history:

  • 5+ Ways Not to Take Things Personally
  • Web Hosting Hub Review: The Good, Bad & My Experience
  • Brainjunk and the Killing of the Internet Mind
  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload
  • Popular–Wordpress Plugins
  • Between Two Worlds: My Journey With Hekate
  • Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News
  • Lift Weights, Eat More Protein, Especially if You’re Over 40
  • The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week


Chances are your browser tabs are loaded in the same way. You’re constantly reading shit other people (including the Rational Heathen) have put out there and have about the attention span of a gnat–oooh,shiny!*

Why We’re Internet Addicted

Humans are, by nature, dopamine addicts.  Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy, gives you that sudden rush during orgasm, and causes you to get high if you take drugs that interfere with the natural chemistry of your brain. (Some drugs cause the brain to produce more dopamine; some drugs inhibit the recycling or reuptake mechanisms.  Some really powerful drugs do both, but they’ve got their own risks, like death.) Dopamine causes us to chase after those adrenaline highs (because dopamine is also a precursor to epinephrine and norepinephrine) and it causes us to become thrill seekers. It’s what causes us to hit the feeder bar, as it were, to get that really good feeling again and again.

Internet addiction, by nature, does similar damage to the brain as cocaine.  When we learn something new, guess what?  We get a shot of dopamine.  So, when we’re bombarded with things we read, learn about, feel, etc., we get hits.  But we’re often getting those hits on a fast and furious basis and not in a natural sense.  So, we get artificial highs from hits off our phone, our computer, and our tablet.  But it’s work, right?  (Yeah, I have a million justifications why I have to be playing Castle Siege, too.)

The problem is that even bright people tend to use their time for dopamine chasing and not things that actively enrich their lives. I mean, how many times do you check your Facebook posts, your chat rooms, your email, and your text messages a day?  How many times do you have to look at your phone?  This is not life.  It is not living.  It is certainly not living as a Heathen.

I’m not saying if our ancestors had these tools that they wouldn’t have fallen into the same trap.  On the contrary, they did use psychoactive substances, most likely alcohol and mushrooms.  Those who had contact with the Middle East probably had access to opium poppies.  Did these substances allow the ancestors to see the gods?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I’ve known Heathens who swear they have met the gods after getting drunk or smoking weed.  Having never experienced that, I don’t know if it was the weed or alcohol, or whether it was the lack of inhibition that enabled them to connect to the gods.

The Gods Don’t Knock

Thanks to Magickal Graphics

Occasionally I get inspirations from the gods when I’m on the computer, but it’s rare. More often, however, I’ve heard the gods when I’m not linked into the dopamine feeder bar called a computer. It’s because when I’m on computers and smartphones, I’m too tied up chasing that next hit. It’s when I’m away from computers and other distractions that I can finally listen.  And that is when they often talk to me.  Quietly, and in their own way.

I’m not saying that happens every time.  Sometimes I just get silence and nothing else. But the gods don’t knock and ask to speak to you.  You must be ready to hear them.  You can’t hear them if you’re always getting hits from the dopamine feeder bar.  Eventually, you just kind of numb out to everything.

But What About Drugs?

At this point, you’re probably asking “what about drugs or mind-altering substances?”  As much as I’m against illegal drugs (for various reasons, having had first hand experiences with addicts and the damage they leave behind),  I’m not going to lie to you and say that you won’t be able to have a conversation with your chosen deity.  Our ancestors used mushrooms and alcohol, (certainly to channel their inner berserker), and quite possibly to commune with the gods. However, I think the cost of using them to elicit possible contact may be greater than you’ve anticipated.   For one thing, the types of drugs used back then are nowhere near the potency of today’s illegal drugs.  Even marijuana (which I don’t think the ancestors used) was less potent than it is today.  Meth and heroin, for example, are much stronger than what was available in the Viking Era. Then, there is always the “bad trip” and the always nasty side effects of mushrooms such as the toxic Amanita muscaria or fly agaric, purported to be the mushrooms the berserkers used.

There is a Better Way

I’ve been doing a lot more research on meditation, since it is my chosen path to the gods. Although it is touted as an Eastern discipline, I suspect that our ancestors may have used it to focus on the gods as well. It is a way to train your mind that just about anyone can do.  It has the benefit of being able to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and give you greater control over your mind and body without feeling like you’re into self-flagellation. If anything, it’s actually quite relaxing.


If you’re looking for a book on the subject, I highly recommend Dan Harris’s Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book.  I picked it up because I loved the title, but it is a good place to learn how to do it.  Also, if you do buy it from the link, I get a small amount of compensation which will help support this blog.

Other Ways to Connect with the Gods

Obviously there are many ways to connect with the gods besides meditation, drugs, and unplugging.  One is to go to the places that they are and just listen.  I’m talking going to a natural place and just sitting quietly awhile.  Do you hear Thor’s voice as a spring storm comes up?  Do you feel Skadi’s touch when the wind whips through the trees as snow falls?  Do you feel Tyr’s presence as you look into a starry night’s sky?  Does Sunna embrace you on a clear day?  There are many places to feel the gods and their powers. I suspect that if you don’t hear a god, you might connect with a landvaettir, which might be just as rewarding.  My point is that our gods seldom look to contact us, unless we open ourselves for that contact.  That’s why I recommend keeping yourself open and aware.  You just might connect with a god or goddess.  Maybe not the one you intended to connect with, but one that you need to hear from.

*Actually our attention span is less than nine seconds, which is less than a goldfish’s attention span.

Were Vikings Flat-Earthers?

Were Vikings Flat-Earthers?

With all this talk about Flat-Earthers, you’ve got to wonder if our ancestors really thought the Earth was truly flat.  Educated folk knew the Earth was round since the time of the Greeks, but there was a lot of superstition when our ancestors lived, so let’s talk about Norse Cosmology…  Read more for just $1

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time

I really think this has implications for Heathen beliefs.  Check it out.

In the summer of 1935, the physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger engaged in a rich, multifaceted and sometimes fretful correspondence about the implications of the new theory of quantum mechanics. The focus of their worry was what Schrödinger later dubbed entanglement: the inability to describe two quantum systems or particles independently, after they have interacted.

Until his death, Einstein remained convinced that entanglement showed how quantum mechanics was incomplete. Schrödinger thought that entanglement was the defining feature of the new physics, but this didn’t mean that he accepted it lightly. ‘I know of course how the hocus pocus works mathematically,’ he wrote to Einstein on 13 July 1935. ‘But I do not like such a theory.’ Schrödinger’s famous cat, suspended between life and death, first appeared in these letters, a byproduct of the struggle to articulate what bothered the pair.

The problem is that entanglement violates how the world ought to work. Information can’t travel faster than the speed of light, for one. But in a 1935 paper, Einstein and his co-authors showed how entanglement leads to what’s now called quantum nonlocality, the eerie link that appears to exist between entangled particles. If two quantum systems meet and then separate, even across a distance of thousands of lightyears, it becomes impossible to measure the features of one system (such as its position, momentum and polarity) without instantly steering the other into a corresponding state.

Up to today, most experiments have tested entanglement over spatial gaps. The assumption is that the ‘nonlocal’ part of quantum nonlocality refers to the entanglement of properties across space. But what if entanglement also occurs across time? Is there such a thing as temporal nonlocality?
The answer, as it turns out, is yes. Just when you thought quantum mechanics couldn’t get any weirder, a team of physicists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported in 2013 that they had successfully entangled photons that never coexisted. Previous experiments involving a technique called ‘entanglement swapping’ had already showed quantum correlations across time, by delaying the measurement of one of the coexisting entangled particles; but Eli Megidish and his collaborators were the first to show entanglement between photons whose lifespans did not overlap at all.

Here’s how they did it. First, they created an entangled pair of photons, ‘1-2’ (step I in the diagram below). Soon after, they measured the polarisation of photon 1 (a property describing the direction of light’s oscillation) – thus ‘killing’ it (step II). Photon 2 was sent on a wild goose chase while a new entangled pair, ‘3-4’, was created (step III). Photon 3 was then measured along with the itinerant photon 2 in such a way that the entanglement relation was ‘swapped’ from the old pairs (‘1-2’ and ‘3-4’) onto the new ‘2-3’ combo (step IV). Some time later (step V), the polarisation of the lone survivor, photon 4, is measured, and the results are compared with those of the long-dead photon 1 (back at step II).


Figure 1. Time line diagram: (I) Birth of photons 1 and 2, (II) detection of photon 1, (III) birth of photons 3 and 4, (IV) Bell projection of photons 2 and 3, (V) detection of photon 4.

The upshot? The data revealed the existence of quantum correlations between ‘temporally nonlocal’ photons 1 and 4. That is, entanglement can occur across two quantum systems that never coexisted.
What on Earth can this mean? Prima facie, it seems as troubling as saying that the polarity of starlight in the far-distant past – say, greater than twice Earth’s lifetime – nevertheless influenced the polarity of starlight falling through your amateur telescope this winter. Even more bizarrely: maybe it implies that the measurements carried out by your eye upon starlight falling through your telescope this winter somehow dictated the polarity of photons more than 9 billion years old.

Lest this scenario strike you as too outlandish, Megidish and his colleagues can’t resist speculating on possible and rather spooky interpretations of their results. Perhaps the measurement of photon 1’s polarisation at step II somehow steers the future polarisation of 4, or the measurement of photon 4’s polarisation at step V somehow rewrites the past polarisation state of photon 1. In both forward and backward directions, quantum correlations span the causal void between the death of one photon and the birth of the other.

Just a spoonful of relativity helps the spookiness go down, though. In developing his theory of special relativity, Einstein deposed the concept of simultaneity from its Newtonian pedestal. As a consequence, simultaneity went from being an absolute property to being a relative one. There is no single timekeeper for the Universe; precisely when something is occurring depends on your precise location relative to what you are observing, known as your frame of reference. So the key to avoiding strange causal behaviour (steering the future or rewriting the past) in instances of temporal separation is to accept that calling events ‘simultaneous’ carries little metaphysical weight. It is only a frame-specific property, a choice among many alternative but equally viable ones – a matter of convention, or record-keeping.

The lesson carries over directly to both spatial and temporal quantum nonlocality. Mysteries regarding entangled pairs of particles amount to disagreements about labelling, brought about by relativity. Einstein showed that no sequence of events can be metaphysically privileged – can be considered more real – than any other. Only by accepting this insight can one make headway on such quantum puzzles.

The various frames of reference in the Hebrew University experiment (the lab’s frame, photon 1’s frame, photon 4’s frame, and so on) have their own ‘historians’, so to speak. While these historians will disagree about how things went down, not one of them can claim a corner on truth. A different sequence of events unfolds within each one, according to that spatiotemporal point of view. Clearly, then, any attempt at assigning frame-specific properties generally, or tying general properties to one particular frame, will cause disputes among the historians. But here’s the thing: while there might be legitimate disagreement about which properties should be assigned to which particles and when, there shouldn’t be disagreement about the very existence of these properties, particles, and events.

These findings drive yet another wedge between our beloved classical intuitions and the empirical realities of quantum mechanics. As was true for Schrödinger and his contemporaries, scientific progress is going to involve investigating the limitations of certain metaphysical views. Schrödinger’s cat, half-alive and half-dead, was created to illustrate how the entanglement of systems leads to macroscopic phenomena that defy our usual understanding of the relations between objects and their properties: an organism such as a cat is either dead or alive. No middle ground there.

Most contemporary philosophical accounts of the relationship between objects and their properties embrace entanglement solely from the perspective of spatial nonlocality. But there’s still significant work to be done on incorporating temporal nonlocality – not only in object-property discussions, but also in debates over material composition (such as the relation between a lump of clay and the statue it forms), and part-whole relations (such as how a hand relates to a limb, or a limb to a person). For example, the ‘puzzle’ of how parts fit with an overall whole presumes clear-cut spatial boundaries among underlying components, yet spatial nonlocality cautions against this view. Temporal nonlocality further complicates this picture: how does one describe an entity whose constituent parts are not even coexistent?

Discerning the nature of entanglement might at times be an uncomfortable project. It’s not clear what substantive metaphysics might emerge from scrutiny of fascinating new research by the likes of Megidish and other physicists. In a letter to Einstein, Schrödinger notes wryly (and deploying an odd metaphor): ‘One has the feeling that it is precisely the most important statements of the new theory that can really be squeezed into these Spanish boots – but only with difficulty.’ We cannot afford to ignore spatial or temporal nonlocality in future metaphysics: whether or not the boots fit, we’ll have to wear ’em.

Aeon counter – do not remove
Elise Crull
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.