A Heathen’s View of the Afterlife

A Heathen’s View of the Afterlife

The end of the year/beginning of this year saw the death of an in-law and got me thinking about the afterlife. The in-law in question was very Catholic and requested that they have a funeral and burial in the Catholic tradition. That meant a vigil (aka a wake), funeral mass, and then a ceremonial burial. It was odd to go through the entire process because I ended looking at it from a Heathen perspective.

Churches and Whatnot

First, the church. A Roman Catholic church which was heavily modernized. If you took away the crucifix on the stand and the portrait of Jesus, it looked like something you’d see as a pagan temple with trees and even a walk-in fountain. There were only chairs and no pews. In other words, it wasn’t what I experienced while growing up.

The sermons and eulogy had the typical “they’re with Jesus” bullshit. I expected that. But I saw the camaraderie among the church goers that made me think of how the church was looked at during Medieval times. You see, the Catholic church was not just a place of worship, but it was also a way for people to socialize the way they do now. They heard the latest church music, they saw the latest fashions, and yes, it gave them a way to connect with their neighbors. I saw that at the funeral and the luncheon that followed afterward where people brought what they made to share with us. So, I get why the Christian churches are popular. They provide a sense of community as well as a promise of an eternal life.

What About the Heathen Afterlife?

First, Heathens generally don’t (or shouldn’t) worry too much about the afterlife more than this life. In other words, our current life is what we’ve got to make our lives better or worse. It’s not that we don’t have an afterlife (we do), but it’s not really a big concern. Most of us will go to Helheim, which isn’t the traditional Christian Hell that is a place of eternal torment. No, it is a place of rest, basically. To the living, it might seem a dreary place of quietness, but to those spirits who have lived a tumultuous life, it is a place of rest. People do the same things they did in their life as in their death. In other words, it’s not really something to worry about.
Náströnd by Frølich

There is one exception to Helheim that is worth mentioning: Nástrǫnd (Corpse Shore). Nástrǫnd is a place near the river where the snake or dragon, Níðhöggr, chews on corpses of those who murdered, broke oaths, or committed adultery during their previous life. This is the punishment for those who are truly evil. The rest of us don’t have to worry about being a dragon’s dinner anytime soon, so unless you fall under those three evil behaviors, you’re pretty much safe.

But What About Valhalla?

People who die in battle are taken to either Freyja’s land, Fólkvangr, or Odin’s Hall, Valhalla. Freyja gets first pick of half the dead, and Odin gets what’s left. There is much conjecture on what actually happens in Fólkvangr, but we really don’t know if that’s a place where soldiers rest or whether they train for Ragnarok. Everyone has heard stories about the partying and reliving one’s battles in Valhalla. Some Heathens dispute this because of various writings about it, so I’m not going to go into that right now.

Other Places the Dead May Go

In Norse mythos, there are plenty of places where the dead may go in an afterlife. Here are a few.

Rán’s Hall

Those who died and are lost at sea go to the goddess Rán (goddess of the sea) and stay in her hall. I have no idea what goes on there, but for some reason, I have the whole Pirates of the Caribbean images of sailors that have been turned into half-fishes and whatnot.  Now, this may just be my imagination, but you’ve got to wonder what it would be like living your life under the waves.

Helgafjell

This is a holy mountain where the dead reside. Those who have special abilities could look on the mountain and see the dead that inhabited it. Apparently it is a place for resting, a warm hearth, and good food and drink. People live the same way we do among the living, and appear to be very happy.

Asgard, Andlàngr, and Vídbláin

These three places within the Nine Worlds are three heavenly realms that reside in the world that Asgard sits. There are Nine Heavenly Realms within the world where Asgard sits where the spirits of the dead reside during and after Ragnarok.

Halls of Particular Gods

Lately, there’s been a lot of UPGs (Unverified Personal Gnosis) that certain people will go to different halls of the gods. There appears to be some precedence for this as Thor takes on two mortal children, Thialfi and Roskva, as bondservants after Thialfi lamed one of Thor’s goats. (I am certain there are other stories with humans serving the gods in their halls, but I digress.) There’s also the matter of the dead residing in Valhalla and Fólkvangr. I believe these UPGs are true, for the most part.  I’ve had a UPG with this as well. Certain people who serve certain gods are destined to dwell in their halls after death.

Also, there seems to be link between Alfar and the dead. Could Alfar (Elves) be the souls of humans who had died? In which case, Freyjr is lord of the dead as well.

Reincarnation

In Germanic Heathenism, we have stories of those who have been reincarnated after death. Usually this occurs in family lines, rather than outside one’s lines.

The Soul in a Heathen Context

Heathens don’t look on the soul or spirit as a single entity, but rather a multiple entities. I’m not going to go over them at this point because this piece is long enough, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll write about the different parts of the soul later and were each piece actually goes.

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Happy Yule and Winter Solstice!

Happy Yule and Winter Solstice!

Happy Yule and Winter Solstice! Yeah, it’s that time of year when I tend to not do much on the blog. So, in keeping with that tradition, I’m going to provide links of all the posts I’ve made about Yule in the past, including at least one from this year, in case you missed it.  Anyway, have a good Yule and if the Yule Goat comes by to deliver presents, don’t roast him, okay?

What You Need to Know About Yule

Because I should be talking more about the history of Yule and how it relates to the modern Heathen.

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Yeah, everyone’s got them. And if they’re Christian, they may have a tough time with your Heathen ways (pun intended!). Here’s a way to make everyone happy.

When You Can’t Get in the Yule Spirit

Bah humbug! Are you the Scrooge around Yule? So am I. So, here are some ways to cope.

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

Heard of the Yule Goat or Yulebok? Well, if you haven’t, here’s your chance to add a little paganism to your relatives’ Christmas under the guise of Christmas.

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

Yule can be a bit lonely for the solitary Heathen, so here are some cool ways to celebrate it by yourself.

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

Is Santa Claus Christian or Heathen? Should you teach your kids about him?

Yule as a Non-Event

When life intrudes and you can’t properly celebrate Yule.

 


 

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What You Need to Know about Yule

What You Need to Know about Yule

Yule is one of the biggest Heathen celebrations. If you’re new to Heathenism, chances are you know of Yule and maybe got a quick explanation. Or maybe you looked it up on the web. All good. But maybe you want to read about Yule from your Internet curmudgeon and rabble-rouser (That would be me). Seeing as this blog gets the most hits on winter solstice, I’ve finally wizened-up and will post more about Yule.

So, this year, I’m going to give you a nice list of Yule pieces I’ve written in the past and maybe some access to some freebies on December 21st. (Just another reason for you to visit this blog then, eh?)

Yule—What is It?

Yule is a midwinter celebration that occurs on the winter solstice and days following that day. Many pagan religions have some version of Yule to mark the time when the days go from getting shorter to growing longer again. In the northern hemisphere, it is a celebration of the light during the darkest month. It is in anticipation of Sunna taking more away from the dark and cold times and the return of Baldr, the god of the mid-summer sun.

Christmas borrows most of its trappings from pagans, and in particular, the old Heathen customs. Sure, Christmas now celebrates the birth of Christ, whom we have no really good idea when he was born, assuming he even existed. Even the Puritans outlawed Christmas for a time, because they recognized it as a pagan holiday. Man with a beard delivering presents? Yep, Heathen. Singing carols? Heathen. Christmas Ham? Heathen. Feasts? Heathen. Christmas tree? An old Germanic tradition that stems from Heathenry. Mistletoe? Heathen. Yule log? Well, you get the idea…

In fact, if your family is Christian, you can enjoy celebrating Christmas because it’s really Yule with some Christian dress-up. Just don’t be a smart-ass and tell your Christian family that or you’ll be sure to get a lump of coal this year.

A Very Brief History of Yule

We know that the Germanic peoples celebrated Yule at least as early as the 4th Century. Yule was typically held for 12 days, usually starting around the solstice. In the Norse calendar, the month of Yule was known as Ýlir. One of Odin’s many names is Jólnir (Yule-person), which has a the root Jól Yule), thus the association with Yule. During this time, Odin was said to lead the Wild Hunt through Midgard. In some places, children would leave hay in their stockings or shoes for Sleipnir and Odin would return the favor by leaving candy or presents. Yeah, it’s true: Odin is Santa.

In the Saga of Hákon the Good, we know that Yule had diminished to three days, starting at the winter solstice. According to the saga, King Haakon I was instrumental in Christianizing Norway and changing the date of Yule to match Christmas. We can easily see how Yule traditions blended into Christmas traditions as many Heathens became Christianized.

Although Christmas was celebrated in Europe, it really didn’t have the same look as it does now. We can thank Queen Victoria for adopting her husband’s (Prince Albert’s) German customs and making Christmas complete with Christmas trees and feasts. Furthermore, Charles Dickens recreated Christmas in A Christmas Carol.

The Wild Hunt and Yule

Like the Celts, Heathens believed in the Wild Hunt, but the leader of the Wild Hunt was Odin who led his hunters through Midgard. In many stories, he is joined by goddesses, most notably Holda (Frau Holle) and Berchta (Perchta). The Wild Hunt flew in the sky, but occasionally flew down to chase their prey close to the earth. In some places, if you came upon the Wild Hunt and failed to join them, bad things could happen. Or Odin might accidentally run you over on Sleipnir, which is why in some cultures you needed to lie down to avoid being hit by the horses’ hooves if they rode too close to the ground.

What they hunted is up for interpretation. People, souls, or game, the Wild Hunt was something to be feared. The current belief is that the souls of the dead ride with Odin, but I’m fuzzy as to what Odin is hunting. More souls? Possibly. Basically, it’s a time when the veil between the realm of the dead and our world is at its thinnest because of the darkness. This is why we celebrate Mother’s Night (Mōdraniht) on the 20th or 21st of December. Historically, it was celebrated on the 24th. We celebrate Mother’s Night in honor of the disir, our female ancestors.

Modern Yule Celebrations

There are plenty of awesome ways to celebrate Yule. I’ve outlined several in a couple of articles HERE and HERE. I really like Hugin’s Heathen Hof’s 12 Devotional Days of Yule. I think you’ll like them too.  Anyway, have a terrific Yule and be sure to check out my post on December 21st.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As a Thanksgiving treat, I’m providing a list of articles I’ve written which covers Thanksgiving in some way. Check them out and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 


 

Thanksgiving or Harvest?

Is it a Christian or Pagan celebration?

Is Thanksgiving Dying?

One pagan writer is concerned if Thanksgiving is being preempted by all the other distractions. My thoughts on this.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

Most of us Heathens have Christian relatives and friends. Here’s how to have a peaceful Thanksgiving.

The Month of Gormánuður or the Slaughter Month

The Month of Gormánuður or the Slaughter Month

By now, we’re in the midst of Gormánuður according to the old Norse calendar. It is the first month of winter according to the ancient calendar, and it is the month of slaughter or butchering. I figured that since I’ve talked about Haustmánuður, the Harvest Month, I should continue with the months…well,…monthly, so you can get a feeling of the ancient Norse year.

A Bit of History About Refrigeration (Stick with me on this)

Nowadays we have refrigeration, which is possibly why Gormánuður may be puzzling to some of you. After all, we can get meat year round and keep it in the freezer or refrigerator. And you’re probably quite aware that our ancestors didn’t have refrigeration until 1913–not that long ago–available for home use. Even then, owning a home refrigerator was expensive and it didn’t become popular until the 1930s. So, your recent ancestors probably had iceboxes–that is actual boxes that held ice to keep their food fresh. The icebox was invented and patented by a farmer in 1802. The original icebox was made from wood, rabbit skins, and lots of ice (duh!).  The icebox took off, and there even was a market for harvested lake ice up until the 1930s. These required ice houses that kept the ice together even during the summer months until the lakes started freezing over again.

As an aside, as a child I did hear adults use the term “icebox” for refrigerator, even though the days of the icebox were long since gone. I assumed that they meant “freezer” because that’s where you kept the ice. Yeah, that makes me older than dirt. Deal with it.

How Did Gormánuður Get Its Name?

So, how did Gormánuður get its name? Well, if you didn’t have refrigeration or even an icebox, slaughtering an animal was a bit problematic. You had to either slaughter and prepare the

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

animal right there or risk spoilage, or you had to wait until the weather was cool enough to keep the meat fresh. Since it was very expensive to feed animals during the winter months (using up valuable resources of hay and grain), most farmers slaughtered all but their breeding stock for the next year. That required a way to preserve the meat so it would last during the winter and into the early part of the summer.

In many climes, Gormánuður was cold, but not brutally cold yet. Although the days were significantly shorter, there was still daylight left. And you could pretty much count on the weather keeping your food cold before you could salt it and preserve it further.

Common Practice Even into the 20th Century

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Surprisingly, the idea of butchering meat in the fall was common practice until fairly recently. It wasn’t that uncommon for farms to slaughter pigs in the fall and store to have “pork sales” in the months leading up to Christmas and Yule. If you ever wondered why it’s still popular for people to have a Christmas ham, there you go. That, and our ancestors had a ham to celebrate Freyr during Yule and the increasing daylight. In fact, after hunting season, I’m going to be slaughtering goats and geese to reduce the herd. I suspect other farmers and ranchers out here do that out of necessity, too.

Nowadays, we see some of the remnants of this, but in the age of factory farming and a global economy, we can get foods we like anytime and don’t have to wait to get our favorite foods. All we have to do is shell out a bit more money to get what we want. When I buy foods, I tend to choose local, so the seasons are more apparent to me.

Ways to Celebrate Gormánuður

With Thanksgiving or Harvest coming up, celebrating Gormánuður is easy. Farmers and ranchers have raised turkeys to be slaughtered during the fall just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. While they’re not pigs, goats, or cattle, you can certainly go with the intent of the season. Here are some other ways to celebrate Gormánuður:

  • Look for deep deals on local pork.
  • Choose foods which would have been harvested in October and November as part of your Harvest meal.
  • Choose local foods over those imported from the gods know where.
  • Learn all you can about local farming and slaughter practices. Find those farmers who use sustainable methods and patronize them.
  • Hunt for your meat. You’ll have a learning curve if you don’t hunt, so if you can find a knowledgeable and ethical hunter who will let you tag along this year just to help them (and maybe get some yummy venison), do that.
  • Get your pantry stocked up for Yule.

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The Elder Futhark: Gebo

The Elder Futhark: Gebo

The seventh rune of Freyr’s ætt is Gebo, which corresponds to the “G” sound in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use).  Gebo is a positive rune in most cases, suggesting gifts and partnerships that are usually beneficial. When I see Gebo in a casting, it usually influences the casting in a positive way, where even so-called negative runes may lead up to something good, especially if Gebo is in the future or outcome spot.

Gebo‘s Meaning


In Anglo-Saxon Gebo is Gyfu and in Old Norse it is Gar.  Gebo is the rune of generosity and giving. Our ancestors often gave gifts in exchange for partnerships, so Gebo is also the rune of beneficial partnerships. Gebo represents a gift for a gift–whether the gifts are aid, work, or an actual gift. When gifts are exchanged, the gifts create a relationship between the two parties.

Divination with Gebo

When you get this rune in a casting, it suggests two things. First, it suggests you’ll receive a gift. Gebo is, after all, the rune of generosity. But along with Gebo is a partnership of some variety: whether business, friendship, or relationship. In other words, the person who is giving the gift seeks to make a partnership with you. That partnership may be a simple platonic friendship. It may be a gift from a relative who simply wants to reaffirm their family ties with you. It may be a business relationship. Or it might be a romantic interest.

Gebo doesn’t necessarily mean that the gift comes with strings attached. Or the strings may be of the expected variety, such as a birthday present, a holiday present, or some other giving time, like a wedding shower or baby shower. Sometimes the gift does have strings attached, but it’s up to you to determine if it’s an opportunity you wish to take advantage of. Gebo can also mean a gift from the gods, but it also suggests a partnership between you and the god or goddess who is offering the gift.

The meaning of Gebo can depend on the runes surrounding it. The runes feed off of each other, creating a broader picture for the caster. Gebo definitely means gift and/or partnership, but the other runes around it may dictate how that gift or partnership fits in context with everything else.

Some Final Thoughts on Gebo

Gebo is usually a positive rune that means something good in the ways of gifts and partnerships. It suggests an equal partnership rather than something where one is dominant and the other subservient. So, it’s a rune that suggests the partnership of equals. In Old Norse, Gar also meant spear, so it might be the gift between two warriors. Regardless, Gebo is a rune that I like seeing because it tells me that I may be getting something I want–and a beneficial partnership as well.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

The Elder Futhark: Kenaz

The Elder Futhark: Kenaz

The sixth rune of Freyr’s ætt is Kenaz, which corresponds to “K” or hard “C” in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use). When I mean “hard C,” I mean the “C” as in “cat” and not in the word “certain.” I’ve seen at least three different meanings for Kenaz; the one that is the most popular is fire (ember) or torch. I’ve also seen the rune mean “opening” and also “disease.” Such a variety of meanings can be attributed to the different spellings. I’ve seen Kenaz, Kaunaz, and Kaunan.

Kenaz‘s Meaning


In Anglo-Saxon Kenaz is Cen and in Old Norse it is Kaun.  Kenaz is the rune of fire. It means to kindle, to light, and to bring into the light. If you use the word, Kaunan, it means disease or malady. Given how ambiguous most runes are, especially how they can be interpreted, I tend to go with the meaning to kindle or light. Sure, if you feel particularly masochistic, you can add another negative rune to the pile, but I’m not so inclined to do so. More on this later.

Divination with Kenaz

When you get this rune in a casting, you’re looking at enlightenment in the form of education or knowledge that is revealed. It is the rune of learning, which means you may classes or education in the future. It may also mean that through study, you may learn something important. This is usually a positive rune with positive meanings, except when it isn’t.

Yeah, I’m talking that disease interpretation. It exists, but honestly I’m not sure that’s the right interpretation. My UPG tells me it’s not. I would only consider the alternate meaning if the casting pertains to health or disease. Again, it depends on the surrounding runes which way to interpret it.

Kenaz often means you get the answer you are looking for, shedding light in the darkness, revealing, or opening. It can also mean a kindling of will–opening yourself to new experiences and new situations to gain more knowledge. This knowledge is something for you to act on. Knowledge is simply knowledge; it is up to you to respond to it in the best way possible. The knowledge may be good or bad to you, but in it is an opportunity for growth.

You may notice I caveat a lot of rune readings by saying the meaning depends a lot on the runes surrounding the rune in question. The runes feed off of each other, creating a broader picture for the caster. Kenaz is no different in that regard. You may find that Kenaz foretells of education– or it could be the revealing of a secret that was better kept under wraps–depending on the runes surrounding it and the circumstance.

Some Final Thoughts on Kenaz

Kenaz is a useful rune that I don’t mind seeing because it means that I’ll find the information I’ve been looking for. It may be in the form of education or it might be something as simple as reading a webpage or talking with someone. I don’t use the disease interpretation because it’s a weird thing to pair with a torch or light. (You can tell me in the comments if you’re using Kenaz in that way in your divination and how your predictions have been.) Anyway, I hope you find the power of Kenaz to be helpful in your castings.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

The Werewolf in the Viking Age (Halloween Special)

The Werewolf in the Viking Age (Halloween Special)

I thought I’d do a piece about werewolves since Halloween and Winternights is coming up. Yeah, even though I’m not particularly fond of the whole Halloween thing, I get that a lot of people are into Halloween, which means I should at least write something related to it.

Nowadays shifters and werewolves have become popular in modern culture. Ever since Lon Chaney Jr. donned makeup and a mask, werewolves have been popular on the silver screen. More recently, we see the werewolves in urban and paranormal fantasy and romance as sort of cuddly and dangerous wild creatures. Our ancestors would probably think we’re crazy for loving the wolf, which is why I’d love to talk about wolves and werewolves.

Wolves in Norse Mythology

If you look at Norse and Germanic mythology, you’ll see plenty of wolves in the stories. Odin is accompanied by two wolves, Geri and Freki. Loki’s first wife, Angrboða, bore Fenrir the wolf of Ragnarok, as well as Hel and Jörmungandr. Two wolves, Sköll and Hati Hróðvitnisson, chase the sun and moon respectively.

With the exception of Odin’s wolves, most wolves in our mythology have a negative connotation. Odin’s wolves may be a testament to Odin’s often unpredictable and wild side that can cause harm. Fenrir will swallow Odin. The wolves that chase the sun and moon are are destined to swallow our sun and moon during Ragnarok. In other words, our myths tell us that wolves are to be feared. But why is that?

What Our Ancestors Thought of Wolves

Wolves were considered dangerous creatures that inhabited the wilderness. People heard them howl outside of the safe confines of their village, which protected them against the dangers that lurked beyond their fences or walls. When criminals were sentenced, they typically were exiled from the village or town. These people were called vargr, yes, wolves, and they could be hunted and killed on sight without penalty. These people had to learn how to survive in the wilderness or go to another place that hadn’t heard of them yet. They were considered the lowest of the low and assuming they survived, they might join other bands of criminals that preyed upon travelers.

So, the wolf was a feared animal to our ancestors and those exiled criminals were considered like wolves.

What About Werewolves?

In the Saga of the Volsungs there’s a story how a father and son, Sigmund and Sinfjotli, probably vargr, come upon two men in an enchanted sleep who have magic wolf pelts. The father and son steal them and put them on, becoming wolves. The pelts transform people into wolves for ten days. The new wolves go on a killing spree, which ends when the father attacks the son, causing a mortal wound. Only through the aid of a sympathetic raven does the son become healed and the two remove their wolf pelts and burn them on the tenth day.

Ulfhednar Berserkers

Yeah, yeah, berserkers are a different type of warrior based on a bear, I know. Deal with it. Anyway, ulfhednar were a type of berserker that instead of using the strength of the bear, used the powers of the wolf in their fighting. These warriors would wear wolf skins and were believed to be Odin’s warriors. They didn’t wear mail and didn’t appear harmed by fire or metal. They would howl and bite their shields, no doubt terrifying their enemies.

Where Did Our Halloween Werewolves Come From?

There’s little doubt that the modern day werewolves we associate with Halloween came from Eastern Europe. But there’s an excellent chance that those people got their legends from both the ulfhednar and the fear of the vargr. After all, Eastern Europeans mingled with Northern Europeans quite often and the Rus had their origins with the Vikings. But then again, most cultures seem to have shape shifting and wolf legends. It may have come from earlier days when humans huddled around their campfires and heard those howls coming from just outside the safety of the light.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

The Elder Futhark: Raidho

The Elder Futhark: Raidho

The fifth rune of Freyr’s ætt is Raidho, which corresponds to “R” in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use). If you haven’t noticed the similarity between the other runes I’ve shown and our own alphabet, you probably will see it in Raidho and our letter R. Whether our runes were based on an older form of the Latin alphabet or whether they evolved from an older Indo-European alphabet is up for conjecture.  If you want to read about the origin of the runes, you can do that HERE.

Raidho‘s Meaning


In Anglo-Saxon Raidho is Rad and in Old Norse it is Reid.  Raidho is the rune of travel. It means a wheel, cart, chariot, or journey. Our ancestors considered travel very important because it required a fair amount of effort to go someplace. When you’re limited to walking, snowshoes, carts, travel using animals, or ships, you had a fair amount of effort involved, both physically and mentally. You left your safe confines of home to journey into less safe territory and unknown lands. Like any travel, it could be good or bad.

Divination with Raidho

When you get this rune in a casting, you’re looking at movement, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally. It can mean something like business and vacation travel when dealing with physical movement. It could mean an actual move or change in residence. Or it could mean changes in perspective when it comes to a situation, relationship, or point-of-view.

Raidho often means leaving something that you know for somewhere you aren’t necessarily familiar with. It can be scary, if you’re not ready for it, or it might be a welcome change you’ve been looking for. Regardless, Raidho means movement, and that means it can provide either good or bad, depending on the matter under consideration.

You may notice I caveat a lot of rune readings by saying the meaning depends a lot on the runes surrounding the rune in question. The runes feed off of each other, creating a broader picture for the caster. Raidho is no different in that regard. You may find that Raidho foretells of a job opportunity–or it could foretell of a layoff–depending on the runes surrounding it and the circumstance.

Some Final Thoughts on Raidho

Raidho is one of those runes I actually like. Not because I hate being in the spot I’m in, but more because it can provide opportunities I would normally miss if everything continued to stay the same. Sure, it can bring negative consequences, but the times I’ve seen Raidho in a cast, it usually indicates physical travel for me–and usually something I’ve been expecting. You may find Raidho to be like that, or maybe it speaks more to your mental or emotional state. Regardless, it is a rune of change, both good and bad.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

What Autumn Meant to Our Ancestors

What Autumn Meant to Our Ancestors

Now that Haustblot (or Harvest or Winter Finding) has come and gone, you’re probably saying, “Okay, autumn is here, so what?” After all, with the exception of pumpkin spice-flavored everything or school starting, fall is pretty much a non-issue in our lives today. Sure, we see cooler weather and the leaves turn, but really, other than that, we really don’t see anything particularly special about autumn.

And that’s a shame. Why? Because autumn was an important part of our ancestors’ lives, even if they considered it as part of summer or winter.

Why Autumn Was Important to Our Ancestors

First, our ancestors lived on an Earth with a warmer climate. (Yeah, I don’t want to go into the climate change politics, so we’re so not going there.) Earth was about 1 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today during the Medieval warming period. (That’s about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit for us Americans.) The Medieval warming period happened between 900 to 1300 CE, which doesn’t cover the time before that, but it was certainly warmer than when the Little Ice Age took hold. Before the Little Ice Age, our ancestors dealt with better conditions for farming, but it was often dicey. Bad harvests meant everyone would starve during the winter, including the animals. Good harvests meant that you had a fighting chance for seeing the next winter. Winter was still cold and difficult, so our ancestors used fall to prepare for the upcoming cold and dark months.

Storing for Winter

Harvest wasn’t the only thing that happened in the fall. As the temperatures plummeted, people would slaughter and preserve most of their meat for the upcoming winter. Having storehouses where you kept your smoked and salted meats for winter naturally kept the meat cold. The fall temperatures often dipped below freezing, but on days when the temperatures were above freezing, the air still acted like a refrigerator. Smoking and salting were ways of stabilizing the meat so it didn’t turn rancid during the occasional temperatures fluctuations. Hence, hunting for big game often happened in the fall and winter months. Unless you were planning on eating the whole critter in a few days, you really had no way to preserve the meat during the summer months, unless you were drying it. Hence eating small game and young animals were more fitting for the spring and summer months.

During this time, people were busy drying fruits and vegetables. Canning hadn’t been invented until the Napoleonic Wars, so that didn’t happen. People did store in what food they preserved for the upcoming winter months, presumably in precursors to root cellars. They ground grain into flour. It could be stored as flour or baked into bread, which usually stored okay, at least if it was too cold for mold to grow. Grain was also made into ale, which our Northern ancestors drank quite a bit.  Milk was processed into cheese. Cheese stores better than milk, so they could have fresh dairy once the cows or goats stopped producing. Often, they slaughtered their milking cows to reduce the herd so they didn’t have to feed so many animals. (The cow’ heifer it calved the previous spring usually replaced the cow.)

What Northern Peoples Did in Autumn

Beyond hunting and foraging for food as well as harvesting and preserving food, the Northern peoples spent time enjoying themselves too. Those who lived in the Viking era enjoyed playing board games, drinking games, and other indoor games when the weather got too cold or in the evenings when they had a little time to relax. When they had free time outside and the weather wasn’t too cold or snowy, they’d practice fighting and even hold mock battles to improve their skills. Some of these “games” ended up pretty bloody.

Our Northern ancestors were into telling stories and creating poetry during these times. The sagas and poetry we have show how our ancestors loved a good story.

When the ponds and lakes froze over, they’d strap bones or short pieces of metal to their feet and ice skate. Of course, there were contests to see how fast one could skate across the ice. Northern peoples often used skis or snowshoes to travel and get around. So our ancestors could still hunt and do other activities outdoors.

How You Can Enjoy the Autumn…Like a Viking!*

If you live in urban or suburban areas, chances are you don’t have to prepare much for winter besides dusting off your fall wardrobe. The local coffee shop now has pumpkin-spiced lattes and Hel, even Siggi’s Skyr Yogurt has Pumpkin & Spice skyr. (Now, isn’t that oxymoronic?) But if you have a farmer’s market near you or a particularly good sale at the local supermarket on fall produce, now is the time to stock up and make some jams, dry some foods, or stick some foods in the freezer. Get that honey and start your mead for Yule.

If you’re a writer—or even if you’re not—spend some time writing or making up stories that you can tell to entertain your family and friends. Hel, you might even have something that’s worth putting online and sharing. You never know.

If you hunt, now is the time to prepare for hunting season. If your season is in full swing, it’s time to get out there and get some food for the table. This year, pick up a book on how to butcher your deer, if you’ve never done it before. I like Making the Most of Your Deer. There are other books which work too. Butcher and wrap your deer. I guarantee there will be a lot less waste.

As the nights get longer, consider dusting off those board games or picking up some new ones, and having a gamer’s Friday or Saturday night. Invite over your friends or play board games with your family. Have a one night of being unplugged and force them to have to deal with you. (Hide the weapons!)

My point is that autumn was an important time to our ancestors and by doing some simple things, you can be more of a Heathen and offer respect to our ancestors, even though in our modern society we don’t necessarily have to do these things.  By incorporating these little things in our lives, we can get in touch with what our ancestors did to survive.

*The game is to add “like a Viking” to the last thing you did.

 

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