8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

Yule is one of our biggest celebrations as Heathens, but if you’re a solitary Heathen, like I am, you may be wondering how in the Hel you can celebrate it.  So, I’m offering ways you can enjoy Yule, even if you’re a solitary Heathen.

Greet the Sun on the Solstice

If you’re a morning person, you might want to get up before the dawn and greet the sun.  Or, if you’re a crazy bastard, you can stay up and greet the dawn from the other side.  Either way, you get to greet the sun on the solstice.  Write a prayer or poem to the sun and read it out loud, or just maybe say a few heartfelt words to the sun.  Maybe you’re not one for words, but maybe you can read the story how Sunna was put to drive the sun’s chariot each day.  Do what feels right to you.

Honor the Ancestors

Mother’s Night is December 20th — a day when we honor all female ancestors who came before us.  Even if you do not have recent ancestors you wish to venerate, you can offer food, mead, and other gifts to distant ancestors, both known and unknown, thanking them because without them, you would not be here.  You can also offer gifts to the gods, whom many of us look on as our ancestors as well.

Bake Yule Cookies

Nowadays with so many types of cookie cutouts, you’re sure to find cookie cutouts that have no Christian significance.  Snowmen, reindeer, Yule trees, stars, are all pretty common.  Hel, I bet you could make an angel into a Valkyrie easily. Your non-Heathen friends and family members won’t care about the shapes either.

Make Some Mead

If you have any time off this holiday season, it’s time to get some decent local honey and make some mead.  Never made mead before?  What is wrong with you?  Making basic mead is relatively easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wondering what kept you from making it for so long.  And while it won’t be ready for this holiday, it’ll be ready for spring.  Even a gallon of must makes 5 to 6 bottles of mead, so what are you waiting for?  Here’s a mead making kit for you. 

You also might find this book useful too.

Drink Some Mead

Okay, so what do you do in the meantime while you’re waiting for your mead to ferment?  Why not enjoy some mead?  Don’t have any?  That’s okay.  You should be able to find someplace that carries esoteric wines like mead in your city or town.  Have it ordered, if you really can’t find a place that carries it.  Or order online.  One meadery who will ship is Hidden Legend.

Make a Yule Feast

Just because you’re the only Heathen around doesn’t mean you can’t share a Yule feast with your family and friends.  Invite your friends over on the solstice for a Yule feast, complete with mead.  Bake a ham or pork roast and enjoy the holiday with good friends and family.  Most people have obligations starting Christmas Eve, so having a celebration for the holidays ahead of the total Christmas thing may be welcomed.

Offer a Blot to the Gods

Offer a blot to the gods this solstice.  Write out your prayers or let them come from the heart.  Either way, make it personal and heartfelt.  Remember each god you honor and those who have helped you in the past year.

Remember the Wights

Whether or not you believe in the wights, now is the time to offer the Tomte and the Nisse as well as any house elves porridge (with a pat of butter).  These critters also like milk, cookies, chocolate (keep out of reach of pets), and other gifts. 

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Hunting season has drawn to a close, which means Yule is around the corner.  Suddenly, I’m going from Hunting to Yule once we celebrate Thanksgiving next week.  (Yeah, Thanksgiving gets preempted by hunting season.)  So, we celebrate Thanksgiving the week after.  After that, we’re in the few weeks before Yule, which means a busy time.

This year I told my non-Heathen, agnostic, mostly atheist, husband I wanted to celebrate Yule, too.  We were both raised in Catholic families (yeah, crazy) and we were both raised in the Christian tradition of Christmas. So, Yule will be somewhat new to him, and the prayers and offerings will be private.

Why I’m Keeping the Prayer and Offerings Private

Prayer and offerings are part of our beliefs, and yet, it can look strange to those outside of our religion. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my beliefs, it’s just that my husband doesn’t understand or believe in them.  Looking at it from an atheist perspective, I get it. It looks like a bunch of woo-woo to him and it can look like I’ve lost my marbles.  (Maybe I have?)  But I do get it.   Not everyone is going to look on our religion positively, which is why I’m presenting a more secular Yule to my family and not pushing my religion on those who aren’t interested in it.

Having grown up Catholic, the whole religious thing comes off as a way to either guilt someone or as a way to try to recruit them.  I don’t push my beliefs on someone who does not have them.

How I’m Planning to Celebrate Yule

One book I’ve found helpful in celebrating Yule is A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule.  It’s worth the four bucks on Amazon to buy the eBook, if you’re really looking for ideas.  It offered some good ideas for me, so it might come in handy to you too.  I’m also blending other celebrations we’ve had in the past.

December 20th — Mother’s Night

I’ve never really celebrated Mother’s Night, except perhaps by baking stuff.  Yes, I’ll be baking cookies and desserts to prepare for the upcoming Yule. I’ll also be offering my female ancestors gifts on my altar.  When cooking, I often go into meditation and focus on my ancestors.  Sometimes, I’ll hear the ones who were closest to me in my mind.  It is a day to honor them, so I do things that they would appreciate.  Usually involves holiday preparations.

The Christmas/Yule Tree will already be up because I think it’s too much to try to get it put up during this time.  Apparently people who put up their Yule trees during Yule don’t have time issues.

December 21st — Solstice/Yule

This is a big day for me.  I will designate a Yule log to burn in my woodstove.  If I can find good twine, I may make it prettier with pine boughs and pine cones. I will put together a venison roast for dinner and we will crack open a mead to celebrate.  I may try my hand at making a yule log cake.  In the late evening, I will hold a blot outside for the gods.  I will also leave gifts to Sunna, Mani, Baldr, Loki, Tyr, and Skadi on my altar.  I may gather the ashes from the Yule log later to smudge the corners of the house for protection.  I will read the runes for the Solstice to get a feel as to what is to come for the new year.

December 24th — Christmas Eve

My family celebrates Christmas Eve and Christmas as a secular holiday rather than a religious one.  Given that we’ll already have the Christmas Tree up, we have another big meal (usually a venison or antelope roast) and more mead.  We exchange presents and open them up.  Again, another blot for the gods and the wights.

I like the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve for reading.  This is something I’d love to incorporate in my Yule plans.

December 25th — Christmas

We visit relatives in town and deliver presents.  We then come home and have a feast (again).  This time, it will be roast goose.  Usually, I plan on a pork roast in honor of Freyr, but this year, we have a couple of geese in the freezer, so we’ll have a traditional Dickens type of dinner.

December 31st — New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve has never been a big thing with me.  Even so, I’ll probably wait for the New Year and offer a blot to the gods as a thank you for the good things that happened this year and a prayer for a better upcoming year.  I will then read the runes for the upcoming year again.  Often the runes’ message coincides with what I learned earlier.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day may see me perform a salt ritual to protect the home and farmstead.

My Yule is Low Key (but not Loki)

Yule will be low key, and I prefer it that way.  It’s 12 days of festivities and of those 12 days, I celebrate at least three with special meals. The blots I choose to do in private.  The offerings will go on my altar and will be either left there, if not perishable, or left outside, if perishable, once I am done with them.  Plenty of critters outside will partake of the scraps.

My prayers are more spontaneous, than anything.  They come from the heart, and I do not write them down.  The salt ritual too isn’t written down, but I call upon the wights to protect the dwelling and barn, and to discourage those wights intent on harm.  It does seem to make a difference.

Celebrating with Non-Heathen Family Members

Obviously all my family members are non-Heathen, so I adjust my Yule celebrations toward the secular as well. The offerings and prayers are done when they are asleep (easy for me to do), and with those family members whom I visit at Christmastime, I focus more on seeing them and making them happy, not the religious side.  After all, Yule is a family holiday, whether celebrating the ancestors, like on Mother’s Night, or simply getting together with family and friends on Christmas. I’ve learned to take everything in stride on holidays because getting worked up about them is too much stress for me.

Let me know what you do for Yule in the comments and let me know if there are any traditions you do that are special.

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Elves and Other Races–Do We Remember The Others?

Elves and Other Races–Do We Remember The Others?

Historians used to look at folk tales and fairy tales as cute stories to tell children, but in light of current evidence, maybe they were true.  I’m talking about other races like the Elves and Wights whom we show our respect. Maybe there is a collective unconscious like Jung proposed.  Perhaps we’re remembering other races through the passage of time?  Stick with me on this, and maybe I can offer a scientific and rational explanation for our stories.

Elves, Wights, and Hidden People

If you’ve been a Heathen for any amount of time, you know that we honor both the Light Elves and Dark Elves. We tell stories about trolls under bridges and we respect the Wights, the spirits of the land (even if we have a hard time believing in them).  So much so that we honor these creatures and tell stories about them.  In Iceland, they even route roads around rocks and move construction projects around areas purported to be homes of the Huldu or Hidden People.

We think and talk about people of an elder race. But what elder races?  Because science confirms that there were “elder races” living during the time Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into other lands.  Could our myths and legends correspond to these hominids?

What Races Coexisted with Homo Sapiens?

The first question to ask is what other hominid races coexisted with Homo sapiens.  Although an older article, this New York Times article mentions that Homo erectus may have lived among Homo sapiens as late as 27,000 years ago.  We know that Neanderthals lived among humans up until about 40,000 years ago.  And then, there’s the mysterious Denisovans that we know very little about but know we have some of their genome as as well as Neanderthal. Then, there is Homo floresiensis, those “Hobbit” people, who lived in Indonesia up until about 50,000 years ago.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to primarily be talking about the Neanderthals, since we have the most information about them, but these arguments could work for any of the hominids that existed along with Homo sapiens.

Although Neanderthals were our cousins, DNA and archaeological evidence points to crossbreeding amongst the two species. Humans and Neanderthals common ancestors had separated about 400,000 years ago, which makes the interaction between the two species interesting. Unlike Homo sapiens, Neanderthals had been outside of Africa for nearly 200,000 before our ancestors stepped out. Their evolution continued in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.  Could these be the “other races” our collective unconscious seem to point to?

What Our Ancestors Must Have Thought of the Others

Our Homo sapiens ancestors no doubt had contact with Neanderthals and other races of hominids, but I wonder what our ancestors thought of them.  Neanderthals had bigger brains than our ancestors, had the ability to makes tools, and even had the ability to make art.  They probably had speech of some variety, but their voices were higher pitched than ours.  They buried their dead, or at least cared for the dead rather than leave them where they were or dump them in a garbage pit.

The Neanderthals were heavier set and tended to hunt close up against some pretty dangerous prey, like mammoths.  That meant that they suffered some pretty serious injuries.  Their heavier bodies, bigger chests, and large noses gave them the ability to live in colder climates.  They had adapted to their environment successfully, which probably put our Homo sapiens ancestors in awe.  Homo sapiens had evolved in hotter climates, making the colder climates our ancestors entered a real challenge in a lot of ways.

Did our ancestors emulate the Neanderthals?  Did we learn from them?  Were we at odds with them?  One can only guess what our ancestors thought, but given that there are very few artifacts, other than DNA of the contact, I suspect the contact was more or less peaceful.

What Happen to the Others?

What happened to the Neanderthals, if they were so well adapted to the colder places?  Why did a successful species go extinct after surviving some 350,000 years?  Scientists don’t have all the answers, but they do have clues into why our “elder cousins” may have disappeared.

First, Neanderthals were never in large numbers.  They lived in small familial groups and inbred quite a bit.  The didn’t have the genetic diversity of modern humans — even though we’re pretty much a group of inbred hominids, ourselves, nearly going extinct about three times.  They practiced cannibalism on more than one occasion.  While no doubt our ancestors did too at various times, the Neanderthals didn’t have a large group to choose from.

Lastly, as their numbers dwindled, they probably sought mates outside of their race.  We know modern humans bred with them and that people with ancestors from Europe and Asia have about 2 percent Neanderthal genetics.  This suggests our races did have interactions.  Apparently we could breed and produce viable offspring — at least, occasionally.  Neanderthals were already going extinct, probably from lack of numbers and genetic diversity.

Neanderthals didn’t go extinct all at once, either.  Pockets of them existed in various places until they simply died out or until they joined modern humans.

Are the Others the Basis for Elves, Wights, and Other Races?

Now comes my controversial conjectures. First, let me say that it is just the meanderings of some rather interesting thoughts — you can disagree with me all you want.  But, science has proof of Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denisovians, and other races that lived during the same time as modern humans, whereas we have no physical proof of Elves.  So, I’m simply connecting the dots between science and lore.  Our legends tell of races that existed before us.  Could the Elves, Dwarves, and other denizens be inspired by these older hominid races?  Could the Elders simply be Neanderthals, eventually dressed up over time so they are unrecognizable?  It’s a tantalizing thought.

In which case, our wights are ancestral spirits of former hominids.  That the Alfar and Disir are indeed ancestors of humans — just very much older. Were they magical?  Given I really don’t believe in the concept of magic, you can make your own inferences and not trust my beliefs, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Changelings

We know from fairy stories that Elves weren’t always benign.  We know that they may switch babies with their own progeny, hoping to fool humans. It’s believed that these changeling stories are in existence to explain birth defects and developmentally disabled children.  This makes a lot of sense on many levels, but I can’t help wonder if changelings may have occurred with other races.  What happened when a Neanderthal and modern human mated, in terms of progeny?  Were changelings a description of what could have occurred if Neanderthals tried to substitute their children for human children in the hopes of giving them a chance to survive?  I don’t know, but it is an interesting thought.

What Does The Rational Heathen Believe?

I really love the concept of Elves and Wights, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m largely agnostic about them.  I’m more inclined to accept that they are a collective memory of past interaction between hominid races rather than accept the lore at face value.  Still, whichever way you consider our stories, the ideas I’ve presented are intriguing.

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Another Flavor of Heathenry: When Perun Comes Calling

Another Flavor of Heathenry: When Perun Comes Calling

I think I have another god I need to consider.  Skadi, Tyr, Loki, Freyja, Freyr, Frau Holle, Odin, and yes, Thor, are all gods and goddesses have had my attention for some time.  But recently, there’s been a shift and I’m starting to learn more about Perun, the Slavic god of Thunder.  And oddly, he feels more familiar to me than Thor.

Who is Perun and Where was he Worshiped?

Perun is the Slavic god of thunder and lightning.  People who lived in Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and other places where the Slavic peoples settled worshiped Perun.  He is obviously a Northern god, who shares a lot of traits with Thor and Odin. He even shares traits with Tyr, being a sky god and a god of laws, thus making him an interesting god to me.

Unlike Thor, Perun is considered head of the Slavic pantheon.  He is a sky god and from what I can tell, he had been the main god for most of the Slavs and the Kievan Rus.

Is Perun Another Name for Thor?

On first blush, Perun is a lot like Thor.  He wields an axe or a hammer; a goat pulls his chariot.  His hammer or axe returns to him after he has thrown it.  He wields lightning and thunder.  His beard is copper and he is incredibly strong.  Like the Norse and Germanic gods, the Slavs look at the universe as a World Tree.  At the roots is a dragon or serpent which Perun will fight.

So, looking at Perun, I see a lot of Thor.  But Perun is also a wise god, like Odin.  So he has some differences. Perun’s ax is no surprise either, given the concept of thunderstones. People believed that Neolithic stone axes and flint arrowheads came from the sky and protect them from evil.  So much so that iron age burials often had stone age axes in them to protect the deceased.

Interesting Story About Perun and Veles

Perun’s enemy is a chaos and forest god (who is also the god of the underworld) named Veles.  Veles steals Perun’s cattle, children, or wife in an effort to provoke him. The story goes that Veles hides from Perun and when Perun sees Veles, he throws a thunderbolt.  Only Veles escapes.  Hence the reason lightning strikes seemingly harmless places.

Veles isn’t necessarily an evil god, but he is a chaotic god.  He often shape changes in the form of a bear or a wolf.  In many ways, he resembles Loki of the Norse pantheon. Perun defeats Veles, but since Veles is a god, he does not die (or is reborn) continues his trouble making for Perun.

Interestingly enough, Christians morphed story of the Perun and Veles battle into Michael the Archangel versus Satan to gain converts. They already had the story from the Bible, they just brought more elements of the Perun/Veles story over to make it more familiar.

Perun’s Existence in History

The earliest mention of Perun is in the 6th Century by the Byzantine historian Procopius in his work, De Bellum Gothicum.  We also know that in 998 CE (AD) the ruler, Vladimir the Great of Kiev converted to Christianity and had the entire population of Kiev baptized. Vladimir had the the very statue of Perun he commissioned earlier as a pagan torn down, dragged through the streets, and dumped in the river Dnieper. The statue was not allowed to return to shore until it went past the rapids.

Certainly there were Perun followers after this time, but it seems that with the conversion of Vladimir the Great, Perun’s days being worshiped widespread were numbered.

So, is Perun the Slavic Thor?

My take on Perun is that he and Thor have very much in common. Both are very mighty and strong gods.  Perun has similar symbology to Thor, but has elements of (the good side) of Odin.  Part of me thinks Perun is a form of Thor and Tyr combined.  In this case, it makes perfect sense why Thor and Tyr approached me.  Given that I have Slavic ancestry (as well as Norman, Germanic, and Rus), Perun may be another god I may call upon.

If Perun is Thor, then he is an accessible Thor to me. Seeing a Perun axe with Tyr’s rune clinched it for me.  I think I’m going to have to honor Perun as well as Thor, Tyr, and the Norse gods.

 

Celebrating Winternight

Celebrating Winternight

I ran into this post by the 21st Century Viking about Winternight, and I got a good feeling about it.  I could understand the writer’s general feelings about Samhain, seeing as I really don’t have much love for the holiday.  But what fired me up was her wording:

For the Ancient Vikings this was a time to celebrate, this was the beginning of winter. They had come home from raiding and trading, winter was starting, and they were going to start the Winter Hunting.

Winter Hunting?  Oh yes, count me in!

Winter Hunting after Winternight

Yes, I know Winternight is something from Stephen McNallen, and while I am not a big fan of AFA, I’m not against the holiday of Winternight, per se. It makes a certain amount of sense to me to mark the end of summer activities and go into autumn/winter activities. Like 21st Century Viking, I’ve never been fond of Samhain, so it stands to reason that something like Winternight appeals to me.  Perhaps what’s missing is Winter Hunting, which I could totally get behind, because I hunt as a semi-subsistence hunter.

I had been in a fairly foul mood recently because the clock is ticking for me to get my animals into the freezer and I lost two precious hunting days due to family obligations. I realize that it’s just fate, and no matter how well you plan for something, life inevitably intrudes.  It’s the chaos factors at play here.  What should’ve been six animals in my freezer are only three because of yours truly, problems with “buck fever,” (look it up) and bad luck. I can look in the mirror every day at whose fault it is–is that Loki behind me?– but one must treat each hunting day as a new day.  Last year, I brought home the majority of the meat, but this year looks sparse.

So, with Winternight, we’re entering the Winter Hunting cycle, and I hope I can make more successful so we’ll have enough food for the year.  Otherwise, I may have to get creative on buying meat.  The warm Indian Summer days evaporated on Halloween, and we’re now in the cold and wet phase of the season.

Hunting, NOT Shopping

For those of you who do not hunt, let me say that hunting isn’t shopping.  You go where you hope there are animals — and you hope you can get close enough to humanely shoot one.  I say humanely because neither I nor my husband want an animal to suffer.  We want a clean, fast kill.

Wild animals generally don’t stand still for you to shoot.  Once they figure you out, they beat feet to the next county–or next country, for that matter.  Having gotten within 300 yards (that’s three football fields) of a pronghorn antelope I was trying to shoot and having the entire herd bust us and run away at 60 miles per hour (second fastest land animal), let me say, it has been more than frustrating.

300 yards.  Sigh.  They looked microscopic in my scope.  They were out of my comfort range, so I didn’t take the shot.  The days I counted on hunting antelope seemed to evaporate quickly.  I just have a few more days and then the antelope season disappears for this year.

When Skadi Helps You Out

So, I’m running late to get to an appointment.  I’m cold, I’m tired, and I’m sore from chasing animals in the back country.  I literally get in the car and am about to turn the key when I look up.  About fifty yards away from the truck is a buck.  A legal buck.  In a safe place with good angles, if I shot him.  The only bad side of the entire thing is that, well, I’m in my truck.  Without my rifle, orange, or tags.  And I’m late, late, late to an appointment.  Oh, and if he leaves, he’s going down a 50 plus foot embankment, and assuming I hit him, I’m going to have a Hel of a time trying to get him out of there by myself until my husband comes home.

What would Skadi do?  (WWSD?)

What would Skadi do?  I could reschedule the appointment, but not the buck.  I got out of the truck and went back inside.  I knew damn well that deer would vanish by the time I got my rifle and orange, but I got them anyway.  I walked out of the house.  He was still there.  I walked down the drive to get a better shot and to ensure I wasn’t going to hit anything I didn’t intend on hitting.  He just stood there watching me.

I aimed and pressed the trigger. No buck fever.  No shaking.  Just me and the buck.  Nothing.  Shit.  I forgot to take the safety off.  Again, lined up on him.  Pressed the trigger.  Loud boom and the buck dropped right then and there.  No fuss, no muss.  I went over to him and was about to put another round into him, only, he stopped moving and died right where he had stood.  I thanked him and Skadi.  As I’ve said, wild animals don’t hang around once they figure you out.  The only thing I could think of was that the slack wind might have kept him from smelling me.  Either that or Skadi wanted me to have him.

Now the Work Begins

After tagging the critter, I went back inside and rescheduled my appointment.  Then, there was the little problem of getting such a big animal to my house.  I thought about gutting him right there, but I really didn’t want a bear so close to my house.  (Yeah, I live that close to the back country.)  So, I drove my truck to him.  Only, he was beyond heavy.  I’m guessing he was close to 200 lbs.  It took me two hours to get him into the house to gut and skin him.  By the time my husband got home, I was finally pulling off the backstraps. It took me three more hours to gut, skin, and quarter by myself because I’m used to doing this with someone else.

So, I have a quartered deer waiting for me to butcher. And blood everywhere.  And I do mean EVERYWHERE.  I had to wash my clothes, hoping the blood would come out.  Hel, I left bloody footprints all over the house.  Thank the gods I have tile and not carpet.

Skadi asked me for the liver, which I will oblige.  Beyond that, I at least have put bullet into animal and came away with more food right after Winternight.  And now I have four animals down, which means I still must get more if I’m to get enough meat for the year.

Winter hunting.  Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

Handwringing and Hecate

Handwringing and Hecate

Ah the joys of Samhain and the muddled mix of goddesses and pantheons that the Wiccans bring.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m a person who believes the Heathen gods and goddesses are the same as gods and goddesses with different names in other pantheons.  However, there are differences and I’m not into simply playing the mix-and-match game that many pagans do.

Is the Rational Heathen Against Following Other Gods?

Now here’s where my beliefs get tricky.  I get that sometimes we get a call from other gods and goddesses, and I am not one to tell you whether to follow them or not.  Chances are, if they’re helpful to you, you’re going to follow them.  And you may add them to the list of gods and goddesses you follow.  Our Northern ancestors were egalitarian in that way.  The god helped you out?  Well, follow him until he’s less than helpful.

No, what I object to is the blatant mishmash of religions and customs that integrate the gods willy nilly, without respect for each culture and pantheon.  That smush Zoroastrianism with Celtic beliefs and call it good.  Or that brings in Christian, Egyptian, and Norse gods and beliefs together in a type of melange that is quite unpalatable.

Look, I get that many religions are closely related. You want to borrow from them?  Fine.  But don’t tell me the Artemis/Hecate/Selene trio is Mani (who happens to be male).  Or that a ritual you mashed together from Greek and Roman practices for Hecate works for Freyja.  (It might; it might not.)  This is your UPG, and very few Heathens are likely to concur with your interpretation.  I am more open to Slavic and Germanic gods and goddesses crossing over than Middle Eastern deities combining with Nordic gods.

Why Halloween/Samhain?

Samhain was the Celtic/Gaelic new year which is a lot like our Yule (which, incidentally, the Wiccans also celebrate.)  Harvest was an important time for them, and Wiccans believe that the veil between the living and the dead thins during this time.  Yule, on the other hand, deals with the the darkest times of the year, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, which is more in turn with the concept of the “Veils.”

Incidentally, my mom died during Yule. I don’t necessarily feel her presence at that particular time, mainly because she manages to get inside my head a lot, but it is certainly a noteworthy occurrence.  The colder, darker days are deadlier toward animals, which suggests to me that we may have a closer handle on when the living and the dead have more contact.

I give you all my explanation for Halloween and Samhain in another post, so I’m not going to run through the entire litany here. Given that Halloween is a Christian celebration, it is something that simply doesn’t do much for me.  I’ll probably celebrate a harvest festival, using the days after hunting season to celebrate what I will call Hunting Harvest/Thanksgiving as a way to celebrate a good hunt.

Mixing Pantheons

I sort of look at Wiccans who follow the Northern gods as “Heathen Lite.”  They’re a type of Heathen, to be sure, but when you mix different systems, you can’t help but lose some of the authenticity.  If you’re a Wiccan, I mean no insult.  I like people who are Wiccans as much (and sometimes more) than some Heathens I know.  Even so, you’re in Wicca for the magic and witchcraft.  I get that.  We have our own (ahem) “magic,” but it isn’t necessarily the spell variety.  In fact, it’d be nice if Heathens did court the Wiccans to get some of their numbers in ours.  (I guess we won’t do that by calling them “Heathen Lite,” eh?)

If you’re a Wiccan and you’re interested in our gods, talk to a Universalist Heathen and you might just be surprised how much we do have in common, even if we’re not into mixing our gods that much.  You just might find our gods and goddesses are powerful and may help you more than others.

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Gods or Ancestors?

Gods or Ancestors?

Occasionally I get a comment from someone who’s convinced that the gods don’t talk to us mere mortals that often.  That most people who deal with the gods are actually dealing with the ancestors.  It’s an interesting part of Heathenry I think is worth addressing. Are Heathens receiving messages from gods or ancestors?

Actually, I think it’s both.

The Unknown Gods

Before I get into the supposition that the gods are with us, let me address the personal nature of the gods, themselves.  There are Heathens who believe that our gods really aren’t personal deities.  That the concept of a personal deity comes from Christianity and those concepts taint our modern day beliefs.  There is some truth to that.  The gods aren’t just the gods of humanity, but the gods of all things.  In fact, I suspect that there are gods we humans do not know.  We don’t know them not because our knowledge of them disappeared, but because we never knew them to begin with.  I suspect there are gods who do not deal with humans at all, who instead govern other things and animals other than ourselves.  They are never in contact with us, except maybe if we touch their realms.

Not the Gods I’m Talking About

These aforementioned gods that have very little to do with humanity are not the gods I am talking about. The gods I am talking about are the gods who have made themselves known to humans.  Who still make themselves known to humans. Odin, Thor, Freyja, Freyr, Tyr, Loki, Baldr, Skadi, Ullr, Heimdallr,…the list goes on.  We would not know them if we did not have contact with them. Sure, you could say that hearing thunder and calling it a god is the basis for Thor, but then, why bother to have positive connotations with a thunder god if he didn’t somehow look benevolently on humans?

So, we can assume that the gods we know have had interactions with humans.  Who still do have interactions with humans. When someone tells me that they’ve interacted with certain deities, I generally accept their word.  Not because I’m gullible, but because unless they give me a real reason to disbelieve them, who am I to say otherwise?  I’ve talked with gods and goddesses and I already knew some things that the people who had a UPG told me, so if something doesn’t sound right, I might have to ask further questions.

Is it a God?

I know that gods have taken other forms to get their message through to their recipients, so it would not surprise me if ancestors do the same thing.  Could an ancestor mimic a god?  Yes, I know of one case where it has happened, and not for the better. There are plenty of not so benevolent spirits out there looking to cause harm, but it’s pretty obvious when they do show up.

One way to tell if it is really a god is to consider the following:

  • Do they act like the gods/goddesses of our stories and of other people’s credible UPGs?  Yes, there have been interactions with gods/goddesses that all seem to have the same feeling.  Or are they different, and in what ways?
  • Does the deity ask you to do something harmful to yourself or others?  If they do, you may not be dealing with the entity you think you’re dealing with.  Chances are its malevolent and you need to get away from it.
  • Does the entity inform you who they are?  Some spirits do lie, but you have a better chance in deciding if you’re really dealing with the god just by research and talking to knowledgeable folks.
  • Does a Gothi/Gythia confirm your experience?
  • How does the god treat you?  Is it in line with what you know of the god?

My Own Experience with the Gods

The gods are an interesting bunch.  Some will just pop in to say hello or see what is going on, but most are reserved and only show up at times they deem is suitable. They seldom come when you call –remember, they’re not your bitches.  Even if you ask nicely, you can get complete crickets.  They may have more important things to pay attention to.  Like the entire universe.

Some landvaettir may also come into contact with you.  While you might not consider them gods, per se, they are tutelary spirits who have powers.  You may not find them as powerful as someone like Thor or Odin, but in many cases they may be able to help or harm you, depending on your relationship with them.  That being said, I am firmly agnostic when it comes to landvaettir.  I haven’t seen one, but I have had odd situations that maybe could suggest them.

The gods do occasionally mimic other gods in other pantheons.  Odin and Loki, in particular, will shape change to whatever god you believe in to give you information, if you believe in another deity and not them.  (Yes, I’ve had that happen.)  Tyr will do that too for those who he wants to be his followers.  (Again, that’s my experience and your mileage may vary.)  Depending on the person, they may do this in order to give you information you need and if you’re only open to Jesus or Yahweh, then that’s where they go.

 

Is it an Ancestor?

You could be contacted through an ancestor.  It’s not all that unusual.  If it is an ancestor who has benevolent intentions, you should definitely get a name or an understanding of who or what they are.  They shouldn’t be passing themselves off as a god. If they are, I wouldn’t want to deal with them simply because of the dishonesty.

Ancestors are pretty much what they were when they were alive.  If they were a son-of-a-bitch when they were alive, they’re still a son-of-a-bitch–maybe more so, because they’re cranky they’re dead.  Some ancestors you don’t want to deal with; others are just fine. Regardless, it should be pretty damn obvious if Uncle Milton makes a call.  He shouldn’t be saying he’s Loki or Odin or whomever–if he is, tell him to go the Hel away.

My Own Experience with Ancestors

I’ve spoken to my closest ancestors and have had feelings and intentions from them.  I’ve also had dreams with an ancestor in them, usually in the form of talking with them about certain things.  Not all dealings with those ancestors have been pleasant; I’ve annoyed them the same way I did back when they were alive. They were in shock when they went to Helheim instead of the Christian heaven or hell.  (Despite them being devout Catholics and not pagans.)  This along with other bits of knowledge has led me to conclude that the Christian beliefs aren’t real and our beliefs are more in line with reality.  Call it UPG or whatever, but I’m convinced that if there was a Jesus and if there is a Yahweh, it is a deceptive god.

Are ancestors more receptive than gods?  In most cases, yes, but you should be careful with them until you get to know who exactly is knocking on the door. Some ancestors you definitely don’t want.

So, the gods do talk to humans.  The landvaettir talk to humans.  The ancestors talk to humans.  They’re a rather chatty bunch — the lot of them.   It’s just up to you to listen.

 

Walking a Razor’s Edge: Folkish Beliefs

Walking a Razor’s Edge: Folkish Beliefs

A fan of mine and supposedly long time reader took umbrage on my statements about folkish beliefs in Heathenry.  Never mind that I’ve been stating what I have been stating as long as I’ve had this blog, which puts me in direct opposition of folkish beliefs.  Why?  Because scientifically, archaeologically, anthropologically, and historically, none of the folkish beliefs have any basis in fact. Unless you count the past 100 years as a reason to be folkish, i.e. Nazi beliefs, there is no record of exclusion from Heathenry.

Anyway, the fan deleted our conversation, left in a huff, and unliked my page (There!  That showed me!), giving me plenty to think about why folkish beliefs are a bad idea.  So, without further ado, let’s get talking about what folkism is, why it’s racist, and ultimately in league with white supremacists.

What Folkish Beliefs Are

Let’s talk about the root of folkish beliefs.  People who believe in folkish beliefs hold that Heathenry is only for those who are of Northern European descent.  That our gods can only be worshiped by those whose ancestors lived in the Northern European lands.  That our gods do not call to those who are not from those lands.

In other words, they do not believe in a multicultural religion.  They believe that people should worship the gods of their ancestors, whichever those are.

Now, let’s talk about the fallacy of their arguments.

First, Some Evolutionary Facts

Let’s look at the human race, that is Homo sapiens.  Our race came out of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, according to scientists, although latest findings suggest that our species came from there before that.  I don’t want to quibble over time frame.  The point is that we all came from a small group of humans.  Those who eventually made their way up north eventually became Norse.

It’s not like humans beamed in there. It took a fair amount of time, walking, and generations of living in one place for a while before pushing on.  We know that many of them were most likely black (even though there isn’t a specific gene for being black) due to the genetic material that we have found.  Our species is black in Africa to provide some protection against the sun’s rays.  As humans moved up north, our skin lightened to adjust to the lack of sunlight so that our bodies could make Vitamin D.

Genetics also shows that humans, as a species, nearly went extinct at least twice.  We’re inbred apes, pure and simple, because of bullshit patriarchy and polygamy as well as sticking with kindreds.  Yeah, I get that kindreds were needed back then to survive, but our genetic diversity as a species is sorely lacking because of it.

Racism as We Know it Today Was Nonexistent

Racism–that is, judging people on their physical appearance and skin color–was virtually nonexistent in Viking and Early Medieval times.  People were judged according to their belief system and their allegiances, not their skin color.  We know this because Marco Polo seldom mentioned skin color unless it added something to the story.  Race was considered as religion.  You were considered a different “race” if you were Heathen, Jewish, Christian, or some other religion.  That gave people the excuse for barbaric acts (like they seldom needed an excuse?).

Not All Vikings Were White

We know that there was at least one “black” Viking, and yes, there are people who have Mongolian genetics in Iceland from him. We know that our Viking ancestors explored, traded, raided, raped, and pillaged all the way south to Africa, east well into Asia, north to Greenland, and west to North America.  They found wives and husbands among indigenous folk and settled in those lands.

Some of our northern ancestors added the gods and religions to our pagan practices.  Some fully adopted the other religions.  We have Viking hoards with Buddha statues and other religious objects.

Heathen Religion in the Grand Scheme of Things

Now, given the facts I’ve presented (and if you have the doubts as to the veracity of my statements, I back them up in the links provided above), Heathens were pretty willing to take in others who swore allegiance to their leaders and their gods.  It made a kindred stronger.

Our northern ancestors practiced a religion that came from an offshoot of a Proto Indo-European religion.  That evolved from a much earlier Nostratic pantheon. The further back we go, the fewer religions we have.  The fact that there are so many similarities in the Indo-European religions suggests that the ideas and gods came from a central source going back tens of thousands of years.

So, Let’s Talk Folkish

So, how does folkishness fit here?  If you say it doesn’t, you get a star.  Our northern ancestors didn’t differentiate where you came from.  What they did care about was your religion and your loyalties.  What was your kindred and whether you were a friend or foe.  Given the overall dissemination of Nordic genes, we can assume that everyone had ancestors that lived in the overall Viking sphere of influence, including African tribes and Mongols.  Even if this weren’t so, if someone who joined up with the Vikings, raided with them, and worshiped their gods, you can bet they would’ve had status in a kindred.

Segregation or Apartheid, Anyone?

If you take a chapter from history, what the folkish people are doing is the “separate but equal” bullshit that we saw in the United States in the form of segregation.  Or the South African Apartheid.  They’re saying, “Our religion is for white Europeans, but you have your own traditions.  Go do those.”  They  shut out people just because of the random chance that they were born with different colored skin.

You are on the Razor’s Edge with this if You’re Folkish

Folkish people, you may not be Nazis, but you are so on a razor’s edge with this.  What you are doing is racism, pure and simple.  If a black person hears the call of Thor, shouldn’t he or she be allowed to practice Heathenry?  If the answer is “no, because of their ethnicity” then yes, I am calling you a bigot.  Why can’t a black person be a Heathen?  Don’t give me that’s not their religion — they should stick to African religions.  That is complete and utter bullshit.  Separate is NOT equal.  We know this from history.  People fought hard to end segregation, and you’re dragging Heathenry down with your bigoted beliefs.

Furthermore, separate but equal is bullshit because we’re all the same race.  We’re the same people with minor genetic variations.  We are Homo sapiens, people. Most of us have a small amount of Neanderthal and Denisovian genes in our DNA, making us not even pure Homo sapiens but a mutt of different races.  Hel, that makes Neanderthals more enlightened than you.

Okay, I’ve railed enough on this.  If you’re folkish, I hope I’ve enlightened you why you’re racist even if you think you’re not.  If you are looking at anyone’s ethnicity and determining whether someone can do something based on it or not, you are a fucking racist.  Period.