Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pagan Art in the Capitol Building or How Christians Get Their Panties in a Wad Over Non-Christian Symbolism [Premium Content]

I was reading a Christian blog on Patheos (yeah, I read what other religions think) and ran into this piece by the Progressive Christian.  I rolled my eyes and snickered over such ludicrous hand-wringing over The Apotheosis of Washington  because apparently some people take the image literally and not symbolically.

I vaguely remember seeing this when I visited the Capitol building many moons ago as a child/teenager, and I recall my own emotions over it, but I think I leave that to a little later while I discuss the piece.

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Draw of Family in the Heathen Context

My sister called me and told me that an unknown relative contacted her.  Apparently the grandson of my deceased uncle was doing research into my mom's side of the family and somehow tracked us down to find out what we knew.

Well, blood is apparently thicker than water.  And much to my chagrin, I am not adopted.  "Why?" you may ask.  Because the grandson, whom I'll call Thor for privacy sake, is just like me.

Poor kid. And he reproduced.

[Facepalm]

How it Happened

Thor received the call of the ancestors when his own kid started asking questions about his relatives.  Seems Thor really didn't have much to go on originally, having never been in touch with my mom's relatives.  I wasn't particularly interested in staying in contact with my mom's side since I had so little in common with them.  My relatives always dismissed me as a loner and a weird intellectual with nothing in common with them.   They were mainly into shopping and impressing people.  I couldn't give a damn about what people thought of me unless it got me beat up.  (Yeah, I had a few scuffles when I was a kid.)  So, when my sister told me that Thor was doing research and needed some info, I chatted with him over the Internet.

Shit. He did a similar career route as I did.  He likes the same stuff I do.  He even has the same sleep habits.  He is a smart ass too.  Thor confirmed some things my dad told me before he died (and I confirmed Thor's research).  I was able to tell him some stories, which probably thrilled him.

The Pull of the Ancestors

I'm always amazed when the Ancestors step into people's lives.  I figured mine wanted as much to do with me as I did with them.  Many were rather unsavory characters whom most people wouldn't be excited to boast about.  My medieval ancestors were Vikings and Normans (troublemakers) who went as high as dukes on one side and knights on the other.  Their descendants were sadly nowhere near as glamorous by the time the 19th century rolled around.  So, I pretty much decided that I had little to do with them. Even when Tyr called me into Heathenry, I was generic in my veneration of ancestors with the secret hope that maybe I got switched at birth.  No such luck.  Thor proves I'm out of the same fucking lines.

So, I'm feeling the pull of the ancestors as well.  I'll be going through all the old notes my parents passed onto me and see if it puts together the pieces for Thor. Maybe Thor will be able to tell his child where he came from and what kind of people were his relatives -- the good and the bad stories -- ugly warts and all. And maybe the kid will be interested in those of us who are still around.

Where Did I Come From?

It seems that we all have a need to understand where we come from, whether from royalty or paupers, criminals or heroes, sinners or saints. It helps us understand who we are and what influenced us genetically.  It used to be that we believed it was DNA and how we grew up determined our behavior and traits, but epigenetic inheritance has kind of thrown a monkey wrench into it.  We know that certain stresses on people can cause epigenetic marks on RNA. By learning about our ancestors' past, we can understand how their experiences might impact us. Of course, this is a relatively new field with new studies all the time.

So, if our ancestors' experience modified our genes, we're not only a product of their genes but also their experiences.  It helps us understand ourselves much better. While not all experiences are going to leave an impact on our genes, certain some do.  In which case, we're not just a product of millions of years of combining DNA but also millions of years of hominid experiences. It may explain weird things like phobias or body types.

We Are All Stories in the End

It's interesting, because even though many of my relatives are now dead, their stories seem to fascinate the younger relatives.  As The Doctor said, "We are all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one, eh?"  As humans, we need to tell stories and to understand where we came from. Part of the draw to our ancestors is by asking "where did I come from?" we're trying to answer the question:
"who am I?"

Long after my ashes are scattered, the younger generations will ask "who am I?" and "where did I come from?"  The only thing left on this planet will be stories, if they're left at all.  Hopefully, I'll be making it a good one.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

In Search of Magic [Premium Content]

As you know, I'm not a believer in magic, per se.  I've spent a lot of my time in the rational and scientific realm where seeing is believing.  In other words, you have to have a rational explanation for why something happens. The concept of "magic" was a ludicrous idea.
Which makes my paganism that much more out of place.  And yet, I've had incidents occur which suggest that maybe there's a deeper connection to things than just what we can measure. Read More for Just $1.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

18 Questions You Should Ask Yourself -- and the Rational Heathen Answers!

I stumbled across 18 Thought-Provoking Questions that Will Free Your Mind in 2018 and was amused by the questions so much I had to share it to my Facebook page.
This is what happens when Firefox and Pocket recommend articles for me to read.  Sadly, I am an Internet junkie--I was addicted to the Internet long before the concept of Internet addiction came into existence--and I had to read the blog with their 18 questions.  Unfortunately, I can't take the questions--or myself--seriously, so I thought I would give you my honest (and hopefully, amusing) answers.

You may be wondering how I expect to improve myself with my bad attitude.  I really don't.  If I wanted to improve myself, I would swear off computers for good and go live in a cave.  But I can't, and I don't.  Look, I'm now playing Age of Empires: Castle Siege, and trying to beat the shit out of other kingdoms.

Oh yeah...questions.  Here goes:

1. In one sentence, who are you?

Look, is this a trick question?  Now, I have The Who's lyrics running through my brain:

I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said you can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away


--Who Are You by The Who, written by Peter Townshend. 

Okay, I'm The Rational Heathen.  Enough said.

2. In one word, what do you live for?

10 million dollars.  Okay, that's three words.

I kind of like: Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.



Yeah, I kind of like that. And I know that's 15 words.

3. What is worth the pain?

Pain?  Are you serious?  Fuck that shit.

I guess it depends on your definition of pain.  If you're talking childbirth-pain, I opted out of that.  So, the next question of mine would be: what kind of pain are we talking about?  You mean muscle strains?  That's pretty minor.  Are you talking broken bones?  Been there. Dog bites?  Yeah, I've got holes in my arms.  Accidents?  Waking up in the hospital with tubes hanging out of you is no fun.  So, what is worth that?

My point is that there is pain and there are annoying inconveniences. Pain is something that warns you to not do something stupid.  Stuff that causes annoying inconveniences can be dealt with.  So, pain is relative.

I'm not saying to not strive for lofty goals.  Hels bells, I'm one of those who have done some pretty hair-raising shit and lived, but the reality is that if you're truly committed to a particular goal, the effort it takes will pale in comparison to the prize.  The problem is when you sacrifice yourself, your morals, and your family to achieve that goal. In other words, you shouldn't destroy yourself over an obsession.

4.  What will you never give up on?

Chocolate.  There, I've said it.

This question is like the previous question.  There are things you will stick to and things you will let go of.  Be aware that some things should be given up when they're a lost cause or an obsession.  You can't always will things to go your way.

That is a lesson I have learned the hard way.

5. What do you always try to avoid?

Filling out forms and doing bookkeeping.  I hate it.

6. What is something you take for granted every day?

Sleep.

7. What do you need most right now?

Ten million dollars.  Oh, and sleep.

8. What would you immediately do differently if you knew no one would judge you?

 Are we talking legal judging?  Or are we talking societal pressures here?  If it is legal judging, I know of several assholes who would get a serious smackdown.  And they deserve it.

As for societal pressures, hmmm.  I don't give a shit what people think about me.  It's pretty obvious.

9.  What's something nobody could ever steal from you?

Can't take the sky from me.

10.  Who would you like to forgive right now?

Oh, there's a Christian thing here.  You know, I have very little forgiveness left.  Those I've wanted to forgive, I've already forgiven.  Those I have not forgiven, I won't because I don't trust them to behave any differently.  At the same time, I don't stay awake thinking about what they've done.  They're gone from my life.

11.  Happiness is not __________?

Getting your teeth pulled out.  Unless you are in pain from a bunch of rotten teeth.  Then, you might be happy.  Or a masochist.

12. What impact do you want to leave on the people you love?

Sounds painful.  How about a good story?


13.Life is too  short to tolerate _________?

Assholes.  And bad olive oil.  In that order.

14.   What's something that used to scare you but no longer does?

Birds.

Seriously.  Back in high school, crows used to fly at me.  Guess I pissed off Odin sometime.  Now I've handled birds from quail to large raptors.

15. What do you want to remember forever?

How about just remember?  Probably where I left my keys.

16.  What do you always look forward to?

Hunting season.

17.  What recently reminded you how fast time flies?

Oh, thanks for reminding me of this.  My upcoming birthday.

18. What's something everyone should be able to say before they die?

Dinner was good.

Okay, so I'm not so deep.  Maybe you have better answers than I do.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Honoring the New Year

I started doing research about New Year's celebrations and ended up laughing at Christian pages that talk about how pagan celebrating the New Year is and how "good Christians" shouldn't celebrate it.  Whatever, bro.  Tell that to the millions--if not billions--of partiers who are happy to ring in the New Year. 

Holy Days of Obligation and the History Behind New Year's Day Celebrations

Technically, New Year's Day is a Christian celebration.  Granted, a co-opted Christian celebration, but one just the same.  The Roman Catholic Church couldn't get past the Roman tradition of celebrating Saturnalia and the the first day of the month honoring the god, Janus, so it co-opted the celebrations and made New Year's Day the celebration of Jesus's circumcision. Vatican II made it a holy day of obligation in 1969 to venerate the "Virgin" Mary.  Just so you would go to mass with a hell of a hangover and hear the priest rail against those who indulged the night before.

But to a large degree, those Christian web pages are right.  Celebrating New Year's Day is technically pagan.  The first celebrations of the New Year happened during Mesopotamian times some 4000 years ago on the vernal equinox (that being their new year.) The Romans celebrated New Year's on the Ides of March (remember Julius Caesar?) The Romans eventually switched their calendar over to January 1st since that was the day when they inaugurated new consuls and tended to keep track of years by consul terms.

A Holiday for the World

You look at just about any civilization that kept a calendar and you'll find some sort of New Year's celebration or observance. The Hindus recognize New Year during different times depending on the region. We Heathens recognize December 21st as our new year where the veil between the worlds are at their thinnest.  The Wiccans recognize Samhain as being their new year.  The Chinese and Vietnamese celebrate their own version of New Year's sometime between January 20th and February 20th, depending on when their year ends. That's a lot of non-Christians celebrating the beginning of a new year.

Why Celebrate the Ending of an Old Year and the Coming of a New One?

I think the reason why the new year is so appealing is to turn over a new leaf, as it were.  It's a time to reflect on the past year and hope for a better year ahead.  It's as if we collectively want to step back and take a breath from what we're doing to celebrate the possibilities that lie ahead.  We, as humans, need a time to say good-bye to the old and hello to the new.  Hence, we celebrate the coming of the new year.

Happy New Year, my friends and readers!  I hope 2018 is filled with wonder and magic for you.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Darker Side of Heathenry [Premium Content]

Image of Hel by Tara Ryzebol . Used under the    
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 
and the GNU Free Documentation License
I read an interesting post about the dark deities recently and it got me thinking about why the darker gods and goddesses have become more popular in recent years.  Rokkatru with its many members  is a viable part of Heathenry and Loki has grown in popularity, certainly in part due to the popularity of the Marvel character and the actor who plays him.  Even I am technically honoring a Jotunn when I honor Skadi.  And yeah, Loki does come by from time to time to annoy me, if nothing.

That being said, one pagan witch (yeah, I read Wiccan blogs, get over it) thinks that the popularity of the dark ones seem to coincide with the times we live in and something big and tranformative coming up.  I can't say anything of that magnitude, but I do have some thoughts and theories...

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Being Chosen by a God or Goddess

Happy Yule Folks!  I hope you're having a wonderful Yule season. 

I've talked about being bitch-slapped by the gods and being chosen.  Apparently there are a couple of posts that talk about toxic relationships with deities and how one shouldn't call it chosen, but called.

Semantics.

So, let's talk about what I think is happening, as one who got a rather loud and sudden cho...ahem, calling.

My Own Experience (tl;dr: If you know the story, skip to the next section)

I was a deist/agnostic going on atheist.  I am a skeptic, which made the following story a bit hard to deal with.  I had rune sets before I became Heathen (long story, that), have had dreams that have come true, and have an unnatural power with animals.  (My husband swears that 500 years ago I would've been burned at the stake.) 

So, one night several years ago I was casting runes (okay, yeah, it seems odd that an agnostic would do this) and after getting an answer, asked who was telling me this.  The first rune I pulled out was Tyr's: ᛏ.  Then, I pulled out three more.  They spelled: ᚦᛟᚱ. 

I was stunned.  I knew all about the Norse gods and goddesses from my study of the myths and legends, but have not one, but two talk to me?  Seriously?  That night I did some soul searching.  Was this a joke?  Did I read into something that didn't really happen?  I felt confused.  Then, I started hearing Tyr in my mediations and dreams. Boy, howdy, did that confuse me even more.  Eventually I turned to other Heathens who were able to help me sort it out. 

When You Don't Pick Up the Phone When a God Calls You

My experience with the gods wasn't something that I was particularly looking for. (Although someone might successfully argue why I was asking who was sending me messages, let alone playing with runes.) I now recognize that I received "callings" in the past, but I was too clueless to recognize them. And even if I had, at certain parts of my life when I was younger I was a serious Roman Catholic.

When a god or goddess really wants you, calling just might not be enough. Humans are notoriously dense sometimes and sometimes it takes one grabbing the person by the scruff of the neck, picking him or her up, and shouting "look at me!"  If you've had that experience, after you've changed your pants, you know the god or goddess has chosen you.  You've maybe received "calls," but apparently you've never made the connection.

Abusive, or Something Else?

Those of us who do have gods who have laid claim to them can probably attest to the suddenness of the encounter.  In some cases, the gods are bullies and should be avoided at all costs, but in many cases, that isn't the situation at all.  It's not that the god or goddess is abusive or bullying, it's just that they haven't gotten that person's attention, for whatever reason, aka cluelessness. So, being deities, they do things in big ways when the small ways don't work.

That being said, I never advocate entering a relationship with a god or goddess until you understand what they want from you and figure out how they're going to treat you.  I set ground rules with Tyr from the get-go and he was fine with them. I understand that it reduces my contact with him, but at the same time, it is a safe relationship.

Ground Rules for Dealing with Relationships with Deities (and
Anything Else)

  1. Never enter into a relationship with an abusive being (deity, human, or supernatural)
  2. If a deity tells you to do something against your morals, something that harms you or other people, or something that puts you or others in peril, don't do it and break off communication.
  3. If a deity tells you to do something against the law, don't do it and break off communication.
  4. If the deity hurts you physically, spiritually, or emotionally, get out of that relationship.
  5. If a deity bullies you, get out of the relationship. 
  6. Set ground rules immediately.  Don't get yourself lost in a relationship with a god/goddess. 
Obviously there might be exceptions, but these are good guidelines. For one thing, you might not be talking to a deity but may be dealing with a mental illness.  In this case, seek psychiatric help.  Even if the deity lays claim to you, you can refuse the claim and get out.  Sometimes seeking another, more benevolent deity who is willing to intercede on your behalf will protect you.

My point to all this is that just because a deity chooses you, it doesn't necessarily make it a toxic relationship. What I've found is that quite often being chosen is simply a way for the god or goddess to make themselves known.  You have to choose back, too. 

For years I didn't understand/trust Skadi.  I knew her as a dangerous goddess. But I didn't understand that for as dangerous as she is, she is also kind in her own way.  We have a bond that goes back decades (gods, I just admitted I'm old) but it took work to establish a -- dare I say it? -- friendship.  Tyr and I are closer because of my very nature, but Skadi is becoming a goddess I speak to more and more.

I hope this helps anyone chosen by a god or goddess.  Let me know about your own encounters.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

When the Muse is a Bitch, or How I'm Surviving the Holidays

People have been asking about my insights into the Heathen life on board the Facebook page, so I'd like to give you some ideas how I celebrate,  or don't celebrate.  Taking a breath here...

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Friday, December 15, 2017

When You Can't Get in the Yule Spirit

I have a confession to make: I am not in the Yule spirit.  Or the Christmas spirit.  Or any other fucking spirit.  I know the holidays are around the corner, but I can't really feel the part yet.  Hels bells, I don't even have the tree up.

When She's Not in the Mood

This time of year reminds me how lonely being the lone Heathen of the Apocalypse can be.  What's more, life has a way of shoving you back into reality.  If you're going through difficult times, you probably understand what I'm talking about. Life doesn't always hand you roses, so as the saying goes, when handed lemons, you make lemonade.

I think part of the reason has to do with the end of general season hunting.  Sure, we can still hunt for grouse and turkey, but both are being wily and frustrating.  Recently I lost my two goat kids to weird shit that happened two days apart.  And work has hit a slow down, and I need to figure out ways to fill in the ample gaps.  I'm concerned over the shit that I have to deal with every winter, which means I should expect this, but sometimes I just don't.

It's enough to piss off Spiderman.

It's Times Like These...

It's times like these where the gods and goddesses get an earful from me, but surprisingly, all I've been asking for is strength to put myself back on track. Okay, that's bullshit.  I don't lie well.  I do ask for help, but honestly, I know better than to expect handouts.  So, I look at what I can do to make things happen more positively this season.

Remember, Tyra, the gods aren't your bitches. <deep breath>

So, how do you handle the holidays when your life isn't making you jolly?

Center Yourself and Take Care of Yourself First

Thanks to Magickal Graphics
As a Heathen, it's important to understand that you are responsible for your life, despite all the curve balls the Wyrd throws at you. You cannot fix things if you're sick, exhausted, or emotionally spent. You'll spend your time digging a deeper hole rather than filling it.  Even if you don't want to be honest with everyone else (which you should be), you need to be honest to yourself.  You have to take care of yourself first.  I learned this lesson when Tyr -- and then, Loki -- showed up in my life.  Even now, I remind myself (often in Loki's nagging voice) to self-care. I remember to exercise, eat right, and yeah, try to get enough sleep.  And I try to meditate, even if only for minutes at a time.

Consider New Options

A huge failure I see with people is refusing to step out of their current situation.  I'm as guilty as the next party with that.  Sometimes we don't take the next step because it will shake up the status quo, which may not be comfortable, but is often more comfortable than dealing with change and the unknown.  Eons ago when I was younger, but not wiser, I went from job to job when I really hated the corporate culture or the people I worked for.   As one gets older, the change gets to be a hassle, but sometimes you've got to do it.  I would look at people who worked at a company for 10 to 15 years, even though they hated it.  Some actually died at their desks from heart attacks.  Don't be like them.

Remember: there are always options.  Understanding this will help you make your decisions.
Thanks to Magickal Graphics

Lastly, Force Yourself to Enjoy the Season

I insisted that my husband help me take out the Yule/Christmas tree now.  With much fussing and fuming, we got the tree and the ornaments out tonight.  Tomorrow, we'll be so fed up with the damn box, we'll put up the tree.  Which will make both of us feel better.

Yeah, it sounds weird, but by doing things that should make you happy, they make you happy.  Even now, as I write this, I feel better that I got that done.  I should probably bottle that cherry mead that has been waiting for me patiently...
--
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Aesir, Vanir, or Jotunn -- Looking at the Gods from a Clan Perspective [Premium Content]

My last premium post seemed to open up a can of worms -- at least for me.  As I was writing about
the Rokkatru, I realized that historians may have it all wrong when it comes to the gods.  The Aesir, Vanir, and Jotunn aren't different races.  They're different clans. Which means that how they treat each other has implications for how we should treat each other.

Let me explain...READ MORE for just $1...

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

If you're new to Heathenism, or even if you've been a Heathen for a while, you may or may not have seen the Julbock or Yule Goat as part of the Yule celebration. The Yule Goat or Julbock is a pagan Scandinavian tradition that predates Christianity that sneaked into Christmas celebrations in Scandinavia. It's an interesting tradition that we can easily incorporate into our Yule festivities.

What is the Julbock? 

You may be wondering what the Yule Goat is and what significance it has for Heathens. After all, a goat is a goat, right? Well, maybe.

The Julbock is associated with the last sheaf of grain harvested, which in the past was considered to have magical properties. Called the julbocken, it was associated with proto-Slavic beliefs with the god of the harvest and the fertile sun, Devac, represented by a white goat. It was common for someone to dress up as a goat and demand presents as offerings. In this way, Yule was part of the harvest festival that has been carried into the winter solstice, perhaps as a way to entice the sun to return by paying tribute.

Historians think the Yule Goat may be linked to Thor's goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr  in many respects.  Given that Thor provides rains and Sif, his consort, is the goddess of grain, you can kind of see the relationship and symbolism.

The current Julbock appears in Scandinavian tradition as straw tied with red ribbons in the shape of a goat. The Gävle Goat is Sweden is probably the best known Julbock since 1966.  Not surprisingly, it has been vandalized by arson at least 36 times and has been hit by cars, kicked to pieces, and stolen.  Apparently it is too big of a temptation to not offer it to the sun.   

Julbock Festivities 

In the past, the Julbock kept watch to ensure the Yule, and later Christmas, preparations were done correctly. It seems to be a benevolent Krampus in that respect.  In medieval times, the Julbock was associated with wassailing, playing pranks, and performing plays.  Youths in costumes would go house to house singing and performing plays for food and spirits.  These plays would often feature a Julbock in them.

In the 19th century, the Julbock was the bringer of presents before the whole Santa Claus thing took hold in Scandinavia.  An adult male relative of the house would dress up as a goat and hand out presents.  This eventually faded out as the Santa Claus tradition took hold in the latter half of the 19th century. Even so, there is at least one piece of art showing a rather pagan Santa Claus riding a goat. This artwork is entitled "Old Christmas" which gives us an interesting mix of the two traditions.

How to Add the Julbock in Your Heathen Celebrations

Julbock for sale at Amazon
Now that you know a bit about the Julbock, you may be wondering how to add it to your own Heathen celebrations.  Unless you're a farmer, chances are you don't have the last bundle of wheat from the harvest, so you may have to be satisfied with your own Julbock decoration or even these nice Julbock Yule tree ornaments.

But you don't have to stop there with relegating the Julbock as a Yuletide decoration. If you have a large party on Yule, you can add your own Yule play which includes the Julbock.  Celebrate Yule by wassailing.  When it comes time to handing out Yule presents, who says you wouldn't look marvelous in horns and a goat hide?  Many cool possibilities here.

So, those are my thoughts on the Julbock.  Maybe you have some ideas for celebrating Yule that I haven't mentioned.  Let me know how you incorporate the Julbock in your Yule.

--
Disclaimer: I've included some links to my affiliates in this post where I may receive a small percentage of compensation from your purchase. If you're planning on buying ornaments or your own Julbock and enjoy this blog, I would encourage you to use my affiliate links.  The money helps support this blog.  Thank you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rokkatru -- Or the Other Side of Asatru

I read a post over on Huginn's Heathen Hof and that made me think about Rokkatru, that is, the worship of the Jotunn and other denizens which are not part of the Aesir or the Vanir.  I've been thinking about it quite a bit, since once of my gods is the goddess Skadi, who has been included in the Rokkatru faith.  For this reason, I'd like to explore the Rokkatru side of Heathenry and whether it fits in with Heathenry....READ MORE of my PREMIUM CONTENT for Just $1.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Is Thanksgiving Dying?

I was reading a blog post on Patheos about society and merchants killing Thanksgiving.  I found it an interesting read and I had to sit and think about the idea a bit. The blogger, I think, got it right in some ways and wrong in others.  Since I am most likely older than the blogger (I painfully admit this), I can probably add my two cents as to what is happening to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

What Thanksgiving was in Relation to Christmas

Before I get some push back, let me state that even though I'm Heathen, I recognize that the "holiday season" is largely the Christmas season.  That's because the majority of people in the US are still Christian, and even those who aren't Christian still celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday.  So even though Christmas is just a hijacked Yule, I'm going to be a realist here and talk about what the majority of Americans celebrate.

Thanksgiving was born out of the traditional harvest festivals. It became an official American holiday in 1863 thanks to Abraham Lincoln.  Before that, it was mostly celebrated in New England, although presidents before Lincoln would often declare a day of Thanksgiving.  If you want the whole story, you can read my post on it.

Thanksgiving, due to its proximity to Christmas, was a natural start of the holiday season, once Christmas became popular, thanks to Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria. (Christmas, by the way, was not that popular of a holiday in the New World, thanks to our Puritan founders.)  Even in Europe, Christmas was unpopular by the 19th century, requiring Dickens to give it a facelift.  In Medieval times, it was a time of communal feasting and playing games.  Much of that stopped abruptly when the Black Death hit.

So, by the time World War II came along, Christmas had enjoyed enough popularity to have President Franklin D. Roosevelt tinker with the date of Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of the month so that merchants could plan their holiday sales.  Seriously.

Thanksgiving and the Christmas Buying Season

The blogger bemoaned the fact that Thanksgiving is being run over by black Friday sales that start on Thursday in the hopes to lure more shoppers to buy.  And in truth, the holiday season is often a make or break time for many merchants. But should it mean that the stores should be open for you to buy stuff when people should be staying home with their families?

As old as I am (old as dirt, I reckon), I seem to recall that the Christmas buying season started around Thanksgiving, but I don't remember Black Fridays until at least the 70s, but the term was coined in the 50s because cops had to pull 12 hour shifts to deal with the shoppers.  Since I didn't live in Philadelphia, that's probably why I don't remember it much when I was a kid.  This Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving is a headache and one either people will embrace or decide to skip.  It depends on how popular it will be for the trend to survive, but I'm counting on people to use their smartphones and buy online on Thanksgiving.

What I'm More Concerned With

As depressing as Christmas shopping taking over Thanksgiving is, I'm more concerned with the lack of association of the Thanksgiving and Harvest festivals.  Sure, kids learn to draw turkeys and pumpkins and corn, but in most cases kids don't see turkeys other than in books and in videos and have never stepped foot in a field where corn and pumpkins are grown.  They and probably their parents look at the world through their extremely urban or suburban living.  Sure, they might get a chance to visit a farm on a school trip, but that really is about the extent.  So when they have their highly processed bird at Thanksgiving, they haven't really had a connection to the harvest.  Instead, it's an excuse to eat and then sit on the couch and play video games or watch football. And yes. we look at Thanksgiving as the beginning of the Christmas buying season.  Yay.

There's a town I enter when I hunt in a certain area which has an honest-to-gods harvest festival annually.  That's because it's a farm town.  When I saw the signs, I was delighted and intrigued.  If it wasn't hunting season, I'd be there just to watch what went on.  Unfortunately Skadi has not gifted me an elk this season thus far, so I'm busy looking for those.

Understanding harvest, which is where Thanksgiving comes from, is important.  Knowing where our food is from.  Actually growing crops and tending livestock. Thanking Freyr for the abundance. Saving the last sheaf of wheat for the wights and gods.  Remembering ancestors.  That's what I believe is endangered.

Thanksgiving will undoubtedly morph into something more commercial, if Madison Avenue has its way.  But hopefully as Heathenism grows, perhaps more people will pay attention to its roots and recognize the importance of Harvest.

It's Meme Monday Madness!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thor is Mighty Powerful [FREE CONTENT]

Lightning has always been a powerful natural phenomenon, but just how powerful, we just didn't know until now.  Teruaki Enoto, a physicist at Kyoto University in Japan, has proven that lightning is a natural particle accelerator, producing x-rays, gamma rays, radioactive particles, and...wait for it...
antimatter!  

Oh, how cool is that?  Check out my link in my free Patreon post to learn more about it.  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Enjoy a FREE Thanksgiving Wallpaper from The Rational Heathen

Just for my fans, enjoy a free copy of this Thanksgiving wallpaper.  Enjoy it while shopping on CyberMonday for your holiday bargains.  Get it FREE HERE on my Patreon page.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Language is closest to Old Norse? [VIDEO]

Do you know what language is closest to Old Norse? As one might say, "it's complicated." Check out this awesome video by Dr. Jackson Crawford.







Thursday, November 16, 2017

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Christian Relatives

It's that time of year again.  It's the time when we have to see our families, many of whom are of a Christian faith, and celebrate the holidays together.  If your family get togethers are something you dread, I have some recommendations for keeping true to being a Heathen while celebrating Thanksgiving.

Consider Your Support System

Oddly enough, how you handle Thanksgiving depends a lot on your family's religious views.  If you're the only Heathen and 20 relatives are Christian, you're going to have a harder time than someone whose family is mostly Heathen, or their family is a mix of Christians, agnostics, Jews, Wiccans, and atheists.  You're more likely to have more acceptance and more support with the latter two, since your family is at least used to the concepts of having relatives of different faiths.  This of course doesn't account for those warring families who do not get along.  If you have one of those, I'd sincerely suggest you skip the holidays and celebrate it with like-minded friends or go out to eat.  Honestly, you don't need that kind of stress in your life.

If You're Having Thanksgiving at Your House

Having Thanksgiving at your house can be simple enough when it comes to celebrating it.  Consider it a harvest festival and look on it as a way to celebrate the end of hunting season, the end of harvest, and the beginning of the Yule month. Look at the images we use for Thanksgiving: turkey, cornucopia, pumpkins, gourds, fall leaves, and colorful Indian corn. Yes, we also use pilgrims and Native Americans as images as well, but if you want to avoid the Christian connotations, you can emphasize the friendship aspect.  If it hadn't been for the Native Americans, it's unlikely the pilgrims would have survived.

Because you're inviting your relatives to your home, you have quite a bit of power when it comes to ground rules and behaviors.  Which means if they want to enjoy Thanksgiving with you, you can insist that there is no talk about religion and no arguments.  (And stick to this rule.  Yes, you may have to tell them to leave if they misbehave).

Here are some ideas for compromise:
  • Decorate your home with harvest images and nonreligious Thanksgiving images.
  • Make traditional recipes, plus recipes from Viking era feasts.
  • Serve mead.  
  • When it comes time to say a prayer, ask that each of your guests silently pray.
  • End the prayer session by saying, "We give thanks for this food and for each other. Let us remember those who are no longer with us, and let us be thankful for the time we had with them.  I propose a toast to <name deceased family members and friends>"  (Yes, I know that many of us still consider our ancestors with us, but for the sake of euphemism, let's leave it at "no longer with us." 
  • Focus on the positives with your Christian relatives.  Compliment new clothes, a tasty dish they brought, or a new style.  It's hard to be negative toward someone who is complimenting you.
  • If someone brings us your Heathenry in a negative way, tell them gently that this is not the time to discuss it, and that you'll be happy to talk to them about it later. If they insist, then remind them of the ground rules.  If they persist, you may have to tell them to leave if they are rude.

Thanksgiving at a Relative's House 

Unless you have some open-minded Christian relatives, or relatives that are basically agnostic but identify as Christian, you could be walking into some pretty dangerous territory if you're the only Heathen in a majority of Christians -- and they know it.  They also have a lot of power because you've come into their home.  It's different than them coming to your home, because you are being hospitable to them and they are there by your graces.  As above,
  • Focus on the positives with your Christian relatives.  Compliment new clothes, a tasty dish they brought, or a new style.  It's hard to be negative toward someone who is complimenting you.
  • If someone brings us your Heathenry in a negative way, tell them gently that this is not the time to discuss it, and that you'll be happy to talk to them about it later.
If they don't know you're Heathen, keep a low profile and just go with the flow. You don't have to say their prayers or talk religion, just keep the conversation at Thanksgiving and get profoundly interested on what is going on in their lives.  You'll find that people -- even your relatives -- like to talk about themselves, so ask some questions, sit back, and listen.

If your relatives know you're Heathen and are open minded -- awesome.   You might even have an interesting discussion about faiths.  But again, you're there for each other company and not a debating match.  Often if some other relatives who follow other faiths are there, it can be a very positive experience.

Observe Your Own Heathen Rituals

Before the guests arrive, or before you leave to attend a Thanksgiving dinner, take time to thank the gods, ancestors, and wights for their aid and support.  Offer them a prayer you wrote and meditate on how fortunate you've been over the year.  Even if you've had a difficult year, the fact that you're alive and breathing may be enough to say thanks.  Let the gods help clear your thoughts and help you do what is right.  When the dinner has ended and you're home and the guests (if any) are gone, offer a blot to the gods as a thanks.  Mead or wine works well.

A Few Words About Dogmatic or Fundamentalist Families

If you have staunchly Christian family, or a family that is dogmatic when it comes to their faith, and you don't have something more important to do (like make ice), you can go to Thanksgiving dinner with them, but I don't recommend it.  You can expect some sort of abuse if they're the types who have taken exception to your choice in religion. No matter how hard you try to explain your side, they will not be enlightened enough to believe anything other than you are going to the Christian hell (or insert your relative's religion's version of fire and brimstone here). Unless there are ground rules in place, i.e., no talk of religion and no attempts at "intervention" or conversion, you will have a miserable time and feel like a prisoner trapped with a bunch of raving manics.

Okay, maybe that's a little strong.  But you get my point.  I grew up in such a family where if you didn't tow the line (whatever line that was), they used holidays to gang up on you and hammer away.  I wasn't the only one brow beaten, either.  Oddly enough, it was not over religion, although my family has since been worried for "my eternal soul."  Hels bells, kids, you can have a peaceful dinner at a restaurant for a lot less than the psychiatric counseling you'll probably need after undergoing one of those holidays.  To this day, the memory of Easter where my family was mad at me for something (fuck if I can remember) and took it out on me and my husband, and then after we beat feet, took it out on my mother-in-law.  I stopped going to Easter dinners because of that (sorry, mom, I've got to wash my hair).

I know I've probably given you no hope when it comes to families, religion, and being a Heathen. But I want to point out that having really negative experiences over holidays make the holidays even more stressful than they should be. Maybe you've had better luck with your family than I have, but if you do have a family that is insistent on you converting to their religion, it's an uphill battle to get them to accept you.

My Thanksgiving will be mostly not stressful because other than my husband, my relatives think I'm agnostic or atheist.  Which is fine by me. The gods know where I stand, and that's fine by me.

You can have a fairly stress-free holiday, and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Book Review: Stalking God

The Rational Heathen doing book reviews?  Why, yes!  I've decided to expand my blog to include book reviews because it seems like a good idea [Read: I'm out of fucking ideas, and I read a cool book] and you might find it worthwhile.  So, let me know what you think and whether I should do more book reviews. [OMFG -- Did I just ask people to request that I read their books?]

Anyway, the book today is Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In by Anjali Kumar.  I got an advanced review copy.  The book, itself, won't be released until January 2018, which means you should probably preorder it and make it a bestseller since it's been a long time since I had a bestseller. (While I'm not the author or publisher, it's nice to see when an author I like succeeds. Someone needs to make money somewhere, dammit.)  I don't know the author directly, but I will tell you upfront that if you like my review and the book sounds interesting, use the links I provide and The Rational Heathen won't have to live on ramen noodles for a day.  (Okay, I'm being somewhat generous as to what Amazon would pay me, but if you're going to buy the book anyway, you can throw a small amount of money my direction and support this blog.)  So, let's talk about the book.

What Stalking God is About

Stalking God is actually one woman's attempt to find god or gods in today's society. Anjali gave birth to a daughter and found that her whole outlook on religion changed.  She was raised as a Jain Hindi, which tells them each of them can be gods if they become enlightened.  That being said, she had become one of the "nones," that is, one of the unaffiliated.  When Anjali's daughter, Zia, came into the world, Anjali begins to worry about what to tell her daughter once her daughter asks about god, life's purpose, and the afterlife.  As a lawyer who worked for Google, she knew those answers couldn't be found via a search engine. So, she took a rather weird and esoteric path to find god.

Anjali's Journey

The first thing I thought when I picked up the book is that she'd go to the Christian churches and other orthodox religions to figure it out.  Nope.  Not for her.  She visits self-proclaimed prophets and holy men, sweats in a SoulCycle class and a Mexican sweat lodge, attends Burning Man, talks to a "dirty" medium, attends a Wiccan get together, and signs up for mindful meditation.  Her odd choices brings a piece of the puzzle together, a bit at a time.

Amusing Story; Nice Style 

Anjali considers herself a skeptic.  In this way, she and I have something in common. But I would probably say she is a bit more open-minded than I am when it comes to faith healers and self-proclaimed prophets. Despite being open-minded, even she was skeptical about certain practices. She was notably skeptical about John of God's "surgery" on surrogate patents, people who offered enlightenment for a high price and then charged for souvenirs, and other weird practices. As a side note, the Wiccans were probably the most conventional of the groups she visited.

Overall, I found her style easy to read and her journey fascinating, even if the ending was rather predictable for me.  Even so, her experiences brought some interesting insights into religion and spirituality.

But It's Not About Heathenry!

You may be saying that it's not an interesting book because it isn't about Heathenry.  There you are wrong.  It's about the struggle many of us face to find something that makes sense about this world. And whether you agree or disagree with her assessment of god, the gods, or religion, you'll still find the story entertaining enough to keep you reading until the end.  Check it out.

Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In
Anjali Kumar
Seal Press
ISBN: 978-1-58005-661-8
Hardcover $26.00 USD



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Some Final Thoughts About Halloween


Now that the Halloween silliness has come and gone, I had done some serious research about Halloween as a holiday.  Yes, it is a Christian holiday that got piggybacked on Samhain and Alfarblot, but there are some interesting developments I didn't mention in previous posts.  So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to continue talking about it for a bit.

READ MORE for just $1

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ragnarok: What the Old Norse Sources Say [Video]

A cool video by Dr. Jackson Crawford about Ragnarok and what the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda say about it. Check it out.

 


Monday, October 30, 2017

What Draws You to Heathenism?

A Facebook friend and a well-known Heathen has announced that he may convert to Catholicism, or is at least considering it.  While I can't speak for his motivations, as a former Catholic, I can understand the appeal that the Church has for people, especially Heathens. At the same time, I can understand why Heathenry and paganism woo away Catholic followers.  At some point, every Heathen must ask themselves if they're in the right religion and whether they fit in. Although I have my reservations about Catholicism, I wish him well and I hope he finds what he seeks.

Anyway, that got me to thinking about those who are thinking of becoming Heathens.  There are plenty of reasons for becoming a Heathen, but there are also many reasons for not choosing this religion as well.  It's not for everyone, nor does it try to be.  Unlike Catholicism and other Judaeo-Christian religions, it does not purport itself to be the only religion whereby one can attain "salvation" and the others are going to eternal damnation.

Ask Yourself What Draws You to Heathenism

I wonder sometimes what draws people to Heathenism. Heathenism isn't for the Marvel fanboys or fangirls who fallen in love with the Thor movies or comics (or the actors therein) and expect the gods to behave like that. (Although there are Marvel fans among Heathens.) It isn't for the white supremacists, though we seem to have our share of them. It isn't for the people who are looking for a god or goddess who will come to their rescue the first sign of trouble.  It isn't for the person who wants to create spells and potions regularly. While we do have our share of "magic" -- and I have a tough time labeling it as such -- we're not the put together a love potion or money incantation type of religion.  It isn't for the people who are looking for the all-knowing, all-powerful god of the Judaeo-Christian religions. It's not a place to insist on whites only, or Northern ethnicities only, or require that what and where you were born makes a difference as to what religion you should follow. It is not a place for Nazis.

At the same time, it's not for the people who want an excuse to drink and party. (Although drinking and partying is certainly an aspect of our religion.)  It's not SCA or a reason simply to reenact reconstructed rituals without belief, although there are plenty of recons and other Heathens who believe and don't believe.

Lastly, It's not a place to bully other people who have differing viewpoints. I add this sincerely because even if you disagree with my above statements, that is your right to disagree.  I'll caveat my statements to exclude the white supremacist and Nazi bullshit. Since white supremacists and Nazis are inherently bullies, we have no room for them.

So, Who is Heathenism For?

I've talked a lot about who isn't suited for Heathenism, but perhaps I should talk more about who is suited for Heathenism. It's surprising flexible, allowing for many different folks with different ideas.

Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors, and Wights

Heathenism is for those who hold reverence for the ancient gods and goddesses of the northern religions. Heathenism is for those who wish to revere their ancestors. Heathenism is for those who believe in wights, elves, and trolls.  It is for those who hope to gain understanding of the past by learning all they can about those who were Heathen before us.

Heathens can be agnostic or even atheistic when it comes to supernatural entities, may believe in them fully, or maybe choose somewhere in between. They may look upon the gods as actual beings or as metaphors. Heathens may have a personal relationship with the gods or a god, or may never have had a single contact. Heathenry is often flexible because there is no Asa-pope to make pronouncements. Although we have the seidr and runecasting, so-called "magic" is extremely limited. A more magical form of paganism is Wicca.

Taking Responsibility

Heathens aren't looking for the gods to solve all their problems.  Rather, they look to the gods for moral strength and aid.  When the gods help them out, they are grateful.  They will offer gifts in exchange for help. Unlike the Christian god, the Heathen gods expect you to handle your own problems without running to them all the time. While there are no Ten Commandments of  Heathenism, we do have the Nine Noble Virtues, the Havamal, and rules against oathbreaking.  We expect other Heathens to act honorably.

For the Community and Individuals

Heathenism is for individuals and community.  In the past, community was important because without it, an individual could not exist.  Today with all our technology and the scarceness of Heathens, most Heathens are solitary practitioners. Despite this, there are some Heathens, most notably recons, who insist that you cannot be a solitary practitioner.  I would argue that  I and the majority of Heathens out there have proved otherwise.  Most of us still rely on society and others -- few of us are capable of living without any outside help -- but the lack of Heathens, or those we wish to associate with, are few in number. That's why like many things, Heathenry has changed. It must change, because we have changed.  Just as we don't condone human sacrifice (except those few loony-tune, fringe idiots who do condone it), we don't have to be a group-or-nothing religion.

Heathenry Celebrates the Seasons and the Past

Heathenry is close to nature and celebrates times such as spring, planting, harvest, and the equinoxes.
We celebrate our ancestors who have gone before us, and the land spirits who guard our lands. We have many holidays and days of remembrance for those who have gone before us and for those gods and wights who are helping us.

No Racism

Heathens know that the gods and goddesses consider humans as one species and do not look at "race" as a means of determining who is worthy. There have been Heathens of other ethnicities who have joined Northerners as Vikings.  We have historical records and even genetics to prove that. 

I hope I've given you a picture of who Heathenry is for.  It is for anyone who is looking for a religion that embraces these principles.  If this sounds like a religion you would follow, certainly, Heathenry is for you.