An Insult to Tyr: the Attempted Coup

An Insult to Tyr: the Attempted Coup

Like many of you,  I watched in horror as the Trumpets broke into the Capitol building,  violating laws, and making an attempted coup to keep the Don as dictator.  I saw white supremacists, people wearing anti-Semitic messages including an Auschwitz t-shirt,  and a guy sporting Heathen tats who got a lot of press. I was so angry and frustrated I could do nothing to stop these morons from desecrating the very symbol of the US democracy.

Where I Stand, So You Know

I’ve been accused of being liberal and conservative. The truth is, I’m closer to being Centrist. That means, I have both liberal and conservative tendencies. I hated both candidates, to make it known. In fact, I voted for neither. There are reasons why I didn’t like Biden, and why I didn’t like Trump. In fact, I find them both too extreme for my taste. So, understand what I’m about to say comes primarily from the viewpoint of why I believe the march on the Capitol building was no less then an act of sedition.

Why this was an Insult to Tyr

The Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, considered itself the champion of the rule of law. Now, you can argue about that all you want, but the march clearly showed otherwise. Tyr, as you know, is the god of law. That means he is the champion of the rule of law. No question.

This was a total insult to the god of laws. Tyr would have found those bearing the Valknut, Yggdrasil, and Mjolnir on their skin at the rally to be an insult. These people were nothing more than armed insurrectionists, looking to overthrow the legal results of an election using fear and intimidation.

Anything but Lawful

What happened during that march and subsequent riot was anything but lawful. Lots of Trump’s followers seem to have drank the Kool-Aid when it comes to the explanation the far-right is giving. That it was a peaceful march. That the problem occurred with law enforcement and the Capitol Police.

The reality is that what happened wasn’t legal. It was a fucking attempted coup. According to credible news reports, the rioters were looking for Vice President Pence and members of Congress to lynch. They had a working gallows in front of the Capitol, for fuck’s sake. Five people died and many more injured. All whipped up by none other than Donald Trump. None of this would have happened if Trump had not encouraged these people to march on the capitol. Seriously, did anyone really think that this would go well?

These people damaged the Capitol building. They desecrated what should be considered a sacred area for democracy. They also have harmed the United States, possibly irreparably, in the world opinion. We went from being a world leader to a Banana Republic in the matter of one day. And yeah, Trump is to blame for this.

Why We as Heathens Need to Speak Up Now

Whether you voted for Trump, Biden, or Obi-Wan Kenobi (He’s our only hope), the election process was not rigged. Each state has their own people handling the voting process, and many, many people work hard on the Republican, Democrat, and other parties’ sides to ensure a safe and secure election. Every time I voted in the past, I saw volunteers who worked hard in the past to ensure my vote was counted.

The same thing happens all over the United States. It’s part of representative democracy in action. Trump’s allegations of voter fraud were unfounded by people in his own party. These are people who he put into place who swore a duty to uphold the Constitution. Not pander to Trump or only uphold the Constitution when it was in Trump’s favor.

Not once did Trump or his legal counsel offer proof that there was widespread voter fraud. Instead, we heard allegations, lies, and half-truths. Only after his own aids begged him to make a statement to try to calm the crowd hours after the attempted coup started did he offer a lukewarm statement—neither condemning the actions nor stating he was wrong.

It’s Too Late to Hope this All Goes Away

Hope is not a plan. Whether you like it or not, we Heathens just got a black eye for tolerating this Nazi and white supremacist bullshit shit far too long. Don’t think so? Check out the Rolling Stone article. Quibble all you want about “how they got this wrong,” or “they got that wrong,” the truth doesn’t matter a flying fuck in the face of popular perceptions. (Yeah, a follower of Tyr just said that—deal with it.)

What now matters is that those of us who aren’t white supremacists and Nazis need clean house. That means ZERO TOLERANCE for morons who speak like white people are superior to everyone else and who supported this attempted coup.  Kick them out of your hof; end their membership in your organization. As a follower of Tyr, I found the whole attempted coup insulting, especially when paired with the images of the Valnut, Yggdrasil, and Mjolnir. These people failed to follow the rule of law. This is not what Heathenry stands for. And we as Heathens should decry their behavior.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. I’m Human. I’ll sling mud at other religious beliefs with the best of them, but by the gods, I look at everyone of different ethnicities as human, no matter what their skin color is. And I don’t believe that anyone who believes differently should be physically harmed for their ideals, provided that they’re not harming others. Their (and my) rights to swing their fists ends where someone’s body begins. Murder is not an option.

I’m sorry this is a late post, but I really had to think about what I was going to say in response to this failed coup. If you’re a Heathen, Norse pagan, or whatever, now is the time to stand up for democracy and freedom, not totalitarianism and anarchy. Add your voice to those of us who already believe in equality under the law, in the rule of law, and in keeping the peace along with our elected representatives. Don’t stay quiet, or the assholes have won. Let the world know what Heathenry really is about. It’s about laws, justice, and speaking up when we see a wrong. Violence is not what we are.

Happy Yule and a Post Roundup!

Happy Yule and a Post Roundup!

Happy Yule! Once again, I find it’s Yule and I still haven’t done everything that needs to be done. This is probably going to become a tradition on Yule to offer a post roundup of all the articles I’ve written over the years about Yule (at least the ones that are interesting).

Check them out and enjoy Yule!

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

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

8 Ways to Celebrate Yule for the Solitary Heathen

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

What You Need to Know about Yule

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

When You Can’t Get in the Yule Spirit

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

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

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

Should a Heathen Teach Their Kids about Santa Claus?

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

Yule as a Non-Event

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

Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

I know many Heathens want to celebrate Yule, but don’t necessarily have an idea how to do it. This is a great book, if you’re looking for ideas.

Enjoy! And have a Happy Yule!

The Rational Heathen

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

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Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

Book Review: A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule
Author: Jenn Campus
Available on Amazon and https://dreamsofydalir.com/
Price: $3.99 or Free for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers
Format: Amazon Kindle (eBook)

For Yule, I decided to do a book review on celebrating Yule (seems appropriate). I’ve chosen A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule. I’ve recommended this book in the past, but maybe, you haven’t seen this little gem. This Yule, since you probably are spending it alone or with immediate family, due to the pandemic, it’s helpful to have a guide in celebrating it.

Not for Recons

Now, this book is pagan and not necessarily Heathen, but even Heathens can get good ideas from it. It’s not a primer on Heathen celebrations and you won’t necessarily find something that will be 100 percent Heathen. That being said, if you’re a reconstructionist, avoid this book, because these are not the droids you’re looking for. For the rest of us Heathens, who are simply looking for good ideas to incorporate into our Yule celebrations, this is beyond helpful. It may give you even more ideas on how to celebrate the season.

What I Liked About A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule

First, I’ll say that I like how this book is organized. She takes you through preparation and each day of Yule, and what she does to celebrate it. For those still starting out as a Heathen, this offers nice suggestions for each day and how to give offerings to the gods who preside over Yule. Some of the rituals are obviously the author’s design, but I look at them and think how wonderful it is that another Heathen has designed her own rituals according to her family. Other rituals, such as the Yule log and leaving oatmeal with butter out for the Tomte have their roots in Heathen tradition.  She includes her prayers to different gods and goddesses as well as cool things like recipes for a Yule log cake, glog, and crispy roast pork with cherry sauce. It all sounds delicious.

What I Didn’t Like About This Book

It’s really hard for me to come up with something wrong about this book. Yes, it’s more pagan than reconstructionist Heathen, but I’m okay with that. If I could make a complaint to the author, it would be that a paperback version isn’t available, possibly because it is a short book at 66 print pages. Lots of people can complain that it’s not in other eBook formats or with other vendors. But given that the Amazon app is available for most platforms such as Android and iOS, not to mention Windows, you don’t need to buy a Kindle Reader or Fire device to read and enjoy it.

So, if you’re looking for modern ideas with Heathen influences for how to celebrate the 12 days of Yule, pick up a copy of A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule HERE.

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

This post was made possible by Sarra Keene and all my patrons at Patreon. Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

 

Five things you can do for winter preparations

Five things you can do for winter preparations

Every year in November and December, I go through typical winter preparations. This year has been no different. While I realize that my preparations for winter it’s probably vastly different from yours, given the fact that I live in a rural area, there are still some things you can do right now to prepare for the oncoming season.

1. Prepare your winter food

At this point, I tried to get as much food stocked up for the winter. Most of this entails drying fruits and vegetables that I get either from the Farmers Market or from the local food bank. Quite often in my area, they give you far more produce then you could possibly eat, so it behooves oneself to take advantage of the extra food. I have a dehydrator that I run a lot during this time.

A lot of people can and freeze — and I do this too — but I’ve found that I have a lot more room when it comes to dehydrating. You can store a lot more dehydrated food than canning or freezing — any you have the bonus of it staying good for a long time if stored in airtight containers.

I usually find that I have more peppers, carrots, and celery then I can possibly use in a few days. While root vegetables tend to stay pretty well for a while, I really find dehydrating them makes a lot more sense. When I make a stew or pot roast, all I have to do is grab my dehydrated vegetables from the cupboard instead of wondering what that nasty black stuff is at the bottom of my vegetable tray.

You can easily purchase a dehydrator for about $60, give or take, and save a boatload of money on produce you would have normally thrown away. You can dehydrate lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, carrots, celery, pineapple, cranberries, peaches, apples, oranges, lemons… just about anything you care to imagine.

2. Hunting

Fall means fall hunting. Hunting means excellent venison, turkey, and grouse, so I look forward to it. Unlike many people, my family relies on hunting for most of our meat. That means I make offerings to Skadi, Tyr, and Ullr, as well as the local wights for success.

Even if you’re a city dweller, chances are there are ways to hunt in your area. In the United States, you’d be surprised at the urban hunting opportunities available. Never hunted or shot a firearm? There are classes for hunter safety and for firearm safety. Prefer something more akin to our ancestors? Bowhunting is big.

Don’t think hunting means deer only. Small game such as rabbit, squirrel, and raccoon can provide decent meals (although I look at squirrel and trash pandas as a last resort for my food). Some people really love small game meat, so give it a try.

Also grouse, quail, chukar, duck, goose, and turkey are all excellent foods, and I find grouse better than chicken and goose remarkably yummy. Wild turkey (the bird, not the alcohol) is amazing if brined properly. I prefer it over store-bought turkey.

3. Gathering Food

Fall is usually the time I gather wild rosehips, elderberries, and any chokecherries I’ve missed. This year, we had a really bad cold snap early in Fall that pretty much killed off the berries. So, luckily I had gathered chokecherries and made syrup this summer, and I have a lot of dried rosehips and elderberries from the previous year.

I honestly stay within my comfort zone when it comes to foraging. I have a lot of book knowledge when it comes to certain plants, but I stay within the plants I know for certain. If I came across some morels, I’d go for them, but I don’t recognize other mushrooms and stay away from them. If this is something you’re interested in, I’d recommend finding a mentor or looking for a class on the subject. Get it wrong, and you could poison yourself.

4. Plan Your Yule

It’s not too late to plan Yule for yourself and your family. Even if you live in a Christian (or other faith) household, you can still plan on certain days/celebrate the Heathen holiday. There’s no reason why you can’t celebrate Mother’s Night and Solstice as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas. Sure, your family may look at you oddly when you suggest spending December 20th or 21st reminiscing about loved ones who are no longer with you. Or, they may appreciate it. I’ll try to create another post on things to do for Mother’s Night—hopefully before December 20th!

Don’t forget to plan Christmas Eve and Christmas as well. Yes, you may not believe in the whole mythos, but honestly, where’s the fun of being a spoilsport for your family? Kids love Santa Claus, and you can certainly enjoy a secular Christmas. Plus, the Tomte are looking for oatmeal with a pad of butter on Christmas morning.

5. Spend Some Time in Nature

Now, more than ever—especially with the pandemic—you need to go into nature and enjoy its beauty. (Bring a mask with you, in case you run into people.) If you live in the north where we have snow, enjoy the amazing beauty of a snowy forest. No snow? That’s okay. Even the stark beauty of barren branches and the shortening of days will remind you that on the winter solstice, the days will grow longer again. And warmer days will soon be here.

So, how are you planning on preparing for winter? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks. Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

The Elder Futhark: Jera

The Elder Futhark: Jera

The twelfth rune in the Elder Futhark, and fourth rune of Heimdallr’s ætt, is Jera, which corresponds to the “y” sound in the word “year.” This is an interesting rune, and one that evokes the cycle of the year and harvests. It is the rune of planning, waiting, and seeing your plans comes to fruition. Like the oncoming harvest, a lot of what this rune tells you depends on your actions and plans. It is a positive rune in many cases, but it can be very frustrating because it advises waiting.

In Anglo-Saxon, Jera is spelled Ger or Ior, and in Old Norse it is Ar. Jera is the rune of good harvest. As with a harvest, there must be preparations to the fields, seeds planted, and crops tended. But Jera suggests that the harvest will be good, and you just have to be patient.

Like Isa, this rune requires waiting, but like the harvest, it promises good things in abundance. Our Northern ancestors were primarily farmers and understood that they had to wait to receive the bounty of their harvest. Harvest didn’t happen in a day or a week. It started after the last harvest with plans for the next season. Farmers had to save seeds from the current harvest to replant their vegetables and grain crops. They had to prepare their fields to lie fallow over the winter. And then, they had to wait until the ground thawed after a long winter so they could plow and plant their seeds. With each planting, the farmer hoped for a good crop without pests and diseases. But Jera is a rune of good harvest, which means droughts, hailstorms, and damaging weather, as well as pests and diseases, aren’t a factor for this harvest. It means there will be plenty and good times are ahead.

Divination with Jera

When you get this rune in a casting, it informs you that good things will happen, but you must wait. Because Jera is derived from the proto-Germanic word meaning “year” (jēr) and the Old Norse word for year is Ar, it suggests that your waiting for good news may take a long time, quite possibly a year or longer.  Jera tells you that all your preparation and plans will come to pass. That good times are ahead, and that you will reap a bountiful harvest. But it advises patience as well. Good things don’t happen all at once. It takes time and planning for you to succeed in whatever endeavor you are asking the runes about.

Should you get this rune in your castings, you’re going to enjoy good things coming your way, but you must be patient. If other runes around it are negative and it is drawn in the future spot, it means that all your trials and travails will end with something good heading your way. If it is in a past spot, it suggests that you are coming off a time of harvest and new situations may arise. A present spot may suggest you moving into harvest, or maybe a cycle that will bring you towards the good things. Above all, just be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

Some Final Thoughts on Jera

When Jera appears in a spread, you may find that the outcome you are waiting for depends on your preparation and work. Nothing is ever easy with the runes, just as nothing was ever easy for our ancestors. Jera is a signal in many ways to work towards your goal, and if you are willing to work hard, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your success. As always, the position where Jera appears as well as the runes around it will dictate how successful your endeavors are. Good luck!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks. Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

The Elder Futhark: Isa

The Elder Futhark: Isa

The eleventh, and third rune of Heimdallr’s ætt, is Isa, which corresponds to the “I” sound in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use). This is considered a negative rune, whenever it comes up. It does occasionally have positive sides, but I’ll talk about that later. It is the rune of ice, winter, standstill, and waiting. If you get this rune, you’re going to be frustrated, because it means that everything is at a standstill. Like an ice dam, something is being blocked until you or something else can remove it. It can also point to a river covered with ice: nothing seems to be moving, but there may be an underlying current beneath the ice.

In Anglo-Saxon, Isa is spelled Is, and in Old Norse it is Isa. Isa is the rune of standstill, winter, and waiting. Our Northern ancestors were no strangers to the long, harsh northern winters, and the prevailing ice that accompanied them.

Winter was a time of waiting. Sure, there were feasts, such as Yule, and winter activities such as skiing and ice skating. But our ancestors were waiting for spring, when the animals gave birth, and when the crops could be sowed.

Winter was a time when people had to live off their food harvested in the fall. It was often a time of scarcity and hunger, especially if the crops failed. Sometimes people hunted and fished to bring in food, but often the prevailing ice and snow prevented such activites. Game migrated when the snows got too deep, making it difficult to hunt. So, people waited–and hoped for–an early spring.

Divination with Isa

When you get this rune in a casting, it informs you that you must wait for an answer. The amount of time is indeterminate but finite, meaning that you could be waiting a long, long time. This is why Isa is considered a negative rune. Most of the time, we can deal with a “yes” or “no” when it comes to an answer. Isa tells us we must be patient and wait.

Isa is an interesting rune, though, because although it suggests everything is at a standstill, there is a finite amount of time before everything frees up again. It may suggest something is blocking your forward progression. You can break through that ice dam, but it may be a serious challenge ahead of you. Then again, Isa may be telling you that nothing appears to be happening, only something really is. Whatever is happening may be hidden from you. In this case, it’s important to pay attention to the underlying motion.

Should you get this rune in your castings, you are more likely to be frustrated in whatever answer you seek. It’s telling you either to wait, or that everything is at a standstill. Either way, you’re going to have a hard time achieving your goal. You may have something blocking you from your goal that you must overcome, or something else is going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. Or maybe you simply have to wait until something changes before you know the answer.

Some Final Thoughts on Isa

When Isa appears in a spread, you may find that your circumstance tells you to wait. That can be a real source of frustration. After all, you may find yourself at what appears to be an unyielding block to your goal. At this point, you need to decide whether to try to break through or wait it out. Sometimes the best thing to do is to wait. Like an ice dam, it may be holding back a torrent. Then again, that block may be insurmountable, and you may need to wait.

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

Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

Why Bad Things Happen — a Heathen’s Perspective

Why Bad Things Happen — a Heathen’s Perspective

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a couple of years, you know I’ve written about why bad things happen before. But sometimes pieces need updating, and quite honestly, there’s enough turnover in readership to warrant another look at why bad things happen.

The Year of Hell

This year, 2020, will officially be known at my house as the Year of Hell. It started with a close relative dying and went down from there. You already know about the pandemic and economic down turn, as well as the civil unrest.

If there’s any consolation with this pandemic, I may have already gotten COVID-19 and the proverbial Angel of Death has passed by my door. This time. Another positive side, I don’t live in an area with lots of protests. We have also (so far) escaped having a really awful fire season around here, even though we’ve had to deal with unhealthy air from the Washington/Oregon/California fires. I’m not getting as many work assignments, which cuts the money back, but my spouse hasn’t been laid off, and I’m still capable of writing. So, that’s what I’m doing. But, I’ve been watching the news in total disbelief at people’s behavior.

I want to slap everyone’s face and shout, “What is wrong with you people?”

Obviously, that isn’t going to happen, so I am holed up in my little home, hoping the moron who sneezed nearby me at a grocery store didn’t have COVID-19.

Yeah, it’s that kind of year.

No, the Gods Are Not Punishing Us

Bad things happen all the time. Because we’re raised in a Christian society, we’re tempted to draw the conclusion that the gods are punishing us. After all, the Judaeo-Christian god is great at punishing mortals, if you believe the Old Testament. And our Heathen gods and goddesses can be vengeful, but this isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to humans. Unless you really piss off Old One Eye, (Hi, Odin!), chances are you’re just a victim of random events. I mean, seriously, what can one mortal do to garner the wrath of a god or goddess? Certainly not enough to warrant a pandemic, race riots, violent protests and responses, epic wildfires, a global depression, and a very contentious presidential election.

Let me put this in perspective: humans are nothing compared to the universe. The gods take interest in us because we are their children. But they don’t take interest in everyday affairs unless they want to. When the forests become kindling because of a shift in the weather patterns, it’s unlikely Loki threw a match in to start the fires. Rather, he might enjoy the chaos of the outcome, but that is his darker nature. But the wildfire that ensues is either because of lightning, or it is manmade in some way.

Bad Things Happen Randomly

It’s more likely that bad things occur randomly, or may have been set in motion due to poor choices people made. The gods didn’t cause COVID-19 to jump from a bat to a human by way of pangolin or some other animal; viruses are quite handy at doing it by themselves. Chances are, it was the folly of a vendor who trafficked the infected animal, the person who ate the infected animal, or (if you believe the story about the Wuhan laboratory) the lab that isolated the virus. In other words, we have no one to blame–or at least no one to blame but ourselves, as humans.

Why We Look to the Gods when Bad Things Happen

As humans, we often look to higher beings when bad things happen. It’s part of feeling helpless. We ask the gods to help us, or we blame the gods for something that happened to us. But the gods are not our bitches. They don’t run when we call; they often don’t cause calamities either. The tornado that touches down does not know or care that people are in its way. It simply behaves according to its nature as defined by physics.

Likewise, viruses don’t care if you’re the president of the United States or if you’re a child in a third world country. It will infect you if you don’t take precautions against it, and the random luck of your genome and your health may be the only thing that might protect you if you somehow contract the disease.

It’s human nature to look to a higher power when something bad happens. Questions run through our minds such as “Why didn’t Eir stop this?” “Why is Odin punishing me?” “Will Thor protect me?” Our gods generally don’t take sides when it comes to our lives, although we may try to please them with offerings and ask for help, but there are no guarantees. Even Frigg and Odin couldn’t stop the death of their son, Baldr.

Our Wyrd is our Wyrd. It’s how we respond to it that can change it. Not our prayers or offerings.

Why Bad Things Happen

Bad things happen. Good things happen. Sometimes things happen for no reason. Sometimes things happen because humans set things in motion without knowledge of the consequences. And sometimes there are bad people who do bad things. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes Murphy is in control.

I can look at this year and wish it were gone already. It doesn’t mean that next year will be better, but there is always hope that things will improve.

What Can We Do When Bad Things Happen?

Believe it or not, you aren’t totally at the mercy of fate. There are things you can do to prevent further calamity—at least to yourself.  Just like people who wear seatbelts in a rollover crash and somehow survive, you can make everyday choices that will put the odds in your favor if something bad does happen. I mean, some of it is a no-brainer, like wearing seatbelts, wearing a mask when you’re in public, washing your hands, and getting your flu shot. Some things take a little more planning, like when you go on vacation, or choose to live in an area where natural disasters occur.  We evolved with a pretty big brain and enough foresight to conceive of possibilities. Use your brain and think it through. Maybe driving while intoxicated isn’t safe, and you should get a cab instead? Maybe driving with your headlamps off at night isn’t clever?

Occasionally, you’re going to have bad shit happen that you can’t work around. Trust me, I know. I’ve lost people to bad things that I had no control over, although, in retrospect, they did when it came to matters regarding their health. Still, there are things you can’t always account for, and with the exception of Odin and the Norns, we pretty much don’t have a clear picture of everything in our future.  But just remember, the gods aren’t out to get you, unless they’ve told you they are.

And even then, don’t believe everything you hear. Seriously. We can’t control everything, so control what you can and move on.

Did Our Ancestors Celebrate  the Fall Equinox?

Did Our Ancestors Celebrate  the Fall Equinox?

Did our ancestors celebrate the fall equinox? The question is an interesting one, and left for much interpretation. Certainly, some of our ancestors did pay attention to the equinox, as marked by many paleolithic stone circles. However, if we’re talking about those ancestors in the Viking Age, the idea gets a bit more muddled. I’ll explain.

What Exactly is the Fall Equinox?

For those of you who don’t know, the equinox is the time when the sun shines directly on the equator. To explain how that happens, we’ll have to refresh our basic astronomy.

Our planet, Earth, revolves around the sun. One circuit around the sun equals one year. The Earth spins around its axis as well, and the length of time it takes to make one full revolution is approximately 24 hours. With me so far?

But the Earth’s axis is tilted compared to the plane of its path around the sun. The Earth is tilted because it “spins” similar to a top. But unlike a top, the Earth’s wobble occurs over millions of years, and not seconds, like the toy. Because the Earth is in a tilt, it stays in the tilt as it revolves around the sun. So, winter occurs in our hemisphere when our hemisphere is furthest away from the sun. That is the winter solstice. The equinox occurs midway between winter and summer solstice when the sun is equal distant between the North and South poles.

Did Our Ancestors Recognize the Equinox?

So, the equinox occurs when the sun crosses the equator, giving us a near equal day and night. Hence the name, Equinox, meaning “equal night.” But did our ancestors recognize the equinox, and did it have any special meaning to them? Did they celebrate the fall equinox? (Or spring equinox, for that matter?)

We can look at various archaeological digs and find that yes, our ancestors did know about the equinox, and in some cultures, it must have had a religious significance. Stonehenge and Newgrange are two archaeological sites that keep track of the solstices and eclipses. Other sites across Ireland and Great Britain may also track the sun.

Other cultures, notably the Mayans, Chinese, Native Americans, and Egyptians also tracked the sun with their pyramids and monuments. So, it is likely that ancient European cultures were aware of the equinoxes. But how did our Northern ancestors celebrate the Fall equinox?

The Northern Ancestors’ Year

The Norse kept a calendar that had only two seasons: winter and summer. The reason is pretty obvious. There was snow, and there was no snow and farming time. The solstices seemed to have played a bigger role in Norse beliefs, hence Yule and Midsummer.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that the peoples in the Viking Era weren’t aware of the equinoxes. Certainly, during the fall equinox, people were busy with the harvest. But they would hold harvest festivals to celebrate and give thanks for a good harvest. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t mark the equinox in some fashion, since it meant the night would overtake the daylight. No doubt many Northern peoples looked at the equinox as the herald of the upcoming winter darkness.

Solstices were More Important

Other pagan cultures celebrated Mabon, and today we have Winter Finding. As much as I would like to think the equinoxes were important, I suspect that the Solstices were more so. The first month of winter is in October in the old Norse calendar, and the first month of summer is in April. So, obviously the spring and fall equinox wasn’t as important as the solstices. But, they still had some importance. Eostre was celebrated close to the spring equinox and harvest celebrations were close to the fall equinox.

As always, if you have insights, be sure to let me know.

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The Gods of the Hunt: Skadi and Ullr

The Gods of the Hunt: Skadi and Ullr

When it comes to the approaching autumn, two gods I constantly associate with the cooling weather is Skadi and Ullr. Skadi and Ullr are two very powerful gods in our Northern pantheon, which is why it befuddles me that not a lot has survived when it comes to stories about these two gods.

Let’s Talk Skadi First

We know more about Skadi than Ullr, so I’ll talk about her first. Skadi is a Frost Giant (or Jotun) turned goddess and is the daughter of Þjazi. Skadi has a single story (although she and Loki argue in Lokasenna) on how she sought justice for the death of her father, Þjazi.  Þjazi was the Jotun who tricked Loki into stealing Idunn and her Golden Apples from the gods.

Skadi demanded to marry the god of her choice, plus someone had to make her laugh to fulfill the blood debt. Her demands were agreed on if she would choose her husband by looking at their feet only. Thinking she would choose Baldr, she chose the most beautiful feet–which belonged to Njord. Skadi couldn’t abide by the dreary coast, and Njord couldn’t stand the high mountaintops. So, theirs is an unhappy marriage.

Some Heathens have claimed that Skadi divorced Njord and chose Ullr, who would’ve been a better consort, but I haven’t seen anything in the literature to suggest that.

Ullr, the International Man of Mystery

Now we come to Ullr, and by the gods, there isn’t a lot written up about him. Which is a shame, because Ullr was an important god in the Northern countries. Ullr is the god of wintertime sports and hunting. He is also the god of oaths; our ancestors swore on Ullr’s oath ring. Ullr was called on in duels, presumably to oversee the contest or to grant favor. He was also the head of Asgard when Odin was in exile for ten years.

Beyond being handsome and fast on skis, the only other thing we know is that his home is called  Ýdalir, meaning “yew dales.”  This has given rise to the belief he was an archer, since bows were frequently made from yew. He is believed to be the god of winter sports and hunting. Nowadays, you can celebrate Ullr in December at Breckenridge, Colorado during Ullrfest, which celebrates snow, skiing, and the god, of course.

There has been some conjecture that Ullr may be another name for Tyr. The association is somewhat sketchy but you might be able to draw the conclusion due to people swearing their oaths on Ullr’s oath ring. And Tyr, who is often depicted more as the Aesir‘s second-in-command would be a more likely candidate to take over the throne of the All-Father while he was in exile, rather than Ullr. But even with these two examples, there aren’t any other obvious association between the two. In other words, we don’t know.

Unverified Personal Gnosis Time with Skadi and Ullr

Before I go further with this, I want to caveat this by saying these are my experiences with these gods, and like anything, Your Mileage May Vary. I’ve had plenty of dealings with Skadi, but not Ullr. Back when I competed in a certain winter sport, Skadi and I held an uneasy truce. I was a lot more wary of her then, and while I know she is a very dangerous goddess, over the years I’ve come to understand her. She doesn’t suffer fools in her territory, so every time I am out in the backcountry, I am aware she could take me out.

Still, Skadi has been a friend to me and my husband. (She smiles on him with a lot with animals.) Even so, I think I’ve gained some favor. I have had animals wait patiently while I get my equipment ready and even wait for me to shoot them. My offerings/blots go primarily to Skadi and Tyr, whom I consider my primary gods.

Ullr is still a concept to me. Maybe because I have gods that fulfill the roles he seems to have, I haven’t quite made the leap to adding him to my main gods. I do, however, remember him in my blots. So, maybe that’s good enough for him at the moment.

So, let me know about your own experiences with the hunting god/goddess in the comments!

A quick shout-out to Sarah Keene, who has helped make The Rational Heathen possible with her continued support!

Choosing a God or Goddess: Why the Gods You’ve Chosen Might Not be Right

Choosing a God or Goddess: Why the Gods You’ve Chosen Might Not be Right

Choosing a god

or goddess isn’t as easy as people sometimes make it. What’s the big deal, you say? You worship or honor Odin. Or maybe Freyja. Or Thor. But what if I told you that the god(s) or goddess(es) you’ve latched onto might not be the right gods or goddesses for you? This is especially true for the newcomers to Heathenry, but even us “old timers” can make the mistake. Let me explain.

Choosing a God in Heathenry

One of the great things about being a Heathen is that you don’t have to gravitate toward a particular god or goddess. Because we’re polytheistic, we have many different gods, ancestors, and wights we can choose from. Unlike other religions, you don’t have to choose a god or goddess. You can honor or worship them all. Nobody—at least not me—is telling you who calls to you.  (Never mind those recon wankers; they’re not the Asa-popes they think they are.) At the same time, you can choose one or two whom your venerate more, while still maintaining good relations with the others. Or you can pick and choose from different pantheons, if you desire. There’s a historical precedence for that.

Some Heathens in history incorporated other gods and goddesses into their worship as they learned of them from other tribes, kindreds, and even other ethnicities. The Vanir are probably the best known for this. Some scholars believe that our ancestors added another tribe’s gods and goddesses that became the Vanir. Even when Christianity came to our northern ancestors, many tried to incorporate Jesus as another god in the pantheon. Of course, that didn’t really work too well, but we can see by the Icelandic Cross, jewelry makers were catering to both sides for a while.

Newbie Choices in Gods and Goddesses

A lot of newbie Heathens tend to go with Odin, Thor, Freyja, or Loki, largely because of popular media. This is fine, and those gods are good within their own rights (although people might argue about Loki), however, that’s pretty much how far those new Heathens take it. They look at Odin as the All-Father in the same way that Christians look at Yahweh as “God the Father.” This comparison is laughable—or, maybe not, given the mercurial temperaments of both deities—when they are different in a number of ways. There are more gods and goddesses that may be far more influential and far more relevant in one’s life than the All-Father.

Odin isn’t all-mighty. Sure, he’s a god to be reckoned with if he’s angry at you, but if he hasn’t taken specific interest in you, he probably won’t care if you worship him or not. Same goes with our other gods. Most don’t bother when it comes to mortals. They have more godly things to deal with than our day-to-day whining and supplication. That being said, there are gods and goddesses who may take interest in you, but you may miss their calls if you’re always thinking about the more popular gods from modern media. Which is why, if you’re a newbie, you need to do your research about the other gods and goddesses.

Don’t Forget the Wights and Ancestors

Choosing a god is important, but so is recognizing that the gods aren’t the only supernatural creatures in our beliefs. The wights and ancestors tend to take more notice in us, because they’re often more local and/or personal than gods and goddesses are. Because they are closer to us than many of the gods, by making friends with them and honoring them we can often receive both aid and advice from them.

Who are your Ancestors?

Your ancestors are not only your parents and grandparents, but their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. They are the people whose blood runs through your veins. Without them, you would not be alive today.

Ancestor veneration or ancestor worship (if you want to call it that) is a big part of Heathenry. Many Heathens gain strength from those who came before us.  Some Heathens go through the whole genealogy thing too.

Now, granted, some of your ancestors were probably not people whom you should show respect to. If you come from an abusive home, for example, there’s probably no love loss there. You don’t have to respect or honor them. Look to your grandparents or some other ancestor in your line for help. At the same time, if you were adopted, don’t worry about who your ancestors are, especially if you don’t know your birth parents. Look at the ancestors of the people who adopted you and their family. You are part of that family now and you may find an ancestor among them who will be your mentor and helper in times of need.

Who are the Wights?

I’ve written about Wights recently, so I don’t need to go there. That being said, the local Wights are often the tutelary spirits of the land that are often familiar with you and your situation. Some will live in your house; many prefer being outdoors. They consist of many different types including Elves, Hidden Folk, and other spirits.

The Wights can be very helpful or harmful, depending on their nature and how you treat them. There are rules to make the Nisse happy, for example. Nisse or Tomte like having porridge with milk and a pat of butter on either Winter Solstice or Christmas, depending on which lore you follow. If you skimp (no butter) or don’t leave the offering, they can cause havoc.

Part of being a Heathen is making friends with these spirits and helping them, just as they might help you.

So, Where am I Going with This?

I am not telling you to abandon your worship of the popular gods and goddesses. Instead, I’m suggesting—especially if you’re a newcomer to Heathenry—to consider opening yourself to other gods as well as the ancestors and the Wights. At the very least, you will have a deeper understanding of your faith and what your ancestors believed in.  And who knows? Maybe there are gods and goddesses you haven’t considered honoring who are actually closer to you than you knew. Choosing a god or goddess that is lesser known, or even a wight or ancestor, to honor or worship with your more popular gods may encourage a deeper and more profound relationship.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments.