When the Muse is a Bitch

When the Muse is a Bitch

I’ll be putting up more pieces from the premium website so you can check them out.  This one was dated Feb 17, 2017 and it’s the first When the Muse is a Bitch.

The muse, I swear, is a bitch.  Yeah, yeah, I know the moirae is Greek and we follow the Norse gods, but shit, my muse is a bitch.  Half the time I’m floundering for creativity while pumping out thousands of words every day on stuff that will never have my name attached to it. Of course, the gods don’t have any recommendations for me.  They’ve got better things to do than hear this human whine about her so-called lack of creativity.

So, I’ve decided to write up my crazy whinings in a weekly post that will (hopefully) show up on Wednesdays so you can really wonder what medications I need to be on.

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Modern Medicine or Why You Really Don’t Want to Go Back to Our Ancestors’ Time

Modern Medicine or Why You Really Don’t Want to Go Back to Our Ancestors’ Time

This spring I had a lesson on why the good old days weren’t that great. Having dealt with the realities of raising livestock, I’ve become far more appreciative of modern medicine, and science, in general.  Not that I wasn’t appreciative of science to begin with, but when you see it in action, it changes your worldview.  And you start to realize just how tough our ancestors had it then. You also realize how unlikely it was to see 50 years old back then.

You see, I raise goats.  This, in and of itself shouldn’t necessarily bring up modern medicine, but if you want to see how science can improve your life, try animal husbandry. And sadly, for the past several years I’ve had a 50 percent attrition rate (or worse) on the kids.  This year ended up being different.

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5 Reasons Why Heathens Don’t Get No Respect

5 Reasons Why Heathens Don’t Get No Respect

I was reading the pagan forums on Patheos the other day and I thought about how Heathens are underrepresented there when it comes to pagans. And then I started thinking about how much of paganism is really geared toward the Wicca crowd and maybe the Celtic crowd, if they’re lucky.  So, I started thinking about why Heathens (to paraphrase what Rodney Dangerfield used to say) don’t get no respect.  To this end, I’ve come up with five reasons why Heathenry isn’t represented in paganism more often, but I bet you can come up with more, if you put your mind to it.

Problem 1: We’re Tiny, Relatively Speaking

If you want to talk about a religion that has few numbers, Heathenism and Asatru are pretty small as a world religion.  Sure, there are a few census that suggest we have maybe 100,000 to 200,000 Heathens in the world, but seriously, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Consider the 800 pound gorilla in the midst (pun intended) of Wicca.  Wiccans may make up about 2 million in the United States alone, and who knows how many in the world?  It’s easy to see just by that number why Heathenry is  a footnote when it comes to paganism.

Problem 2: Association with Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and Folkish Organizations

Many Heathens aren’t racist, folkish, or white supremacist. But not all of them.  One only has to take a look at the Neo-Nazis and the Odinists who support a whites-only mentality. Other groups such as the AFA have excluded other ethnicities and the LGBT communities within their Heathen form of paganism. Even though a number of very good Heathens and leaders within the Heathen community have denounced this behavior, we see time and time again Internet and news stories featuring Heathens as bigoted, racist, and anti-LGBT.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Just because you don’t count those folk as “true Heathens” doesn’t mean that the rest of the world shares your opinions.  You can say “not my kindred” all you want, but the reality is the rest of the world is judging you.  Plain and simple.  If you don’t denounce them, everyone is going to take your silence as tacit agreement.

Heathenry isn’t for bigots.  Even our gods didn’t stay within their own kind when it came to their kindred. Our gods took in Jotunn, Vanir, Light Elves, and humans.  Many gods had Jotunn, Vanir, and Light Elf consorts and lovers.  Hel, even Loki mated with a horse.

Problem 3: Our Magic is Minimal

When Thor and Tyr called me to Heathenry, I was relieved to find out that magic played a minimal role in the religion.  That being said, a lot of people are more attracted to magic than I am, which is presumably why people are more attracted to Wicca than Heathenry. Oh sure, we have the runes and Seidr, but what else?  Maybe skinriding? We don’t usually do magic in the form of spells or enchantments.

Our magic is through our gods, ancestors, and wights. (The fact that I’ve never seen a wight is irrelevant.)  Many Heathens believe in the gifting cycle with gods and wights to obtain what they want.  Some use Seidr, runes, or other forms of Norse magic.  Others will blend in forms of magic from Wicca.  Reconstructionists and others derisively call those who add more magic from other religions “Wiccatru.”  More on that later.

So, people who are looking for magic tend to bypass Heathenry and go for something like Wicca that enables them to worship our gods while still adding magic spells.  Hmm.

Problem 4: We’re a Stuck Up, Exclusive Lot

When a person first looks into Heathenry, they’re often met with people who are quick to deride and denounce that person if they don’t immediately join the recon trolls.  In fact, you’ll find a bunch of misogynists and Asa-popes telling people how to practice Heathenry.  When the person balks (as they rightfully should), the trolls start calling them Marvel fanboys (or fangirls), Wicctrus, or Lokeans (never mind that being a Lokean is a choice and not an insult).  So, a lot of people with less commitment are going to leave and go elsewhere.

It stunned me when Tyr and Thor contacted me.  But I knew what I had experienced and even when I entered the ugly world of the Internet recon trolls, I knew I was right to stay and deal with them.  You see, the gods contacted me and (presumably) not the Internet trolls, so the trolls didn’t deter me.  I just had to figure out a softer landing spot, which I eventually did. And I started writing The Rational Heathen just to put down my thoughts and feelings, not to mention some of my experiences.  Apparently it resonated with some of you because you’re still here with me.

Problem 5: We Don’t Agree on Much and UPG is often an Ugly Word

A big problem in Heathenry is the overall ambiguity of our beliefs.  We really don’t have a lot of stories to go on — not like the stories we have from the Romans and Greeks about their gods and goddesses. Islamic and Roman historians as well as Christianized northern peoples who lived two hundred years later wrote down all of our stories.  We only have one depiction — and a Christian one — of the Irminsul.  We have tales which refer to other stories which were never written down.

So, in light of the lack of evidence, there’s a lot of conjecture.  And with conjecture is also Unverified Personal Gnosis or UPG which many people don’t take into account.  Some Heathens are outright hostile to UPG as well. So, there is no consensus on what is correct and what isn’t, except among the different factions between themselves.  That division and the accompanying hostility turns people away quickly.

So, there you have it: the five reasons why Heathens don’t get no respect.  Do you have some thoughts about why Heathens don’t get no respect?  I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Some Updates to The Rational Heathen

Some Updates to The Rational Heathen

Well folks, since I’ve gone to WordPress, I can add some more flexibility for those who want to support my writing but can’t afford an ongoing subscription like Patreon.  I get that.  So instead I’m offering premium content right here online.   And it’s easy on your pockets, PLUS you get access to all the content during the timeline you choose.  Let me explain.

How Premium Content Works on this Site

I have two modes for premium content.  One is Patreon, which is offsite.  The other is the premium subscription service on this site.  This site’s subscription service enables you to read all my premium posts for a given length of time.  I set it up so that you can purchase a day, month, or three month subscription.  There is also a freebie login that will get you put on the Rational Heathen’s newsletter, restricted older posts, and any other content I might want to restrict to my subscribers.  (Some of you folks have already discovered the freebie side of things.)  Anyway, I’ll be putting some of my very old posts as premium only and some you must simply be a subscriber to.

The subscription costs are very affordable.  A Daily Pass costs 99 cents USD.  A monthly subscription is $9.99 USD, and a three month subscription is $24.99.  When you purchase a subscription, you can read all the Rational Heathen premium content.  No limit except the time.  Once the subscription is up, you go back to being a free login.  Simple and direct.

Why Did You Choose to Do This?

You may wonder why I chose to do this, other than being the money-grubbing weasel that I am.  Well, the reality is that I want to offer my readers more choices than just Patreon for supporting my works. I get that a lot of people don’t want to be constantly billed for something they won’t use enough to justify, so I created the Daily Pass, which allows you to read anything you want for a day.  Makes a lot of sense.

But Why Isn’t Everything Free?

You know, I’d love to give everything away, but I like to eat, pay for my Internet service, and pay for this nifty-disco site I developed on my own.  I make my living as a writer, and although you may not think that I spend a lot of time on The Rational Heathen, I do.  So, I need some sort of compensation, even if it’s $1 from you every so often.  And I appreciate that you read my work and think it interesting enough to share, talk about, and enjoy.

So, What Will You Do with the Information You Collect?

When you subscribe to The Rational Heathen, you get subscribed to my newsletter, which if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to put out once a month.  If I really get my shit together, I might be able to get it out as often as once a week, but seriously, no.  It will, however, tell you when there is a new post and give you a preview for it, which I suspect you’d want to know instead of trusting Facebook to notify you.  So, you will get alerts for new content and maybe an actual honest-to-gods newsletter occasionally.

As for your personal information, none of it will be sold or misused.  Period.  I hate spam, so I know you do too.  You don’t have to worry about tons of crap being directed at you.  And as for my readers, any data about you is anonymized for Google analytics and you are just a number to show me how I get my readership. In other words, I may know that I had 20 people in Costa Rica reading my blog, but beyond that, I have no clue, unless you tell me.

So, if you have any questions about the premium content onsite and how they work, ask away in the comments section.  I’ll be sure to answer them to the best of my ability.

To Kneel or Not to Kneel

To Kneel or Not to Kneel

To kneel to the gods or not kneel to the gods.  Those who believe in not kneeling to the gods believe that it invokes servitude and disrespect for oneself as an able warrior for the gods.  Those who believe in kneeling to the gods believe that we are foolish to not acknowledge that the gods are greater than us and there is historical precedence for kneeling to the gods.  Well, as usual, the Rational Heathen has something to say about this.

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Why Tribalism Could Doom the Human Race

Why Tribalism Could Doom the Human Race

I found an interesting article that shows that tribalism and war is not a healthy thing for the male population — and not in the way you think. So, being the Rational Heathen, I’m going to discuss the future of our race, that is Homo sapiens, and how our ancestors may have fucked things up to the point where if we continue this behavior, it could end our species.

Y-Chromosomes and Male Definitions

Now, before anyone gets their panties in a wad, for the sake of simplicity, I’m using the word “male” to describe someone with a Y-chromosome.  Likewise, I’m using the term “female” for those who have two X-chromosomes.  I’m not going to try to use the politically correct words because, quite frankly, I don’t know what the flavor of the week is. Furthermore, it avoids confusion for those who haven’t followed along.  This isn’t saying that the transgendered folks aren’t important, but for the sake of the conversation, I am talking about is heterogeneous pairings that produce offspring.  Savvy?  So, let’s talk tribalism.

Some Basic Biology (for those who fell asleep in Biology 101)

For those who don’t know or didn’t pay attention to sex ed, males have a pair of Y and X-chromosomes which confer their sex.  Females have a pair of X-chromosomes.  When a male produces sperm, his sperm contains half his chromosomes including either an X or a Y chromosome.  (I’m not going into the extra chromosomes which sometimes occur.)  The female’s ovaries produce eggs, each with half the chromosomes, and one X-chromosome. (Again, I’m talking the basic set up here.)

So, if an egg gets fertilized, it only has one copy of the Y-chromosome to work with. With females, the offspring will have an X-chromosome from the father and one from the mother.  If the offspring is male and has children, any male will have the same Y-chromosome that his father and his grandfather had.  Females, on the other hand, have a bigger chance at diversity as the X-chromosomes can get shuffled up with each generation.

Tribalism and the Y-Chromosome Bottleneck

About 7000 years ago, human diversity took a huge drop, especially along male lines.  Called the Y-chromosome bottleneck, it appeared as though there were one human male for every 17 human females.  We know this through our own DNA and DNA from ancestors; bones. Scientists have been trying to explain why there was, and still is, so little Y-chromosome diversity, even though males and females are roughly equal in number.  Scientists think there were several factors, of which tribalism and clan hierarchy had almost everything to do with it.

Why Tribalism Caused a Major Problem

In the past when humans were going from hunter/gatherers to farmers, they settled into tribes.  Most tribes and clans were patrilineal, meaning that they were organized along the male lineage. That meant that those males and their male offspring who had the most resources (wealth, power, etc) got the females.  Some of those clans believed in polygamy; fashioning their sex lives like the barnyard animals they kept.  So every clan that had powerful males got to reproduce.  The male offspring stuck around because they inherited the wealth and power (as well as their father’s Y-chromosome).

Wars between clans further took out males who were looking to defend their clan and tribal wealth.  Those males who were of lower station often didn’t mate and their genetic code was not passed on. Furthermore, because clans were often isolated, we see a fair amount of close breeding, if not inbreeding, involved.  We know that the early Homo sapiens farmers and Neanderthals were inbred, unlike the hunter-gatherers who actually developed a network for finding mates from other tribes whom they interacted with. Once humans settled down to farming, there were less beneficial interactions and more warfare.  So, the clans became inbred because of this huge tribalistic attitude.

First, the Inbreeding Part

Before I get into the Y-Chromosome Bottleneck, I’m going to discuss inbreeding.  Let’s look at what inbreeding does.  Inbreeding concentrates all the genes available in a certain line.  That’s all the good genes, and all the bad genes.  The problem is that everyone has a few to several bad recessive genes lurking around in their DNA, but they aren’t activated unless they’re matched up with a like gene. By inbreeding, someone has a bigger chance (25 percent) of manifesting the disease lurking in recessive genes.  What’s more, without diversity, the immune system isn’t as strong as it should be.  With lack of diversity, the immune system doesn’t have the ability to fight against as many diseases as someone who has a more diverse set of DNA.  Basically, you run into more difficulty having less genetic variation.

Why the Y-Chromosome Bottleneck is a Huge Problem

So, we know inbreeding is bad, but what about the Y-Chromosome Bottleneck? What we see is a concentration of a small number of Y-chromosome genes.  This lack of diversity is already an issue, given the fact that the Y-chromosome is shrinking already.  Shrinking?  Yes.  Some scientists have theorized that in time, the Y-chromosome will disappear, although others dispute this allegation.  This, along with our lack of genetic diversity in our ancestors, could cause us more problems if we insist on going back to the tribal ways of living.  We could effectively wipe out most of the Y-chromosomes that provide what little male diversity is left. And we could open up our male population to diseases that could wipe them out because they don’t have the diversity to survive such a disease.  We’d be looking at a real problem — and possibly extinction.

Tribalism is Okay, but within Limits

It’s okay to have loyalty to a set group of individuals such as family.  But tribalistic behavior isn’t always the best.  Tribalism as the “us versus them” mentality, isn’t always useful. While you may look at your family as your tribe, the tribe of the ancient Heathens was far bigger than just the nuclear family. They had cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, parents, and those who were related to those who married into the family.  There were also slaves and maybe a group of men and women who took oaths.  But there were a fair number who were related, either by blood or marriage.

People back then were forced to enter tribes to ensure their safety and survival, but it grossly limited reproduction.  It wasn’t the best thing for humanity because we lost a lot of genetic variation that we could’ve used.  This is why reconstructing some of the behaviors of the past aren’t always a good idea.

The other issue with tribalism is how people use it nowadays to exclude the “other.”  That is, exclude those who aren’t like themselves, whether it’s based on color, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, or appearance.  Yes, I get that humanity has done this since its very beginning, and we’re probably not going to end it any time soon, but seriously.  For a bunch of supposedly enlightened primates, we really end up falling back on some of our worst traits.  Which is why I wonder if we’re going to survive 10,000 years, let alone another hundred thousand years.

Arch Heathens and Arch Villains: Why Arch Heathens Make No Sense

Arch Heathens and Arch Villains: Why Arch Heathens Make No Sense

Once again, I’ve stumbled onto some really big bullshit about arch heathens, so I think it is time to make my opinions known on the subject.  Arch heathens, if you get the current vernacular, were an impressive, idealized version of the Heathen. Sort of an uber Heathen, as it were.  These purported arch heathens kept the faith pure and knew some sort of unwritten code of conduct across the ancient world that spanned from Greenland to Russia and south into Africa, and across several thousands of years ago, ending with the conversion to Christianity.  They were of one mindset and kept the faith pure.  (Ein volk! Ein reich! Ein führer!) <– That was sarcasm for those who don’t recognize it.

Did you just feel the urge to goosestep in your mom’s basement?  If not, then can you already see the flaws in the argument?  If you can’t or won’t, then read on, MacDuff!

What Heathenry Really Was

Before I talk about the fatal flaw in the arch heathen concept, I need to address Heathenry, in general.  Heathenry was born out of Proto-Indo-European Polytheism.  So, for argument sake, we can probably look at that form of polytheism being a proto form of Heathenry.  So, that would show up sometime around 3500 BCE.  For those not awesome at math, that’s more than 5500 years ago.  Germanic Heathenry appeared on the scene around 1700 BCE with related religions appearing around 300 years earlier.  Norse religions showed up maybe around 200 CE (AD).

So, when we look at Heathenry, we’re looking at a time period of about 4500 years.  Even if we go with German Heathenry at 1700 BCE, that still gives Heathenry a healthy 2700 years. When dealing with people whose lifespans were 40 years, if they were lucky, we’re looking at 20-year generations and turnover.  Assuming a 20-year generation, i.e., the time it takes to propagate and develop a new generation, we’re looking at either 135 generations or 175 generations of Heathens in total.

The Fatal Flaw in the Arch Heathen Concept

Now that we’re established the timeline for Heathenry, let’s talk about the concept of the arch heathen.  The arch heathen is the prototype Heathen.  He makes and knows the rules.  He’s the guy all many of the reconstructionists venerate and hold up for all to see.  Okaaay.  Which arch heathen are we talking about exactly?  Are we talking about the guy who was in Germany at 1700 BCE?  Are we talking about the guy back in 3500 BCE wherever the Hel he was?  Or are we talking about the Viking arch heathens?  And which Vikings?  Are we talking Iceland or Russia?  Maybe Sicily?  Or France?  How about North Africa?

And where, pray tell, is someone in ancient manuscripts pointing to a particular person and saying he or she is an arch heathen?  You can’t.  Because the concept and idea is made up.  The argument for an arch heathen has absolutely no supporting evidence.  Sure, there were gythias and gothis, but one over-arching mode of behavior and belief?  Nope, nope, nope.  We can’t even prove archaeologically that the Temple of Uppsala existed.  All we have is Adam of Bremen and Snorri’s documentation about it.  So, Uppsala may have been a Heathen Vatican, but chances are it wasn’t.  Too many Heathens in too many places.

No matter which group of Heathens you point to, you’re going to have variation in culture, thought, understanding, and yes, religion.  One group is going to value Freyr over Odin; another group is going to value Odin over Thor.  And so on.  It is bound to happen, because people are different.  Very different.  Saying that because you see arch heathen-like behavior in Germany means that there were arch heathens like that everywhere is absurd. That person was there at that time in that place.  We don’t know if they were common before or after.  All we have are writings of certain non heathens and works that were written down by Christians 200 years after the conversion to Christianity.

What Timeline are we Talking About?

So, we’ve established that our Heathen ancestors worshiped our gods or forms of our gods for 2700 to 4500 years and have worshiped our gods across the ancient world.  We know that religions change all the time, even in the past.  All we have to do is look at other forms of religion and see that this is so.  Christianity is an excellent example.  We can look at the 2000 years Christianity has been in existence and we see plenty of differences, even if we only look at the Catholic Church.  Originally Christianity was a conglomeration of ideas that came from Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Mithracism, and other religions.  Eventually, the Council of Nicaea got everyone on the same page, but there were future schisms.  The Catholic Church split into Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman Catholicism.  And that’s not even talking about the Protestant Reformation.

Okay, so you’re talking about a particular timeline, maybe, a few hundred years?  Really?  How much information do you have from that period?  And why do your so-called arch heathens rate above any other Heathens at any particular time?

A Lot Changes in 200 Years

Maybe the recons are only looking at 200 years.  Which 200 is anyone’s guess.  And we don’t have pinpoint accuracy with historical writings or archaeology.  A lot goes on in 200 years in cultures.  Don’t believe me?  Look back 200 years in our recent past.  In 1818, we had no car, no electricity, and the United States had only 20 states.  Too modern?  Okay, let’s compare 1818 with 1618.  Jamestown was founded in 1607 and by 1618 there were a handful of new settlements.  People still believed in persecuting witches then.  Ships were pretty much wind driven.  The Mauritius sailed in 1618.  In 1818, we were working on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution with steam engines and steamboats. In 1810, England had its first primitive railroad.  By 1827, we had the first railroad in the United States.  The 30 years war started in 1618 started by the Jesuits against the Protestants.  By 1818, the United States had freedom of religion in place in the Constitution.

Heathenry was Influenced by Other Religions

I’ve talked a lot about how Heathenry had been influenced by other cultures and religions.  Our ancestors traveled — a lot!  They had boats, they had horses, and yes, they had their own two feet.  Heathens traveled east into Russia, south into Africa, and west into North America.  They saw many different cultures and peoples — and they didn’t kill or conquer all of them.  Many they traded with.  We have found religious symbols from other cultures (such as the Buddha!) in gold hordes, and we know that Norsemen and Islam have had contact. Since Heathens were open to other forms of beliefs, even then, some aspects of other religions got adopted and incorporated as people from other cultures became assimilated into the Heathen culture.

Don’t believe me?  Tell me why we have the Vanir then, when we already have the Aesir? Tell me why Tyr was the top god, only to be replaced by Odin?  And why was the Christian god  worshiped along with the Heathen gods for a time in Iceland?  All these changes came about because of influences of other cultures and religions.

Arch Heathens or Archbishops?

The quest to follow these so-called arch heathens smacks of something very Christian, in my not so humble opinion.  Recons are constantly throwing the arch heathen around like they were the only ones who had insight into our gods and the way to do things.  We could argue that the arch heathen is the pagan archbishop.  Don’t believe me?  The Catholics use the archbishops along with the pope to create their church doctrine that they insist everyone who is Catholic must obey.  The recons use the arch heathens to create Heathen doctrine that they insist everyone who is Heathen must obey.  You see the difference?  No?  Neither can I.

Look, if I wanted to have a bunch of Asa-pope dilettantes order me around, I would’ve stayed in the Catholic Church.  No doubt you have your opinions on this.  Keep it civil and I’ll let you have your say.

How a God Inspired My Post

How a God Inspired My Post

Sometimes I’m at a total lost when it comes to what I should write for the Rational Heathen. I look over my past writings, peruse the pagan blogs, then the Christian and atheist blogs, and then end up playing Age of Empires. See? I really do work on this.

The past several days I was beating my head against the proverbial writing wall, so I just gave up and worked on some other things. Then, in the morning when I was waking up, I heard a god…

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The Meaning Behind the Death of Baldr and the Summer Solstice

The Meaning Behind the Death of Baldr and the Summer Solstice

One of the most iconic stories in Norse mythology is the death of Baldr.  It is probably the best known among Heathens and often recited by the anti-Lokeans as a way to justify why the Rokkatru are wrong to even consider venerating Loki and his ilk.  While I’m not Rokkatru (although I suppose someone can point to me being a follower of Skadi as being a Rokkatru), I do have a deeper analysis of why the story of Baldr’s death is more than face value.

The Story of Baldr

If you know the story of Baldr’s death, you can safely skip this section. Or, you can read it and pick my version of it apart. The story goes that Baldr, the son of Odin and Frigga, was the most fair of all the gods. So much so that he was beloved by everyone.  Everyone, of course, except Loki, who was mighty annoyed at so much love and reverence being passed out to Baldr.

Baldr had nightmares of his death.  Odin therefore went to Niflheim to consult a dead seeress to find out what was the cause of Baldr’s nightmares.  The seeress told Odin that that Baldr would die by Hodr’s hand (Hodr is the brother of Baldr).

Terrified of the prophecy, Frigga made it a mission to get every rock, stone, weapon, plant, and creature in the Nine Worlds to promise to never hurt Baldr.  Everything agreed to her satisfaction, so when it proved that nothing could harm him, the gods decided to make a game out of it.  They threw things at Baldr and the stones and spears would turn aside and not harm him.  Weapons would not cut him.  So they all gathered around and laughed while throwing things at him.

The Death of Baldr

Loki despised this, and so he went to Frigga disguised as an old woman.  He struck up a conversation with Frigga and asked about Baldr’s invincibility.  In the course of their conversation, Frigga admitted that she hadn’t asked the lowly mistletoe to swear an oath to not harm Baldr because it was weak and too young.  Loki then knew he had his weapon.  He left and fashioned a dart out of the mistletoe.

When he came back to the game the gods were still playing, he noticed that Hodr, Baldr’s blind brother, was not throwing things.  Loki offered to guide Hodr’s hand so he could throw something.  He put the mistletoe into Hodr’s hand. Hodr threw and the dart pierced Baldr’s heart.  Baldr fell dead.

Baldr went to Hel’s domain.  Odin sent his son, Hermod, to rescue Baldr from the dead.  Hel told Hermod that if everything truly wept for Baldr, she would release him.  Everything did, except the giantess Tokk, who was Loki is disguise.  Tokk told the messengers that Hel should keep what she has.  So, Baldr stays in Hel and it is the beginning of Ragnarok.  Baldr survives Ragnarok and is once more alive.

What Does the Death of Baldr Mean?

We can look at the story of the death of Baldr at face value, or we can look at it as a metaphor.  I prefer to look at it as a metaphor since our gods are clearly aligned with nature.  Even though they have distinct personalities, they are still gods of natural phenomenon.

The story of Baldr is the story of the seasons and the natural cycle of life.  Our northern ancestors revered the sun and its life-giving heat and warmth.  We know the summer solstice was a holy time for northern pagans — especially those who built monuments to the sun during the neolithic age. Baldr is clearly associated with the midsummer sun — the sun at solstice.  It is no surprise that his blind brother, Hodr (winter) slays him with the help of Loki (who is a chaos god) which brings about renewal (Ragnarok).  Baldr is the renewal of life and all the beauty associated with it.  Hodr is the old age and the impending death.  Loki (chaos and entropy) brings these changes about.

So, What Does this Have to do with the Upcoming Solstice?

You may be wondering why I bring this up with the summer solstice just around the corner.  Baldr is at his greatest power at that time, since we have the most daylight on that day.  While it is officially summer by meteorological terms, it is also the beginning of the end of increasing light.  Once the summer solstice has passed, the amount of daylight begins to dwindle until we reach the winter solstice, when the sunlight starts increasing again.

But the high point of the sun is the beginning of the end of the growing season, just like Baldr’s death is the beginning of Ragnarok.  Sure, we have plenty of growing and maturation of plants to come, but the waning light signals the end of spring and the beginning of maturation.  Maturation will culminate in the end of the growing season and the beginning of harvest.  The Northern Hemisphere marches toward darkness once more.

Sunshine and Mistletoe

It’s little wonder why the mistletoe is a symbol of the winter solstice, since it is the symbol of Baldr’s death.  But the winter solstice is also the symbol of the return of life.  We know that the days will grow longer again after December 21st, just as we know the days will start to grow shorter after June 21st.  So, this summer solstice, raise a horn or glass of mead to the god of rebirth and renewal.  Because we know that Baldr may “die” with the oncoming winter, but he will be reborn once again. (And the Christians thought that they were the only ones with a god who dies and is reborn?)

Let me know about your own insights into the death of Baldr and how you plan to celebrate the summer solstice.



How to Recognize an Unverified Personal Gnosis

How to Recognize an Unverified Personal Gnosis

Apparently my piece on Unverified Personal Gnosis struck a chord with many of my readers. So, I think we need to talk about recognizing what an Unverified Personal Gnosis actually looks like. Mind you, this these are not hard-and-fast rules, but they are ones I use when discerning whether this is UPG or someone’s overactive imagination…

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