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.

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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. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Aptrganga or Real Norse Zombies [Video]



Well, it's getting closer to Halloween, and since I've been meaning to include an occasional video, I've decided to include a great video by Jackson Crawford about Aptrganga or "Again Walkers," i.e., zombies or draugr .

In Viking times, it was believed that you could become a zombie if you died sitting up, died with your eyes open, died disappointed in your son, or died in your home.  Apparently, even if you managed to get cremated, if another creature ingested the ashes, it could cause amazing mayhem.  Anyway, check out the video!


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Samhain -- Or it's Not My Holiday

Samhain Comments & Graphics
Thanks to Magickal Graphics
My husband asked me if Halloween was a special time for Heathens.  I looked at him blankly, but then I realized that being pagan may make it appear that we celebrate other pagans' holidays.  I grinned and reassured him I'm not that kind of pagan.  I then pointed out our version of Samhain -- if we have a "version," happens around the winter solstice.  So, like everything in my life, I started researching Samhain.

What Samhain is for the Uninitiated

Thanks to Magickal Graphics
Samhain (pronounced "sah-win" for those who don't speak Celtic) is the Celtic New Year when the Celts believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and dead was thinnest.  I found that interesting because Heathens tend to think of that time as Winter Solstice.  As an aside, I really do think our Yule is more correct with Mother's Night, but Samhain a Wiccan holiday, so it's theirs to argue about, not mine.  It's also the end of harvest for them, which is probably why they equate it with the end of the year and the beginning of the new year.

Samhain has the characteristic ancestor veneration that we do.  It arrives on the sunset of October 31st and ends on the sunset of November 1st.  It's celebrated with bonfires (purportedly to keep the sun burning through winter), disguises (so evil spirits don't recognize the people), and sacrifices and gifts made for the dead.  There is a ritual of leaving doors open so that the spirits of kind ancestors can come into the home and visit.

Where Halloween Comes From
Courtesy of Magickal Graphics

Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church snagged  November 1st  and made it All Saints Day.  All Souls Day is November 2nd.  If I recall my Catholic upbringing, I seem to remember it was a Holy Day of Obligation (Translation: Get your ass to church and fill the coffers.) which was intended to make the revelry around Halloween less popular. When they couldn't do that, they came up with All Souls Day on November 2nd.  Interestingly enough, people simply moved their pagan celebrations over to November 2nd since it was now Church sanctioned. People dressed up as angels, devils, and saints, and there were parades and bonfires. One tradition started in England which was most likely a precursor to trick or treating was that poor people would go door to door and beg for "soul cakes" in exchange for praying for the household's dead.

Halloween gets it's name from All Saints Day.  In England, All Saints Day was known as All Hallowmas from the Middle English word, Alholowmesse, which means All Saints Day.  Naturally, the day before was All Hallows Eve, which soon became our word for Halloween.

Halloween and America

Courtesy of Magickal Graphics
Halloween traditions came over with the Irish in the early to mid 19th century. Going door to door asking for food and money, a Halloween tradition, was soon replaced with trick or treating. Parties soon became more the norm.  To avoid frightening children too much, newspapers encouraged parents to tame the scary stuff.  So, Halloween became a secular holiday by20th century.

Halloween was a community celebration, but was being plagued by vandalism.  By the 1950s, politicians and community leaders directed Halloween festivities toward trick or treating and made it into a children's holiday.

Nowadays, Halloween is for both kids and adults.   Trick or Treating is still for the kids, but both kids and adults have fun dressing up and partying.

So, What Does This Have to Do with Heathenism?

So now that I've talked about Halloween and Samhain, it's time for me to talk about how Samhain isn't really a Heathen holiday.  Unless you're Irish or venerate the Irish pantheon (I find the word "worship" a little too strong), I'd say Samhain doesn't have any real religious significance for those who follow the Norse gods. I find the idea sweet -- venerating the ancestors -- but we do this already during Álfablót and Disablót. Depending on what you read, Álfablót could be celebrated on Halloween, but honestly, what we know about Álfablót tends to make it more of a private holiday with the family, rather than being a huge community party or trick and treating.
Courtesy of Magickal Graphics

I'm Not a Fan of Halloween

I'll be honest with you: I've never been a huge fan of Halloween because of the overtly commercialism.  I sigh and shake my head when I pass by homes with Halloween lights and even inflatable ghosts and ghouls because, let's face it, its commercialism rivals Christmas.  Which isn't a far off statement.  It's the second biggest holiday behind Christmas with Americans spending some $6 Billion USD each year on the holiday.  That's billion with a B.  And one fourth of all candy sales over the year is Halloween candy.

Now, you might point to Christmas and say the same thing on how commercial it is.  Yeah, but I celebrate Yule, which is vastly superior, in my book.  Also, I like Christmas caroles, even though many are modern, relatively speaking. The fact that today's Christmas is a 19th century contrivance doesn't necessary bother me.  But that is for another time.

Álfablót

Álfablót is usually celebrated at the last harvest. Which could be at the end of October.  When I think about harvest, I generally think about it as being something in late September or even early October.  The closest thing to Álfablót we might have in American culture might be Thanksgiving.  I really don't think of it as Samhain or Halloween, but maybe you do?  I'd like your thoughts on it.

What to Do as a Heathen

Now, this doesn't mean that you can't celebrate Samhain as a holiday.  It doesn't mean you can't celebrate Halloween as a holiday.   We're the party-hardy kind of religion to begin with, so I think it's quite appropriate to celebrate either if you want to.  I'm pretty certain that Northern pagans didn't say "oh, I'm not celebrating that because it's not traditional" when it came to holidays. Now, if you're a recon, you may be thinking something different, but seeing as I'm not, I don't have a problem with it. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How Skadi Works, or a Dog Story


This is a dog story.  This is also a goddess story.  This is what happens when a goddess thinks you need help.

I'm Telling You This Story to Tell You Another One

In the not so distant past, I had been working at home and heard a soft noise.  I looked out the window and there were turkeys in my front yard.  They were practically doing a chorus line on my porch.  My two (nonhunting) dogs were sleeping.  Without really thinking any of this through, I grabbed my shotgun and went out the front door.
They all scattered.  Shit.  I took some shots and ended up with two spent shotgun shells and a hurt pride.

Hunting for Birds

My husband and I decided to go hunting recently for mountain grouse in an area where we know there are some.  We also went looking for bears because he had seen a bear in the area.  I foolishly took a .22 in the hopes of bringing home a grouse.
We saw no bear and saw one blue grouse who played peekaboo behind some cover.  I took a shot, missed, and flushed the grouse.  So, now I'm hurting from two stupid failures.

Driving Home

So, we get in the car and drive home.  We were some four to five miles away when we passed some people with dogs.  One of the dogs who didn't appear to be attached to any of them took off chasing our car.  None of the people looked concerned.
We continued to drive and the dog kept following us at a full gallop.  Once or twice she tried to become a wheel chalk by actually catching up to our car.  We avoided her and figured she would turn back to her "owners."

Arriving at Home

No shit.  We arrived at home with a dog in tow. At this point, I hopped out of the car and went to her.  She was nothing but skin and bones.  I've worked with athletic dogs in the past--this dog was emaciated.  She was also dehydrated.  I scooped her up in my arms--she had no collar--and brought her inside.  At that point, I knew we had a third dog, especially when my husband said to wait on contacting shelters.
She was in bad shape, she'd devour anything we set in front of her.  We have to bait water to get her to drink because I think she isn't used to drinking.  Her teeth suggest she's between 6 months and a year.
For a week I looked through the lost notices and nothing appeared for her. Even if it had, I would've been reticent handing a dog in such poor shape to an owner who treated her like this.  People dump dogs up here all the time.  The dog had no collar and no tags.  Pretty much a dumped dog.

Skadi, Seriously?

Looking at her, I realized that I had a German Shorthaired Pointer.  A bird dog for finding, flushing, and retrieving birds.  Apparently Skadi is tired of my failures and sent me a bird dog.  And when I didn't take the dog at first, she had her run behind my car until the dog ended up on my doorstep.
So, apparently Skadi thinks I need all the help I can get.  And apparently this little dog needs my help too.
And yeah, Skadi is right.
Thanks, Skadi.
This is a dog story.  This is also a goddess story.  This is what happens when a goddess thinks you need help.  READ MORE of my premium content for just $1

Friday, October 6, 2017

More Conversations with Bob the Car Wight

I was walking by the SUV the other day when I saw Bob the Car Wight sitting on the hood.   This time, he had a very mismatched red and green plaid coat, orange hunting cap (which suspiciously looked like the one I had lost last season), and a fuchsia scarf striped with purple.  He was rubbing his hands together and blowing on gardening gloves he was wearing that were way too big for his fingers.  Now, imagine this all contrasting with his blue skin.  Eeek.  All in all, a sight to make sore eyes. 

"Whoa, Bob!  Are you trying to blind me with your fashion sense?" I quipped.

Bob rubbed his hands together and blew on the gloves' fingertips as if he were trying to get warm.  "Like you know anything about fashion, mismatched girl," he snorted.  He rubbed his hands some more.  "These gloves suck."

I let the jab slide.  "What, are you cold?"

"What gave you the first hint, Einstein?" Bob glared at me.

"Well normally I'd say the blue skin, but seeing as that's normal for you, I'd guess the weird get-up."  I grinned at him.  "Don't like our weather?"

"The weather was fine until it went from summer to winter in one day."

"Well, that's the Rockies for you.  I'd thought you'd be used to it by now since you've lived up here for years."

"I'm used to garages.  You know, like indoors?  When are you cleaning out the garage so I can have a decent place to live?"

"It's a little cluttered," I admitted.  "But you're a wight.  You're supposed to be able to live damn near anywhere.  Well there's no reason why you couldn't stay there now."

"Herman the roof rat doesn't like me."  Bob held up his hands.  "Do you have some spare mittens?"

I pondered that for a moment.  "The roof rat has a name?"

"Of course he does.  Everything does.  You just might not know it yet."

"And his name is Herman?"

"Well, that was his name in a previous life."  He wiggled his fingers at me.  "Mittens?"

"I'll see what I can do.  I might be able to find some for you next time I go into town."  I paused.  "But Herman?"

"Yeah, Hel decided she didn't want him in Helheim so she sent him back to live as a rat.  She does that a lot with people who she really hates."

"You mean they don't go to Nástrǫnd and get chewed on by Níðhöggr?"

"Well, some of the really bad ones were giving the dragon gas. You wouldn't believe how much damage to Niflheim it was causing when those farts light off.  One of those set fire to Hel's hall some years back.  She really wasn't amused."

I laughed.

"I'm not joking.  You wouldn't believe the cussing.  I think Hel invented new words just for that."  Bob shuddered.  "She's scary when she's angry."

"I bet," I said.  I certainly had no desire to get on Hel's bad side.  "Okay, so Herman the roof rat is being punished for..?"

"I don't know.  He won't tell me.  But he tried to goosestep in your garage."

"Great, I have a Nazi rat."  I sighed.  "Guess Hel won't be upset when I trap his ass."

Bob shrugged.  "She'll just send him back as another rat."

"Great, well maybe this time he'll go to New York City instead of here."

"Then you'll have no excuse for cleaning out the garage," Bob quipped.

"I'll get right to it."  I said, walking back to the house.

"Oh, and don't forget the mittens!" Bob called after me.


Friday, September 29, 2017

The Gods and Goddesses of Autumn

Now that the Equinox has passed, you can feel the changing of the guard, especially if you live in the northern states. This year, it's almost as if the gods and goddesses have had enough of the fires out here.  It is as though we've gone from summer to winter in one day and then the actual fall settles in.

A Time of Change

Autumn is a time of change.  It heralds the coming of winter and the urgent need to prepare for it. For those of you who buy foods from the grocery stores, chances are the changes you'll see is more pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween candy.  For me, it's a time to search for upland birds, can my harvest, and run my dehydrator 24/7. I'm looking at my livestock and wondering who I'll be slaughtering so I can have more meat in my freezer.  I'm considering how I'm going to keep the fresh stuff preserved so that I can enjoy it when it is cold and snowy.  And I'm waiting for general hunting season where I can hunt deer and elk.

I truly feel that our gods and goddesses are linked to the seasons. This makes a lot of sense because our planet is governed by the laws of physics -- even at the tiniest level. This makes a lot of sense if you've ever contemplated the overall nature of the universe.

The Gods and Goddesses of Autumn

I did some basic research, and I've come to the conclusion that there isn't a lot written about what Northern gods go with what season. We can make obvious guesses for winter and spring, but fall may be a little bit questionable simply because it is a time of transition. Even so, I'm going to share with you my insights, and hopefully you have some insights as well.

Skadi

Probably the biggest goddess of autumn (and also of winter) is Skadi, the Norse goddess of the hunt and of winter. She's the one I pretty much go to when it comes to hunting, and I feel more in tuned with her every year. She is not an easy goddess to deal with, but she is honorable and very powerful. The story about Skadi seeking retribution for her father's death is a story which shows how far she is willing to go if you fail to heed her.

Ullr

 

Ullr is the god of hunting, of snow and skiing, and of snowshoes. Ullr was considered an important god among the Scandinavians, no doubt since snow plays a major part in their weather. I've read various claims that Ullr is Skadi's second husband after Njord. The story goes that Skadi could not abide Njord's home near the sea, and he could not accept the high
mountain tops and snow, so they divorced and Skadi married Ullr.

Tyr

 

Tyr is the god of laws, justice, and the sky. While it seems odd to associate Tyr with a season, I believe he has power over the solstices and equinoxes, given his role as the sky god and lawmaker. It has been my experience (and you can take this as an unverified personal gnosis) that Tyr governs the laws of physics. When we deal with the movements of our planet in relation to the sun, it is really all physics.

I also ran across an interesting point that in some heathen segments Ullr may be an aspect of Tyr. It seems far-fetched, but apparently Ullr was invoked during duels, which was often used to determine who was right and who was wrong. Furthermore, there is an episode in the Atlakviða which has the swearing of an oath on Ullr's ring. I can sort of see how this might fit together, but unless I have another UPG, it's unlikely, at least in my own mind that Ullr is Tyr.

Freyr

 

Although it seems somewhat out of place, I'm putting Freyr as one of the autumn gods. The reason I am putting him in the autumn gods is quite obvious: he is the god of the harvest. The final harvest usually occurs sometime around the equinox, or maybe just a little later. Sometime in the fall farmers tended to slaughter livestock that they were not keeping over the winter, and preserving them. It makes sense that Freyr would preside over all of this.

 

Frigg

 

It may seem to be another stretch to put Frigg as a goddess of autumn, but I don't think so. Frigg is a goddess of the hearth and home, of the distaff, and the wife of Odin. She has ties to Frau Holle and appears to be important in all manners of the home. To me, it makes sense that as the weather gets cooler, people are more inclined to stay indoors. So, I'm likely to think that preserving food and caring for the home falls right into Frigg's domain.


I hope you enjoyed this piece. No doubt, you can think of some other gods and goddesses of autumn. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say and who you would recommend.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

When the Muse is a Bitch, or Equinox, Chickens, and Flipping the Switch

It had been miserably hot and smoky here in the Rational Heathen's neck of the woods.  With all the fires, no rain, and hot temperatures, the whole area could go up in flames with a spark.  That's how tinder dry the Northern Rockies have been.  So, when the weather shamans at the National Weather Service said we were in for a change, it was none too soon...

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wiccatru -- Or Should We Take Another Look at the Other Pagans?

I ran across this rather interesting post on Patheos entitled Wicca: A New Major Religion, and yeah, it got me thinking.  If Wicca could be considered a major religion, are we doing Heathenism a genuine disservice by not occasionally courting it?  Here are my thoughts and why we may want to consider a bigger tent when it comes to our religion.

The Article and Why the Numbers Might Be Important

If anything, the article reaffirmed my belief in the big tent model when it comes to Heathenism.  If the numbers are correct (and I suspect they might be), we need to treat our pagan brethren with a little more respect.  The tl;dr version is that Wicca may have, by low estimates, around 2 million practitioners in the United States, making it the third largest religion in the US, after Judaism.   (Atheists and agnostics make up a larger percentage than Judaism, but since they are not a religion, they aren't factored in.)  Now granted, when compared to more that 300 million people, that may not seem like many, but the reality is that 2 million votes can sway an election quite handily.  Which brings us to Heathenism.

Heathenism by the Numbers

I'm not going to tell you that the numbers I give you are definitive. For one thing, no one has done a completely accurate census and counted every single Heathen on the planet.  The current census counts were done on a strictly volunteer basis and most required some sort of participation in social media.  That being said, the Norse Mythology Blog came up with a number 16,700 in 2013. This seems a little low to me, undoubtedly because I suspect that some Heathens, for whatever reasons, don't bother answering polls.  I suspect the number is bigger because the piece I wrote, The Gods are Not Your Bitches, got a whopping 13,062 views.  Now, granted, some folks may have gone back and reread it, and some folks may have read it who were not Heathen, but the idea that one of my posts reached nearly all Heathens is ludicrous. 

I've seen likes on various Heathen groups on the web, and have seen numbers in the 60K to 100K.  That to me seems more likely with a guessimation of maybe 150K to 200K total Heathens in the world at the top end, when you count crossovers from Wiccans and goosestepping moron Odinist Nazis.

Why We Need to Ally Ourselves with the Wiccans, or My Big Tent Belief


So, for argument sake, let's say we have about 100K to 200K Heathens worldwide.  Personally, I think it is around 100,000, but let's go with that bigger number, for argument sake.  That means that we maybe have a tenth of the numbers Wiccans have, if Wiccans have a conservative 2 million in the United States alone.  And our numbers are worldwide, not the United States, alone.  So, we have 2 million people who could easily be on our side because they're polytheistic.  Granted, they worship all sorts of gods and goddesses, but the reality is that they could strengthen Heathenism if we let them. 

I've proposed this big tent belief in an earlier post which has met with some derision from the recon segment. Wiccans are not our enemies here.  In fact, you're likely to find allies from Wiccans who worship Freyja and Freyr, or any of our other gods and goddesses.  We can find more Heathens there who will help us politically when it comes to issues we have.  Plus, if we're inclusive, we have a lot more Heathens who can help shape Heathenry. 

To Those Who Want to Exclude Wiccans

Those who want to exclude Wiccans, even though they worship our gods, are being shortsighted.  Heathenry should be open to bringing in others, not just those who are willing to do the homework and speak the gibberish some Heathens do. We need the Lokeans, the Rokkatru, and yes, even the Wiccatru. 

Why?  you may ask.

Do you really want Heathenry to stay small?  Do you really want it to be taken over by racists?  Do you really think it's a good idea to stay exclusive and not inclusive?  Look at the Wiccans.  They really don't have a lot of dogma, and thus have big numbers.  Maybe Heathenry could learn something from Wiccans.  And Hels bells, I don't even believe in magic. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When the Muse is a Bitch, or Sickness, Wildfires, and Hurricanes

I've been enduring the wildfires here in the Northern Rockies.  On top of that, I've gotten a summer cold.  So, life sucks for me right now.

But, I have nothing compared to the folks fleeing Irma.  I want to put that in perspective...  READ MY PREMIUM CONTENT FOR JUST $1...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Understanding the Nazi Slogan "Blood and Soil" or "Blut und Boden"

One of the folks on Facebook didn't seem to understand the context of "Blut und Boden" which is often the Nazi battle-cry at various gatherings across America. The term, "Blood and Soil," is a particular extremist term when it comes to nationalism, and of course, racism.

What Do They Mean When They Chant "Blood and Soil?"

Those who chant "Blood and Soil" may simply be idiots who don't understand what they're saying.  Or, they may actually agree with the propaganda. Either way, the meaning of "Blut und Boden" appeared sometime around World War I and Hitler based his nationalism on Blood and Soil. What it means is that true Aryan came from the earth and tilled the soil, aka farmers, in Germany.  He tied the Nazis to the land, thus making themselves "rooted" the land. Those who worked the land were infinitely superior to those who did not.  And Hitler pointed to the Jews as the main oppressors of the farmers who worked the land. To add more bullshit on top of bullshit, they furthermore believed that eugenics was the way to create a master race that was free of disease.

via GIPHY

Why Blood and Soil is a Typically Moronic Idea

In the last 15,000 there have been three major migrations across Germany; two of the migrations actually came from the Middle East.  There have been a bunch of "minor" migrations, where, if you were living in that time, probably didn't seem so minor.  Archaeology combined with genetic research has proven that Germany and other European countries were a melting pot of settlers and invaders from various lands.  Likewise, the Germans went and settled across Europe and Russia.  We know that Germanic tribes such as the Angles and the Saxons went to Britain.  We know the Celtic tribes invaded darn near everywhere, but eventually settled in Spain and Britain.

So, the idea of having one true nationalistic blood is moronic. The idea that someone is pure "Norse" or pure "German" or pure "Aryan" is wrong.  There is no purity.  There is only a hodgepodge of genetics which includes DNA from all over the world.

Lastly, the concept of having the Jews oppress the farm workers seems bizarre.  For one thing, Jews couldn't own land in Germany, so the misfortune of the farmers occurred because of several factors which included the Treaty of Versailles.

Why Blood and Soil?

Why are Americans chanting "Blood and Soil?"  I mean, Americans.  I'm sort of at a loss to address why these morons chant "Blood and Soil." That slogan points to the German land.  We know Americans of European descent have no prehistoric ties to North America, so shouting "Blood and Soil" is inherently stupid.  Okay, maybe your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, which puts your claim around 1620 (and they were English, not German). So, you have about 400 years of history in America?  What about the Native Americans who have more than 10,000 years of history here?

Bad Ideas Heaped Upon Faulty Information

So, the Alt-Right are clearly wrong when it comes to their heritage and their claim to the land.  Nobody is "racially pure."  Nobody.  We're all a bunch of mutts.  Deal with it.

That being said, once you hear those idiots spout their ideology, you can smirk and know that they're not just wrong,  but fucking wrong.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

When the Muse is a Bitch, or Asa-Popes and Nazi-Asshats

I'm tired of writing about Nazis.  I really am.  I keep thinking I should stop, but the numbers don't lie.
 People want to hear and talk about them.

My case?  Talking about Harvest and the upcoming seasons garnered half of the interest as the Nazi post.  Sigh...READ MORE for just $1

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Freedom of Speech Versus Dealing with Nazis

Freedom of Speech versus dealing with the Nazi asshats: 
I have a  moral dilemma.  The situation isn't cut and dried or black and white.  Like most things in a Heathen's life, there are many shades of gray.

Let me explain.

Nazis and Antifa

I hate the Nazis.   I really do.  I'm against them 100 percent.  As a writer, I am pro First Amendment.  That means that I am all for freedom of speech. I believe that freedom of speech is necessary for a free society.  So, when the Nazis hold a rally or are met with the Antifa forces, I go into cognitive dissonance.  I really don't know what to think. 

The First Amendment

As a champion of the First Amendment, I believe that everyone has their right to say or write whatever they want.  (I don't have to read it or listen to it, mind you.  And I sure don't have to agree with it.)  Now, obviously freedom of speech has even been limited in America, but for the most part, you can spout the most absurd rhetoric and no one from the Government is going to visit you in the dead of night and drag you from your home (yet). There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.  Threats made against the president, for example. But overall, you can be as stupid as you care to on the Internet, in a paper, or out on the street corner.

Suppression of Freedom of Speech

This brings up Antifa.  I agree that one needs to be anti-fascist. But I think they're doing it wrong.  Antifa is aimed at suppressing the Nazis' freedom of speech with violence. They are a leftist group who are also anti-capitalist and socially leftist.  Yes, they are pro-LGBT and anti-racist, but their leftist affiliations makes me wonder what their end game might be.  Suppressing freedom of speech, even from Nazis--and you have NO IDEA how much this pains me to say it--is wrong, if the Nazis leave it to only speech and rhetoric.  When someone eliminates freedom of speech, one eliminates it for all people.

When Do They Whittle Away Our Rights as Heathens?

Think of it this way: yes, we can ban fascist statements, but when does what you believe start disappearing as well because the prevailing view shifts?  Right now, our right to worship our gods are tied to the First Amendment in the United States. That means we have the right to honor Thor, Odin, Freyja, Tyr, and even Loki, if we wish.  We can also choose to worship nothing, worship the Christian god, or worship a snake in a bathtub.  This is a basic right guaranteed by the First Amendment. What's also guaranteed in the First Amendment is that the government will not prevent you from expressing your beliefs, AKA, the Freedom of Speech.  It doesn't stop individuals or corporations from trying to stop you from stating your beliefs.  Other laws that deal with physical violence are supposed to prevent that.

While Antifa isn't the government, I'm truly wondering what their intentions are.  I'm as anti-Nazi as they come, but even I recognize the implications if we don't uphold the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, even for Nazi assholes. 

Are the Nazis a Clear Threat Yet?

Obviously the Nazis can't handle peaceful demonstrations--are we all that surprised?--but the question of whether it's right to attack Nazis shouting their bullshit is the question I'm going to ask.  I mean, it's one thing to claim you're a Nazi, believe their propaganda, and demonstrate; it's another when you start beating people.

You could claim that every single Nazi gathering has been violent.  I haven't paid that much attention to the Nazis until recently, but I'd imagine that is probably true. In which case, yes, cancel them on the grounds of violence.  But our Constitution and its Amendments guarantee that they are entitled to their opinions and beliefs, however awful they are.

I'm not sure if they're a clear threat yet, but they could be. As a Heathen, I recognize violence against evil as being sometimes necessary.  For example, during war or when one is attacked.  But to instigate violence against a violent group seems to just incite them further.  I learned this training animals.  You don't punish the dog when it does something bad.  You ignore it.  Eventually the behavior stops if you reinforce the behaviors you want. It's basic training techniques, and one that work exceptionally well, even with human animals.  If we enforce the right behavior, i.e. tolerance, and ignore the bullshit rallies (and have an armed police presence that keeps them in their own little spot where they can't harm civilians), fewer and fewer people are going to want to join up.

Han Shot First

We all know the argument in Star Wars that Han shot first in the original version.  Lucas edited later editions to have Greedo shoot first and miss.  In the first Star Wars, Han shot Greedo before he could shoot because we all knew what was going to happen if he didn't.  We cheered over it, because not only Greedo was a debt collector, but he also was an assassin. Han acted in self defense over a clear threat.

I'm not saying that we should shoot first when it comes to Nazis, but there is such a thing as self defense given that someone is armed the same as you (or better) and makes a credible threat.  Still many states don't recognize this as defense and consider it murder. Also, there's a matter of showing up ready to fight. Legally, one could, I suppose, say you were there to incite more trouble.  (We Heathens are great at that, by the way.)

So, What Should We Do?

The violence is Charlottesville ended in a death of a woman and the Nazi is being tried for murder and attempted murder. (As he should be.)  I am saddened by the woman's death and the injuries of people who were protesting these evil people.  I saw the video of the attack and was appalled, because it was apparent the injured and killed people weren't doing anything violent. That woman should not have died, nor should the people who were protesting peacefully been injured.

Right now, I know that it isn't in human nature to belittle and ignore Nazi rallies.  It's in our DNA to want to fight the injustice and insanity.  I can't tell you what to do, but by giving these Nazi morons someone to fight against, it validates their threat.  Let me ask you one question:  which is more insulting to an aggressor: acting like they're not worth your time or fighting them on their terms?  Yes, you will get bigger noise, and even more outrageous behavior, because they want to call attention to themselves, but eventually, they'll find it not worth their while if they aren't given center stage all the time.

Just a thought.  Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox, Mabon, or Winter Finding

Our next big seasonal date to look forward to is the Autumnal or Autumn Equinox in the northern
hemisphere.  Often called Mabon or Winter Finding by pagans, there are a lot of good reasons to celebrate the season.

Mabon or Autumn(al) Equinox takes its name from a Welsh god, rather than a Norse one, but seeing as many of the Northern gods are interconnected, I'm hesitant to dismiss the name or the celebration outright. A later name for Mabon is Winter Finding to make it more Asatru-like. That being said, our celebration may have "Wiccatru" roots, which if you're a recon, you may simply disdain the idea of celebrating it and move onto something more "authentic."  That's cool, but holidays do shift around, and I suspect late harvest was also celebrated by our ancestors.

Plus, it's as good of time as any to celebrate the end of the growing season and the arrival of fall.

What the Autumnal Equinox is

The autumn equinox marks the official beginning of autumn.  Never mind that you've felt a shift in weather patterns sometime in August or early September, we generally consider the equinox to be the beginning of fall. The equinox, for those curious, isn't when the day is equally night and day, although it's damn close and I'd say for all intents and purposes, we can call it that.  What the equinox actually marks is when the sun crosses the celestial equator for the first time since spring equinox.  The celestial equator is an imaginary line above the planet above the actual equator.  The sun doesn't really move relative to the solar system--our planet moves.  Our planet is tilted so that when it reaches a certain point in its revolution around the sun, the sun dips to the south on the autumn equinox and moves to the north on the vernal or spring equinox. It's at this point we start really racing toward less light, although the summer solstice marks the high point of the daylight hours and we begin decreasing light after that.

The earth is actually spinning like a top, only relatively slower because of the magnitude.  The pole actually wobbles and will be in a different place about 10000 years from now. 

So, Did Our Ancestors Celebrate Winter Finding?

If you want to be really picky, chances are Winter Finding wasn't celebrated.  Instead, our ancestors may have celebrated Alfarblót which occurred around October 22nd.  Alfarblót was a more private affair for families, even though it was a harvest festival that honored Freyr and Freyja. Sort of a Thanksgiving for Heathens.

So, if they didn't celebrate Winter Finding, should we ignore it?  Probably not.  It is, after all, the equinox, which means it's a good of time as any to have a celebration.  It's a goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn.  It's also a good time to bid farewell to the harvest.  I read that it's a good time to get mead started (yeah, I can see that) in time for Yule.  So, maybe the equinox is a time for a community harvest celebration and Alfarblót for a more private celebration?

Then, What Should We Do with Thanksgiving? 
Thanks to Magickal Graphics

The November Thanksgiving is an American holiday that has its roots in harvest festivals but has been co-opted by Christians to give thanks to their god. I suppose as a Heathen one could get stubborn and decide to not celebrate it since the fields are most likely fallow and the foods have been already put up. But at the same time, hunting season is mostly over, which gives us another bounty--game meat.  I actually delay having Thanksgiving because hunting ends that Sunday after.  Who says we can't use it to thank Skadi and Ullr for a successful hunt?

It even makes a lot of sense, given that fall turkey puts some birds in the freezer.  So, maybe celebrate it as the end of hunting season and the start of preparing for Yule might be appropriate.

I hope I've given some good reasons to celebrate the autumn equinox.  Do you celebrate Mabon, Winter Finding, or the autumnal equinox as a Heathen?  I'd love to hear what you do.