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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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Why Unverified Personal Gnosis should not be Dreaded

Why Unverified Personal Gnosis should not be Dreaded

If you’ve been a Heathen for any amount of time, you’ve heard of UPG or Unverified Personal Gnosis.  If you don’t know what that is, let me explain.  It’s when you have contact with our gods in the forms of communication, thoughts, or inspiration that cannot be verified because they are personal.  They can be little things, such as knowing that Freyja loves chocolate (she does, by the way). Or UPG can be big, such as the hand of Thor grabbing you and demanding that you become his gothi or gythia.  (Far be it from me to tell you otherwise.)  So, what’s the big deal with Unverified Personal Gnosis, and why is anyone fussing over it?

What’s All the Fuss?

People fuss over Unverified Personal Gnosis because it is something that isn’t easily provable. It’s personal, meaning that only one person has had that revelation.  We can’t go back and quantify that the gods really did speak to that person.  To use logic, it’s very hard to prove a negative.

Let’s take my assertion that Freyja loves chocolate.  You might ask me how I know that.  It could be anything along the lines that chocolate makes people feel like they do when in love, Freyja always accepts my petition when I offer a blot of chocolate, or Freyja told me she loves expensive organic, fair trade, 95 percent pure cocoa chocolate.  Any one of those could be the reason I give you, and it’s up to you to decide if that really did happen, if I’m a bit crazy (or on mind altering substances), or if I lied to you.  Maybe you talked to Freyja and she told you she hates chocolate.  Or maybe she likes the cheap chocolate from two Halloweens ago.

Whatever.  The point is that as Unverified Personal Gnosis, the knowledge obtained can’t be readily verified because it is personal. It’s my word against yours.  And with some people, it’s in the realm of woo-woo and make believe.

Can Unverified Personal Gnosis be Verified?

The question then is whether UPGs can shift into the realm of being verified.  That is a good question, but I suspect that since we just can’t call up the gods any time we feel like it, the answer is no.  Even so, sometimes people can corroborate experiences.  When I received some very amazing UPGs, I actually mentioned them to a gythia or two.  They could confirm that the information I received fell in line with what they knew of those particular gods.  Some of what I experienced were similar to what the gythias’ own UPGs were about.  In other words, I felt fairly certain about my experiences.  Whether anyone else thinks they’re real is another matter.

I’ve known people who have claimed to be god-wives.  I honestly can’t say that I believe their experiences 100 percent, but that is their UPG and not mine.  My UPG doesn’t conflict with theirs, so I really can’t say that it didn’t happen.  But at the same time, there’s no proof that someone hasn’t married Odin or Loki or Thor, just as there is no scientific proof that any of the gods actually exist.

The Burden of Proof Lies with the Person Making the Assertion

Logic dictates that the person who makes the assertion is the one who needs to provide proof.  For example, if I assert that there is a pink unicorn on my front lawn, I have the duty to prove to anyone that there really is a pink unicorn on my front lawn if I want people to believe it.  Otherwise, it’s my lawn and my imaginary pink unicorn amusing just me and the rest of the world doesn’t care. Likewise, we can claim there is a Thor, Tyr, and Odin, but if we don’t provide substantial proof, their existence is a matter of faith.  In other words, you won’t win any logic debates with an atheist if you pull out the faith card.

Proof in the gods’ existence doesn’t mean people had oral traditions about them and wrote them down some 800 to 1000 years ago.  Archaeological finds that verify people worshiped these gods is not proof, either.  Proof means that you can produce undeniable evidence of the gods’ existence which can be duplicated by others using your methodology.  So, our Unverified Personal Gnosis is just that — unverified.

Enter the Recon (Or Why Accept Historical UPGs and not Modern Day UPG?)

(Oh shit, someone knew I was going to drag them into this.)

Some reconstructionists tend to be lean more toward the atheist beliefs (or lack thereof) and less toward faith. ( I say “some” because I do know some recons who do accept UPGs as part of our religion.)  These so-called Heathens will tend to dismiss, and even make fun of, other people’s Unverified Personal Gnosis.  This is a religion, not a LARP with extra study.

That being said, I have to wonder why they are quick to accept past Unverified Personal Gnosis and not modern day UPGs. At one time, every story we have about the gods and wights came from someone’s UPG somewhere.  It stands to reason that we can’t possibly verify any of the myths and legends we have about our gods, so either we accept them as UPGs and move on, or we thoroughly discount them as having any basis in fact.

Just because we find some stories in the Eddas and other documents as being historical does not mean that the entire piece can be taken as purely factual.  We know this because science proves that our world isn’t made from the body of Ymir, there was no giant cow licking rime ice to create the first gods, and earthquakes do not come from Loki being splashed in the face with venom.

Accept Unverified Personal Gnosis for What it is

UPGs are, by definition, personal.  My UPGs may sometimes contradict yours, should you have them, and other people’s UPGS may contradict each others.  Some UPGs will be shit made up by people, whether because they want to feel important, misunderstand what happened to them, or because they are mentally ill.  I suspect that Unverified Personal Gnosis acted that way with our ancestors.

UPGs had to be the way our ancestors learned about the gods.  Think about it.  There wasn’t a giant classroom with a bunch of Heathens sitting around throwing spitwads at each other while Odin tried to teach them cosmology.  (Or was it Tyr?)  I can just imagine Loki teaching everyone how to misbehave while Thor comes in to maintain order.  Yeah, warped mind.  Deal with it.

But I digress.  Our myths and legends sprang mostly from UPGs.  People in certain kindreds accepted UPGs from others who were respected in the community and UPGs from those whose stories corroborated.  Different places most likely had their own stories and even tutelary gods and goddesses, but their stories have morphed or outright disappeared with the coming of Christianity.

My point is that we should not shun UPGs, but we should embrace them.  We have a chance to rebuild our Heathen past and blend it with today’s knowledge.   We can do so by recognizing UPGs for what they are and accepting those that make the most sense.

Why Loki Exists (Not Your Standard Arguments)

Why Loki Exists (Not Your Standard Arguments)

Loki is a bit of an enigma when it comes to the Northern pantheon. No god causes such turmoil among Heathens when it comes to our gods. Did Loki really exist in the pantheon? Was he worshiped? Was he a creation of Snorri? It’s almost as if the trickster intentionally caused this entire debate–which would suit him just fine.  Read more of this premium content for just $1 and gain access to all my premium content.

Why Loki as a Chaos God is One of the Most Powerful Gods in Your Life

Why Loki as a Chaos God is One of the Most Powerful Gods in Your Life

As a follower of Tyr, I have a grudging respect for Loki.  So much so that I even have a place for him on my altar. Loki as a chaos god shows up constantly in my life — and probably your life, too.  And despite all the naysayers claiming that no one ever worshiped Loki, I suspect ancient Heathens did acknowledge him at blots and other religious functions.  And I believe that people did worship him as much as other gods.  Let me explain why.

Loki’s Bad Rap

Loki as a chaos god has without a doubt gotten a bad rap from the whole death of Baldr thing and leading the forces of chaos at Ragnarok. The fact that he had monstrous children with Angrboda seems to confirm it too. Both Fenrir and Jörmungandr are indeed dangerous beasts. Hel, while her followers would argue against her being a monster, some Heathens certainly considered at least frightening, if not a demon-like creature. Seeing a woman half skeleton and half flesh is, after all, pretty creepy in most contexts.

Loki as a Catalyst for Change

That aside, Loki is the gods’ catalyst for change.  He plays tricks on them — some tricks not so nice — but in the end, most of his behavior benefits the gods.  Cutting Sif’s hair is a prime example.  First, you have to wonder what Loki was doing in Sif’s bedroom (something mentioned in Loki’s Flyting). Once the gods caught Loki, he not only repaired the damage by giving Sif new hair, but gained other treasures for the gods.

Loki is the prime mover and shaker in Asgard.  If he did not constantly get into trouble, the Aesir and Vanir would have stagnated.  They wouldn’t have gotten Asgard for free.  Odin would not have Slepnir. The gods wouldn’t have Skadi within their midst.  Thor would not have Mjöllnir, Freyr wouldn’t have Skíðblaðnir and Gullin-börsti, and Odin would not have Gungnir and Draupnir.

Loki as a Malicious God

Loki shows his malicious side both in the death of Baldr and in Lokasenna (Loki’s Flyting). It’s interesting that he isn’t bound because he caused Baldr’s death, but because he insulted the gods and goddesses at a feast.  As an aside, does anyone else see a disparity here?  Sure, he kills Aegir’s servant, but that’s not why his children are killed and he’s tied up with a venomous snake dripping poison overhead. Granted, the punishment may be for all his troublemaking and this might be the last straw, but seriously?

Loki is punished because he speaks the truth, albeit twisted to hurt.  But sometimes the truth hurts, and it shows the foibles and failings of even the mightiest of gods.  So, even though his actions aren’t justifiable, it fits perfectly for Loki as a chaos god.

Is Loki Good or Bad?

At this stage, you may be wondering if Loki is good or bad.  If you take the simplistic route, you look at everything bad Loki has done.  Loki killed Baldr through Hodur.  He disallowed Baldr to return to Asgard.  He sired three creatures which will bring about Ragnarok. Loki then killed Aegir’s servant and insulted the gods.  The list goes on and on.

If you’re a Lokean, you might argue that Loki has done good things as mentioned in this post above. You might point out how the Fenrir was set up and that Ragnarok happens because the gods’ actions caused it. Furthermore, you might point out that the Aesir and Vanir brought Ragnarok on them because they threw Loki’s children under the proverbial bus.

So, which side is right?

Loki as a Chaos God

Actually, both sides are right and wrong at the same time.  The reason is that Loki is a complex being, although obviously a chaos god and a trickster.  He is the archetypal trickster who metes out both good and bad through his love of causing chaos wherever he goes. He takes joy in shedding light where everyone else wants the situation in the dark, and he hates the status quo, whether it is good or bad.  He stirs the pot, because that’s what he does.  Even if the pot suits everyone else, it tastes bland to him.

Loki can be almost demonic when he is looking for vengeance, due to whatever slight he sees, real or imagined.  Ragnarok is as much his doing as anything else.  Why?  Because it is change.  It will destroy what was and will replace it with something else.

Capricious beyond belief, this consummate troublemaker is one that can’t leave well enough alone. He is happy to hand out good and bad, as long as it suits him.  With that kind of behavior, you have to wonder if he’s worth bothering with, but ignoring him is the worst thing you can do.  He’ll make it a point to stir up trouble.

Not Evil, Just Misunderstood

Oddly enough, I’ve discovered that if you stay on good terms with Loki, he will aid you whenever he can. But his aid is often fraught with chaos, and your life will take a turn toward the surreal should you decide to make him your primary god. It has been my and others’ experience that Loki will help you when he can, but chaos will linger with you as a type of payment.  For every good thing, you may have a bad thing happen.  In most cases, Loki will help you, but don’t be surprised is there is a catch.  (With most of the Northern gods, there is always a catch somewhere.)

My god, Tyr, is pretty much the opposite of Loki.  Where Loki is a force of chaos, Tyr is a god of law.  It’s interesting because Tyr recognizes that while they are opposites, you can’t have one without the other.  Tyr was the only god who took care of Fenrir and paid the sacrifice of his hand to the wolf when the gods decided that Fenrir must be bound. Like Loki, Fenrir is a force of chaos.  You can’t have law without chaos.

Did Our Ancestors Worship Loki?

The question of whether our ancestors worshiped Loki is somewhat academic.  We don’t have archaeological proof that Loki was worshiped, but then, we don’t have a lot of evidence that certain goddesses such as Eostre existed either.  We can speculate that Tyr’s consort was Zisa, but there isn’t really anything that backs it up.

I suspect that because Loki was considered one of the Aesir, he was worshiped in some fashion.  After all, many kings traced their lineage back to Jotunn, so Rokkatru isn’t far off from that.  At the very least, I suspect that he wasn’t ignored so that he wouldn’t cause trouble.

Isn’t Loki Still Tied to the Rock with a Serpent Overhead?

How can we have people worshiping Loki and Fenrir when both are bound up?  This is an interesting point, and I have four possible suppositions as to how Loki and Fenrir can exist bound and yet unbound.  Here are my four possible conclusions:

  1. The Loki killing Baldr, the Lokasenna, and the binding of Fenrir stories are prophetic and have not come to pass.  (Unlikely)
  2. The stories are metaphors for things that have happened already and when talking about binding, it may suggest a controlling of power — or in Tyr’s case, a loss of power — rather than an actual physical binding.
  3. Ragnarok has already happened at least once.  That means that our gods exist, but in newer forms.
  4. The gods are many faceted and capable of being in several places at once.  This, oddly enough, works when you consider quantum theory.  So, Loki may be tied to a rock in one place and free in another.  (Yeah, quantum theory is fucked up.)

Seeing as I’ve had dealings with the god of chaos, I can say that he is very much around.  Plus, we have plenty of chaos in our world — binding him did no good on that score.

Why Loki is a Powerful God

Why is Loki a powerful god?  Think about it.  He controls chaos and randomness. Without him, the universe would not work the way it does.  When things happen by chance — good or bad — that is the domain of Loki.  When we think about suddenly finding money on the road while walking, or missing a bus or plane because something held you up, or getting in a car accident when you were not at fault, that’s Loki working in your life.

Loki is the god of entropy as well.  That means that as chaos and randomness continues, so order breaks down.  That is, in essence, what many scientists predict will happen to our universe as it ends.  It goes cold as it dies as everything breaks apart.  A powerful god, to be sure.

A Poem to Loki

I found this on the Interwebs and thought I’d share it with you.  Not my work, but I do have permission to use it.

Full Cycle

The cave is dark, as the one where he bested Andvari.
The gold he got freed the Aesir from bonds.
Now he lies fettered himself.
He remembers

Pranks and jests
– dangerous, granted –
Showing them life
without masquerade of youth,
or jewels, or hair.
Drip.

They took his gifts
but they never learned
his secrets of change
and looking at unpleasant truths.
Drip. The bowl fills.

How they put everything
they could not deal with
out of sight, or life:
Ymir. The giants. His Ironwood-get.
Drip.

They could not face death.
Even some humans did better.
The bowl fills to the brim,
surface taut as a bowstring-
Drip.
Poison flows
Balder´s blood
rushing
tears of nine worlds
gushing
the stream where they caught him
Snake spit burns
like Asgard´s curses,
not this!

Tormented, he strains
to break bonds
with prophecy´s force
Midgard trembles
– maybe this time? –
Sigyn hurries
Will she return…?
Relief.
Now it´s just the cave, and the darkness,
and three stones cutting his back,
and the memories they share.

Drip.
A tear Sigyn sheds.

— Full Cycle Poem © 2007 Michaela Macha. This work (entitled Full Cycle) by Michaela Macha (www.odins-gift.com) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives License.

How to Perform a Salt Purification Ritual

How to Perform a Salt Purification Ritual

“I think I might have problems with wights,” I told one wight expert about issues at my barn. Never mind that I’m strongly agnostic about wights, and never mind that I don’t believe in magic. I was at wit’s end when it came to my goats getting sick and dying. I had one necropsy performed on a dead kid which proved nothing except that I had a very healthy, dead kid. The expert recommended that I perform a salt purification ritual to rid the barn of negative influences.

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More Valuable than Gold, Salt Shaped Civilizations and Magic

More Valuable than Gold, Salt Shaped Civilizations and Magic

In ancient times, there were few commodities more precious than salt.  Yes, salt.  If you remember your high school history lessons, you know that the Roman legions got paid in salt, hence the word, “salary.”  But why was salt  so important, how did it affect our northern ancestors, and what is the history behind salt?

Yes, I got busy and did some research on salt.  I thought I’d share what I discovered.

Why Salt was so Important

The history behind salt is actually pretty interesting.  Salt is still an indispensable commodity for life. In the past it was used for preserving food, medicines, the processing of leather, mummification, and smelting metals. Livestock required salt as a supplement, so anyone who had livestock that couldn’t forage, would need to provide salt to keep their herds healthy.  It was used in magic, religious, and purification rituals.  And, of course, it was used to season food. In the Middle Ages, salt was actually considered a “spice,” rather than a mineral.

It seems odd that something we take for granted today — and are told that we get too much of — was so valuable then.  This is because salt needed to be mined or extracted, and there were only a few ways to get salt, comparatively speaking.  You either mined it by hand, or you set up some sort of evaporative system that enabled you to get the salt from sea water or salt water springs.  The further inland you were, the less access you had to salt, unless you discovered a salt deposit and mined it.

The Oldest Town Discovered in Europe was a Salt Mine

Roman salt mining tool

Before the wheel was invented, nearly seven thousand years ago, people were mining salt in northwest Bulgaria.  They lived near salt water springs and boiled the salt water in kilns to distill the salt, itself.  The workers would then bake the salt into bricks. They traded those bricks with local tribes for precious items, like gold.

Even though these people had no carts or wheels, they managed to build high rock walls to protect their investment.  They were rich with gold; archaeologists have found 3000 gold artifacts in the area.  This town, known as Provadia-Solnitsata, had about 350 inhabitants.  350 very wealthy inhabitants who lived in two-story homes and a gated community.  Some things never change.

Salt Mining in Austria and Poland

The Last Supper carved from salt

According to the Hallein Salt Mine’s website, salt mining has been going on for 7000 years there.  Mined by neolithic Celtic peoples, salt was valuable to them as well. Prehistoric salt mining on the Dürrnberg began in the 6th century BC, rivaling the town Provadia-Solnitsata in age.  My guess is that as people learned to harvest salt, there was a “salt rush,” akin to a gold rush.  People who got in on the mining probably fared pretty well, comparatively speaking.  Archaeologists have uncovered gold, amber, and coral objects, suggesting that the Celts were trading their salt for valuable items from other areas.

In Poland, the people have mined salt since the 13th century from the Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines.  They’re kind of cool, having even an underground Christian chapel composed entirely of salt.

So What About Salt in Norse Mythology?

Salt was apparently crucial enough to talk about in our own creation myths.  Auðhumbla, the primeval cow, licked the rime from where the cold and heat came together.  This salt rime created Buri, the first god, and nourished Auðhumbla, even though we know full well today that there are no calories in salt.  But maybe the Norse figured it was a magic rime, or the cow needed nothing else.

Stories of How the Sea Became Salty

Like many cultures which relied on the sea, the Norse had their own just-so stories that described how the sea became salty.  In the Skáldskarpamál and the Poetic Edda, Grottasöngr, that is, the Song of Grotti, tells a story how King Frodi of Denmark purchased two giant woman slaves named Fenja and Menja to grind the magic millstones, known as Grotti.  These millstones were so large that ordinary men could not use them.  Frodi had the women grind out peace and prosperity for his people, but he forbade them to rest.  The women then ground out an army that overthrew Frodi and the Viking leader, Mysing, took the millstones and the women on his ship.  He ordered the

Fenja and Menja

m use the mill and grind, but when the two women became tired, he forbade them to stop.  They became angry and began to grind salt.  They ground so much salt, that they sank the ship. The place where they purportedly sank is a whirlpool where below they grind salt to this day.

Salt in the Viking Era

Despite having a lot of salt water surrounding Norway, Sweden, and Finland salt was very expensive in the northmost countries and nearly nonexistent in Iceland. The Norse were more likely to use pickling, drying, smoking, and fermenting to preserve foods rather than salting them.  The further south you went, the more likely you’d see salt as a method of preservation. In Denmark and England, you’d see more foods preserved in salt than you would in the northernmost lands.  That’s not to say the Norse weren’t aware of salt and didn’t use it, but the further north you went, the more expensive it was.

Salt in Religious Ceremonies and Magic

Not surprisingly, when you realize how important salt was, our ancestors used salt in religious ceremonies and magic.  Because of it’s antibacterial properties, our ancestors used salt in purification rituals and other types of magic.  In my next post, I’ll cover some of those magical uses and maybe give you some ways to use salt in your own rituals.

 

 

 

Four Ways to Make Easter Not Suck

Four Ways to Make Easter Not Suck

Easter has never been my favorite time, largely because it’s a Christian holiday that is pretty much a celebration of their death-cult god. Even when I was growing up, other than getting Easter baskets with lots of yummy chocolate, all I remember is having to get dressed up and go to church and afterwards a brunch that was maybe okay.  (Never mind the fact that ham was the main dish, ahem…in honor of Freyr.)

Sure, we can quibble whether Eostre was really an Anglo-Saxon goddess or not, but it really doesn’t matter much if you’re a solitary Heathen among Christians.  Sure, you can go through the motions and celebrate the season with family, but I’ve come up with some interesting ways to make Easter not suck.

Make Easter a Celebration to Freyr, Freyja, and Eostre


Okay, maybe Eostre existed in Anglo-Saxon lore, and maybe she didn’t.  That’s okay.  We know Freyr and Freyja exist and we can use Easter as a time to celebrate the gods and goddesses of spring.  That means creating yummy meals, doing blots, and celebrating like it’s a time to celebrate — that is, the beginning of new life.

Have a roast pig dish, crack open a bottle of mead, and celebrate the spring.  Got Christians in your family?  Well, how would they know this is for our gods and not theirs?

This past Yule, I didn’t get my Christmas cookies made, so I figure now is as good of time as any to make roll out cookies. Luckily I have more than just Christmas shapes.  In fact, one of my sisters gave me a Star Wars cookie cutter set, because nothing says Christmas like Star Wars.  So, I figure Easter is as good as any for cookies that I can enjoy. (ETA: Munching on them right now.)

Go Have Fun While the Christians are in Church

Look, not everything in the United States shuts down on Easter (I can’t say that with certainty in other countries), so why not catch that movie you’ve wanted to see, go to the attractions that are normally mobbed other times of the year, or plan doing something that is just plain fun while the Christians are getting the megadose of guilt in church?  Look, just because they’re insistent on getting all formal to impress other people in church doesn’t mean we have to sit around and mope.  Celebrate Easter with a favorite movie, meal, or go outdoors and enjoy nature.

Or do what we do, and go rabbit hunting.  “Hey, it’s the Easter bunny!”  Blam!

Sleep In

It’s Sunday, and unless you have to work on Easter, just sleep in and relax.  Nobody is telling you to get up for the crack of dawn sunrise service.  Look, you’ll probably be doing that on Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice, so why bother for a day that has no meaning to you?

Do Some Eostre Egg Dyeing and Hiding

If you feel the need to enjoy the holiday, why not hard boil some eggs and use natural dyes to color them?  Here are recipes which teach you how to make natural colored dyes easily.  If you do put on an Eostre egg hunt, be sure to count the number of eggs you hid. otherwise a few days later you’ll find the egg with your nose.

I am certain there are other things you can do to make Easter more enjoyable.  Let me know what you do.