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When is Genocide Ever Acceptable ? Apparently, When Christians do it to Pagans…

When is Genocide Ever Acceptable ? Apparently, When Christians do it to Pagans…

I read this one post about a Christian who apparently thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to commit cultural genocide and to murder children as long as they’re Christianized and buried as Christians. No, no, he doesn’t say it in those particular words, but I am going to quote him from his own piece written in The American Conservative, and I hope you’ll see what I do.

The Quote from The American Conservative

The guy who wrote it is not just a writer there, but he’s an associate editor. That gives him a bit of clout. It also suggests the other editors generally agree with him. Here is the quote I’ve pulled. Let’s see how pissed off this makes you:

“Whatever natural good was present in the piety and community of the pagan past is an infinitesimal fraction of the grace rendered unto those pagans’ descendants who have been received into the Church of Christ. Whatever sacrifices were exacted in pursuit of that grace—the suffocation of a noble pagan culture; an increase in disease and bodily death due to government negligence; even the sundering of natural families—is worth it.”

What the Fuck Did I Just Read?

Okay, okay, I bet you’re wondering where the context is, and that I am going to give you right now. He is talking about the tragedy of the Native American children’s graves in Canada. (Note: I am using “American” in the sense of North America, not just the United States. That encompasses Canada.) You know, the stories we’ve heard on the news where they found at least 751 graves? Only, he doesn’t buy into the fact these are a big deal. His opinion is that everyone knew about these graves and these children died from the normal high mortality rate of children, and particularly of Native American children. He blames the Canadian Government for under-funding these residential schools for lack of medical care. He also claims that this was just a common graveyard because there are oral traditions that adults are buried there too. 

Yeah, because it never looks suspicious removing headstones. Which those in charge did.

People remove headstones when they don’t want other people to see how many people are buried there. Or who is buried there. Other times people don’t mark the graves because the persons therein weren’t considered important enough.  Or they were in a hurry to just bury them, usually because of a war or because of a pandemic. Looking at the children’s unmarked graves we can kind of figure that the first three reasons are in play, since we’re dealing with more than 150 years and probably 751+ children buried there.

Let’s Talk About Cultural and Ethnic Genocide, Shall We?

From South Dakota, but I like it.

Canada has a lot to answer for when it comes to its indigenous population. But let’s face it: the United States has plenty to answer to the Native Americans as well. Yes, our government robbed their land and committed systematic cultural and ethnically genocide. Some atrocities included the Trail of Tears, the Nez Perce War, and the American Indians Wars. But, Canada is as much to blame for the same tactics. I quote from Reuters:

“The residential school system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families…”

Holy shit. Yeah, the US was guilty of it, too. But here’s the thing: this was still going on in Canada 25 years ago. Look, I remember the 1990s. I couldn’t have imagined that a country would allow various religions to just snatch kids away from their families to indoctrinate them. Because they were Native Americans. Because they were different. And dare I say it? Because they were Pagan.

In these instances, yes, it was the Catholic Church responsible for taking kids away from their families, preventing them from speaking their native languages, and depriving them of their right to practice their own religion and their own cultural heritage. And the government allowed it. Sure, there were other churches that did the same thing, but let’s focus on the Catholics, eh? You know, the ones who are still finding $300 million Canadian Dollars to revamp and repair their churches, but could only cough up $25 million Canadian Dollars for the survivors of these atrocities? Think about that for a moment.

Let’s Look at the Mindset of the Conservative Christian

Now, I know lots of Christians would find the attitude this editor had about Native Americans to be appalling–or, at least, I hope they would. But honestly? Would they applaud children being taken away from their families to be indoctrinated in the Catholic (or whatever else) Church? Many apparently never living past their school years? Think about when you grew up. Do you remember kids dying and being buried behind the school? Probably not, unless you were a victim of one of these schools. 

I went to K-12 school during the time these residential schools were operating. (Yeah, I’m THAT old–deal with it.) I only remember kids dying in maybe auto accidents or gang violence. And that was in high school. So, in my sheltered existence, I don’t recall hearing about someone dying because of the school per se. But then, I wasn’t taken away from my family and forced to endure a boarding school where my classmates might just disappear and never return. Go figure.

But let’s talk about the reason why he thinks this isn’t any big deal. The editor thinks that anything the indigenous populations endured was worth becoming Christianized. In other words, the “Indians” were pagans. Pagans are bad. Therefore, atrocities? No big deal. Right?

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

Yeah, he feels badly for “the little tykes.” He blames the secular authority for the deaths. Never mind that the Catholic Church has HOW MUCH money? (See the $300 million dollar quote above.) Never mind the Catholic Church has more gold than Fort Knox. But dammit! They’re pagan! And we can’t have that, can we? So, it’s better to die a good Christian than live with one’s family as an awful pagan.

Do you get why his mindset is utterly horrifying? And just how many Christians agree with this?

It sickens and saddens me that Native Americans have been treated/are being treated in this fashion. That they lost so many children. Furthermore, if people such as this editor believes that the ends justify the means, then anyone who is pagan is considered worthy of this treatment.

Think about THAT for a moment.

Anyone.

Because they are Pagan.

So yeah, think about this if you believe because it’s Native Americans, it has no bearing on you. Never mind that the combined number of dead children is over a thousand (when you consider both residential schools grave sites). Never mind we don’t know what other undiscovered grave sites lurk where these people buried the children. In the minds of the perpetrators of this cultural genocide, it needed to be done because the children weren’t Christian. Hence they needed to be taken away from their parents, taught their religion and culture were wrong, and probably die due to abuse and lack of care.

Except, none of this should have happened.

The Elder Futhark: Eihwaz

The Elder Futhark: Eihwaz

The thirteenth rune in the Elder Futhark, and fifth rune of Heimdallr’s ætt, is Eihwaz, which corresponds to the “eo” sound, which has no English equivalent in the alphabet. Probably the closest is the pronunciation of the name “Theo.” This is powerful rune that is protection, and oddly enough, death. It is the rune Yggdrasil and the Yew tree.

In Anglo-Saxon, Eihwaz is spelled Eoh, and in Old Norse it is Eihwas. Eihwaz is the rune of protection and defense. Self bows were often constructed of yew. If the wood was chosen correctly, it would have two different properties in the wood, itself. One part would be rigid; the other would be flexible.

Eihwaz is a powerful rune of protection. Like the self bow or yew staff, it can be both hard and flexible. The rune is even shaped somewhat like a bow, or a staff, if you use enough imagination. The reason why this rune can be a portent of death is because the yew, itself, is poisonous.

Divination with Eihwaz

When you get this rune in a casting, it suggests a strong defense of some kind. It can be your defender, depending on where it is in the reading, or it can defend against you if you are the aggressor. It is the rune of defense and protection, similar to the rune, Algiz. Then again, it can signal death in a very real way. It can mean death of an old way that can make way for something else. Or it could mean a literal death, but this is rare, in my experience.

When I’ve had Eihwaz appear in my castings, I’ve never interpreted it as death. It always seems to say that something bad is usually coming to an end, making way for something else, usually good. Eihwaz is my bow that keeps my enemies at an arrow shot away. It offers me the tools to protect myself.

Should you get this rune in your castings, it is a powerful sign that something is protecting and defending you. Like Yggdrasil, the protection is powerful enough to withstand damage even at the roots. It can help give you strength when times are tough.

Some Final Thoughts on Eihwaz

When Eihwaz appears in a spread, you may find that Eihwaz signals that you are protected, and that a difficult time will soon be over. As always, the position where Eihwaz appears as well as the runes around it will dictate how it should be read, because they can affect its meaning.

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Summer Solstice: A Time for Renewal

Summer Solstice: A Time for Renewal

Somehow each year, summer solstice sneaks up on me. Sure, the days get extraordinarily long here in the Northern Rockies, and sure everything is greening up fast. I have two goat kids who are now almost four weeks old, and yeah, the warmer weather is upon us. Still, I end up feeling unprepared for the solstice.

Shaking Off Skadi’s Powers

Skadi reigns much of the time here in the Northern Rockies. That being said, Thor, Freyr, Freyja, and Baldr take hold around now. I heard Thor’s voice this week, announcing his arrival. Freyr and Freyja show their might as new life appears. Animals’ offspring follow them out of thickets and dens; the forests take on a lush green. The time for renewal is at hand.

Warning: Science!

In a scientific sense, the summer solstice is simply the time when our planet’s tilt is closest to the sun. Imagine our planet is a toy top that has been set in motion. At some point in the spin, the top begins to tilt and wobble as it slows down. That is what our planet is doing right now.

We know that millions of years ago, our days were shorter because our planet was spinning faster. As our planet’s spin slows, our days grow longer by 1.8 milliseconds a century. Eventually that will add up to more noticeably longer days, but certainly not in our lifetime, nor in the lifetimes of our children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren.

It’s this small tilt that makes it possible for us to have four seasons. When our side of the hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, we have winter. When it is tilted toward the sun, we have summer. It is the furthest tilt that brings us the solstices.

If you don’t find it simply amazing that something so slight as a small wobble could affect life on our planet, there’s something wrong  with you.  That feels like magic, plain and simple, even if it is science.

Thanks to the Gods for the Solstices

I can’t help but think that these happy coincidences which brought life to flourish on our planet were part of the gods’ plans. I’m willing to accept the science, and yet, the coincidences are astonishing.

Think about it. We live on a planet that basically won the lottery when it came to supporting life. Even if you’re not a creationist-type person, you have to admit we lucked out. Our gods have set in motion an amazing world, and we are damn lucky to have it. We’re damn fortunate to be here, given all the times our species has nearly gone extinct.

Understanding the Solstices as a Threshold

The summer solstice is a threshold of sorts. I’ve heard the term “liminal” used to describe certain parts of the year. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, but at the same time, it heralds the loss of light until the winter solstice.

I think of the story about Baldr and Hodr. Baldr is made impervious to all things except the mistletoe. Loki gives Hodr a spear made from mistletoe and helps Hodr aim it. We think of Baldr as the sun on summer solstice. His blind brother, Hodr, is the oncoming darkness of winter. Each year, Hodr “slays” Baldr, but Baldr is eventually resurrected to shine once more.

The solstices mark when the days are the longest, and when they are the shortest. After the summer solstice, we begin our march towards winter. The sunlight retreats until the winter solstice, when it returns again.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

As Heathens, the solstices are our holy days. During the summer solstice, we thank the gods for the light and for our growing season. We ask for health and good harvests, even if we no longer have anything to do with farming. We celebrate our families and friends.

I find there is plenty to celebrate when it comes to the solstice. We may have dealt with some pretty shitty things in our lives, but we have to be among the living to still be here. The wonder that is our life is still amazing, and there is still plenty to learn and experience in this world.

Our Renewal with the Summer Solstice

Nowadays, people are pretty jaded when it comes to our seasons. Sure, people enjoy the warm weather, but there isn’t a lot of joy in the seasons, themselves. There certainly isn’t a lot of wonder in them–we know what causes the seasons. At some point, people only look forward to the seasons as times for doing human activities, and not just marveling at the season, itself.

Think about it. I doubt seriously most people sit and just meditate on summer when the summer solstice passes. You might, and maybe your heathen and pagan friends do, but most people just don’t. And yet, the summer solstice is a time for renewal. That includes renewing yourself as a heathen.

No matter how old you are, you can take part in that renewal. It can be as short as a few minutes, or as long as you feel is necessary. And yeah, it’s a type of magic, I suppose. You’re going to get in touch with the landvaetr, the gods, and the ancestors.

How to Renew Yourself During the Summer Solstice, and Beyond…

Summer solstice is a time to thank the gods, the landvaetr, and the ancestors for everything. You may wish to have some mead or other offering to leave at your outdoor altar. If you don’t have an outdoor altar, you can choose a favorite tree outside. Whatever your offering is, be sure it is biodegradable and not poisonous to wildlife and pets.

  • Start by sitting comfortably outside, preferably in a forest, park, or other place within nature. You can sit in a chair, on a bench, on a rock or log, or even on the ground, if you so choose. Close your eyes, or keep your eyes open. Doesn’t matter.
  • Take deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Let your mind still as you breath in this fashion, and focus on relaxing each muscle group as you do.
  • As you relax, you may notice your environment. Is it hot and sunny, or is it cool? Is there a breeze? What does the air feel like? What about where you are sitting? Are you comfortable, or do you feel uncomfortable because the ground is wet, insects are buzzing around you, or something is poking you in the butt?
  • What do you smell on the breeze? Sure, you may get the smells of the city, but can you smell the flowers nearby? What do the trees smell like? Do you get an earthy scent from the moss and wet ground nearby? Does the air have a taste? Acrid from the city, or does it taste like the flowers nearby? Sharp like a pine tree? Woodsy like an oak tree?
  • What do you hear? Sure, you may hear traffic and people, but is there a bird singing nearby? What does the leaves sound like when the breeze rustles through it? Do you hear the snort of a deer, or maybe the barking of a dog? Maybe the chittering of a squirrel.
  • Open your eyes, if they aren’t already open. What do you see? Try to not take in everything, but focus on something natural: a flower, a tree, a river or stream, a mountain top, or maybe the ocean. Some may be too big or too small to focus on. That’s okay. Just move from one natural thing to another, if you’re not focusing.
  • Look up and Sunna and thank her for the warmth of the first day of summer. Thank Baldr for the beauty of the sun at summer solstice. Thank Mani for the solstice moon.
  • Thank Freyr and Freyja for the new life around you, whether it’s animals, plants, or even human babies.
  • Thank Thor and Sif for the rains and the harvest that is to come. Ask for our farmers’ prosperity and a bountiful harvest.
  • Thank whichever gods you wish to honor at this time.
  • Thank the landvaetr for their tireless care over the land you sit on.
  • Thank your ancestors, for without them, there would be no you to enjoy the moment.
  • Pour an offering (or leave an offering) on your outdoor altar, or at the place you designated.
  • Spend as much time as you’d like (or as much time as you’re permitted) enjoying the solstice.

Other Fun Ways to Celebrate the Solstice

I have another post on Five Ways Heathens can Celebrate the Summer Solstice. Check it out.

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12 Reasons Why I Follow the Heathen Gods and Not the Christian One (Part Three)

12 Reasons Why I Follow the Heathen Gods and Not the Christian One (Part Three)

I was asked by a Christian in the comments section why I follow the Heathen gods. I have plenty of answers why, which is why you can read about it in Part One and Part Two.

Please note that these aren’t the only reasons why I am a Heathen, and because a Christian asked, I want to point out the obvious folly behind their beliefs as well. Look, I swallowed the Christian Kool-Aid for years, and eventually my logic won out. I would’ve probably stayed agnostic or even gone atheist, had it not been for Tyr and Thor. More on that later. Let’s go through the last four reasons (and the bonus fifth reason).

4. The Whole Christ Story is preposterous for several reasons

Oiy! I’m back to bashing Christianity again. But let’s talk about the Christ myth for a moment, shall we? I’ll get back to why I follow the Heathen gods in a moment. The Christian bible goes into a vast lineage of Joseph–who was technically NOT Jesus’s father according to the myth, but probably was–all the way back from Adam and Eve.

Timing Issues, or You Can Ask the Doctor About That

You knew I had to get a Doctor Who reference in somehow. So, why not, since we’re talking about the past?

Jesus’s whole “begets” is basically the bullshit that the creationists use to justify their belief that the Earth is only 6000 years old. That and all the other “begets” and claims someone lived 500 years here, and 1000 years there. Never mind science has proven the Earth is several billion years old and there is no way humans were around for just 6000 years. We know through archaeology that Homo Sapiens–our race–have been around for 200,000 years or so, according the the fossil record. That doesn’t include our hominid ancestors who came before us.

The Earth is Billions of Years Old. Get Over It.

We know the fossil record is legitimate. We know that thousands of archaeologists, paleontologists, and geologists aren’t in a gigantic conspiracy to cover the “truth” up. Shit like that just doesn’t happen. Sure, there have been hoaxes. But we know they’re hoaxes because some scientist actually stepped forward and said it had to be.

Science isn’t always right, but that’s the beauty of it. We make the best possible informed guesses with the amount of data we have (hypothesizes, and then theories). When a new fact presents itself that flies in the face of what we believe, we modify our statements accordingly. We are certain some theories are indeed facts (based on the physical and repeatable proof), such as the theory of gravity.

We know the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, from the geologic and fossil records. Yeah, that’s quite a difference from the 6000 years the New Earth Christians claim it is. So, the whole Garden of Eden thing couldn’t have happened. The proof of the Earth’s age has to do with measurements and facts. The proof the New Earth Christians have? A book written by a bunch of Bronze Age peoples. Hmm. I wonder which one is more accurate?

The Earth wasn’t made in six days, there was no Adam and Eve (or Ask and Embla, for that matter), and there wasn’t a Garden of Eden. Those are just stories to provide an answer to a group of desert peoples on how the world was created. Much of it is allegory, similar to our own stories. But people look at the bible like its a science text. It’s not.

The Whole Crucifixion Sacrifice Makes No Sense

Jesus supposedly dies for the world’s sins because of the inherited “Original Sin” — that being Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. That Yahweh put there. Along with a snake.

Yahweh decides to punish humans for being ignorant fools by having their descendants inherit their parents’ sin. Then sends his son down (who is their god, himself) and sacrifices himself to get rid of the sin. Only, he doesn’t. You have to get baptized to get that cleaned up. And people still sin despite the baptism. So, Jesus dies and stays dead for what amounts to a three day weekend. To appease himself.

What?

Okay, if there’s no Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, etc, then why did Jesus go through the sacrifice to allegedly purge us of this sin?

And Jesus vanishes in a puff of logic…

3. Heathenism Has Always Fascinated Me

Honest to gods truth here: if I weren’t a Heathen or pagan, I’d probably be agnostic or even an atheist. In fact, before I became a Heathen, I was on the road to atheism. But, something always held me back from being an atheist, and because of that, I follow the Heathen gods.

Growing Up Skeptic

When I was young, I quickly figured out Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny didn’t exist. I’d say before I was five, I had it all figured out. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to believe in supernatural things. On the contrary. I’d look for fairies and Elves, and other creatures in the forest outside my home.

I remember some kids talking about “fairies” in this one place I knew. Quizzing them about the fairies, I realized they were talking about dandelion and goats-beard seeds and not actual little folk. I was, as you can imagine, quite disappointed. So, I pretty much decided they were all the activity of overactive imaginations. That being said, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Landvaetr. I know of many Heathens on the Internet who deal with them, so I am agnostic when it comes to them.

Stories About the Gods Intrigued Me Enough to Follow the Heathen Gods

I remember as a kid being utterly fascinated with stories about Loki and Thor. Tyr’s story about how he sacrificed his hand. Idunn’s apples. The building of Asgard. The stories inspired me in ways the bible never could. They were great stories about gods whom I could relate to. The stories had humor, courage, confidence, honor, treachery, love, and self-sacrifice. The bible may have those things, but the stories never appealed to me, except when they spoke about angels.

Growing Up with Runes, Tolkien, and Fantasy

I was in sixth grade when I was introduced to Tolkien’s The Hobbit. A teacher of mine–in a parochial school, no less!–read us from The Hobbit and Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.

This, this was what I wanted. Especially Tolkien. The story, while fiction, held some ancient truths in them. Dwarves mine and craft beautiful things. Light Elves sing and are in tune with nature. Trolls are dangerous; dragons hoard gold. Tolkien’s works were inspired by the Heathen stories. Even if he did grow up Catholic–some he and I had in common–he used his knowledge to paint an imaginative Heathen world.

My overly Christian sibling must have been struck by Thor or another of the Norse gods, because they gave me my first runestones. I soon had the elder Futhark memorized. I returned to the stones again and again, even when I didn’t really believe in them. They generally gave me good advice over the years.

2. My beliefs are my own. I don’t have to follow a set of ridiculous rules to obtain a reward.

Although I am highly opinionated when it comes to my beliefs (no, really?!), in the end my beliefs are my own. Your beliefs are your own. As long as it doesn’t impinge on someone else’s freedom, or doesn’t break the law, you’re welcome to believe whatever you want. I may think you’re an idiot, a racist, or a recon moron, but if you’re not violating laws, murdering innocents, or preventing people from worshiping our gods, I don’t care.

My Gods Don’t Care About the Minutia of My Day-to-Day Life

Honestly, there are days when I’ve not been my best. I’m guessing there are days when you’re not your best. But we try to be honorable if we are Heathens. That means living to a moral code of conduct. Our gods accept that.

Thor is unlikely to strike me down because I’ve been late on posts. Freyja and Freyr aren’t going to be pissed because I couldn’t cook a pig roast over <name a Heathen holiday>. Tyr isn’t going to punish me because I looked at another religion, or swore mightily when I fell and bruised a knee. They want me to behave honorably, which is part of the ethics of reciprocity. The basis of the ethics of reciprocity states to treat people the way you want to be treated, aka the Golden Rule. Heathenism accepts this as don’t treat others the way you don’t want to be treated. In other words, I do my best and realize I am human with human failings. The gods know this.

Look, I know some of you are homosexual, practice polyamory, or are trans. I am not. I am heterosexual and monogamous. That is my choice. What your choice is doesn’t concern me as long as you’re not exploiting minors or harming animals. I look at you as a person, and if you happen to be an asshole, then I don’t like you. But sexuality doesn’t figure into the equation, whether you’re my friend or not, and I suspect the same is true with our gods. I doubt seriously the gods care what you do in your bedroom as long as it’s between consenting adults. It’s when you violate oaths, commit adultery, or murder someone, that’s when they take serious offense.

My Gods Care About the World

Many Heathen gods are nature gods. That means their powers come from nature. Just as Skadi brings the cold and snow, Thor brings the lightning and rain. Sif and Freyr bring the harvest. Our gods are part of our world and yes, it pains them when humans defile it. Humans haven’t been granted stewardship of the world; we are a part of it and must live according to its laws. It is folly when religions treat our world like we own it. Okay, we’re here and the dominant species, but by the gods, plenty of things like diseases, asteroids, and volcanoes can wiped us off the face of the Earth.

As Heathens, we need to show respect to nature and its bounty. Not everything should be paved over, built up, or otherwise controlled. We’re still at the mercy of weather, earthquakes, and other natural catastrophes. We need to work with our gods and the Landvaetr to treat our world like the only place we live in. Because we do.

1. I have met and communicated with my gods.

This is probably the most controversial belief, but yes, I know Tyr, Thor, Odin, Freyr, Freyja, Loki, and a host of other deities. This is pure UPG or Unverified Personal Gnosis. They visit me in dreams. They talk to me during meditation or occasionally during other times. I have met Odin in person. (Freaked me out.) I have had Tyr possess me for a short time. (It was strange–don’t ask). I have felt love for them, and I can feel their love towards me. And that is good.

My gods work with the living. My reward doesn’t come after I die; my reward is here and now, day after day. Life is a gift and is worth living.

I already know where I will go when I die. It’s not a case of how much penance I do, or whether I believe in them. The fact that I know they are with us just sweetens the deal. I’m glad they were patient enough to convince me they existed.

Bonus Reason: Most Christians as assholes

To make this ridiculously long post even longer, I had to add this dig at Christians. Most Christians are assholes. Sure, there are Christians who are nice. Just like I know good and kind atheists, agnostics, Jews, Wiccans, Muslims, and peoples of other faiths. The problem I have is that many Christians tend to be egotistical and self-righteous. They “know” because they believe in Jesus that they’re going to heaven, no matter what they do. They wear their faith on their sleeve. And they wouldn’t do good works if it didn’t give them brownie points in heaven. They become passive-aggressive when you don’t agree with them, telling you they’ll pray for your soul. Guess what? I don’t need their self righteous attitude.

I’ve also had Christians assume that since I’m not Christian that I have no moral code of conduct. They’re wrong, of course. I do indeed have a code of conduct, and I resent their implications. I don’t need a god to tell me to do the right thing (although Tyr has complained when I’ve fucked up).  I try very hard to live honorably. Sometimes I succeed.

I think I’ve written enough on the subject. As always, feel free to tell me what you think in the comments section.

12 Reasons Why I Follow the Heathen Gods and Not the Christian One (Part Two)

12 Reasons Why I Follow the Heathen Gods and Not the Christian One (Part Two)

This is the second part of 12 Reasons why I follow the Heathen Gods and not the Christian One. If you want to read the first part, you can read it HERE.

In the last piece, I slammed the Christian faith, but I realized I didn’t really address Heathen beliefs. So, even though this includes comments about how Christianity differs, my main focus is on Heathenry.

So, let’s get started and see why I prefer Heathenry over Christianity.

8. Heathenry doesn’t care whom you worship or who worships our Heathen gods

In most forms, Heathenry really doesn’t care if you worship our gods, the Christian god, some other pantheon, or no god. In the past Heathens would worship gods from different cultures alongside the Norse/Germanic gods. Granted, it seems a little incongruous to worship the white Christ alongside Thor, but there you go. I personally think it’s folly to worship the Christian god alongside our gods, because the Christian god has made it abundantly clear he does not want to be worshiped alongside pagan gods.

But, if I want to honor Tyr, Skadi, Perun, Zisa, and some other god, that’s no big deal to Heathenry, for the most part. (Yeah, there are wankers in every religion, including ours, who will say that’s not Heathenry, but they’re not Asa-popes, so ignore them.) The main part of Heathenry is that you accept our Nordic gods and goddesses, and that’s about it.

Our Gods are Colorblind

Also, our gods and goddesses are colorblind. That means that it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you come from, if you’re Heathen, you’re with us. Yeah there are some folkish (AKA racist) types who have decided for whatever bizarre reason that only white, Northern peoples can worship our gods, but that’s totally incorrect, especially given the recent DNA and bone mineral compositions discovered in archaeology. People who have occupied Viking burials have proven to originate in Poland, Russia, Slavic countries, Mediterreanan countries (including Italy and Spain), Mongolia, and North Africa.

Warning: SCIENCE! or How We Know Where People Came From

We know Vikings came from different ethnicities because scientists analyzed the strontium isotopes in their teeth and compared it with the soil of many places. The land you grew up in leaves a lasting strontium signature that is unique to that land. Scientists can determine where the person in a particular gravesite grew up given the unique set to isotopes. So, even though we only have some writings about a black Viking, we can infer from the strontium isotopes that those who were given warriors’ burials (or, at least burials with grave goods) were not just from Scandinavia (although many were), many were from other regions and other skin colors. Many had Mjolnir pendants. Surprise!

Vikings Went EVERYWHERE

This should come to no surprise to anyone because the Vikings traveled as far east as Baghdad, as south as North Africa, and as west as the Eastern seaboard of North America. We know from new finds in archaeology that there was a thriving eastern trade between the Vikings and places such as Constantinople, Baghdad, and a number of cities around the Caspian Sea. Vikings left runes, carvings of their ships, and other artifacts where they went. It makes sense that they mingled with the local populace, and even obtained mates from those locations.

Heathenry is Egalitarian

So, it makes sense that Heathenry should be egalitarian, in respect to other faiths. Heathens incorporated the gods of others with their own gods, and worshiped whatever gods made sense to them.

Christianity, however, is a religion of persecutors. I have plenty of documented evidence how pagans were constantly forced to convert — often at sword point. The so-called Christian persecution by Romans doesn’t really hold up when comparing the biblical texts to Roman historians. Did persecution occur? I don’t doubt some did, but I more suspect those stories were made up to provide martyrs for the church.

7. Heathenism treats men and women more as equals; Christianity is misogynistic

Heathenry treats our men and women as equals now, and in the past, they were treated almost as equals. We know that the concept of the shieldmaiden isn’t a fanciful story, given that we’re now discovering burials with swords and weapons of war include women, whose skeletons were mistaken as men’s until someone thought to run DNA analysis on them.

Misogyny as a Christian Tradition

Unfortunately, most of our modern beliefs and misogyny stems from our Christian traditions. That women could never be warriors, that they didn’t have a role in society, other than producing babies, and that they didn’t travel with the Viking men. And yet, we’re now finding more and more graves that had presumably Viking men contain female skeletons with swords.

Now, some people discount this, saying that they didn’t think the women actually used the swords, but as one archaeologist so deftly put it, “Would there even be an argument that the person buried with the sword was a warrior, if that person was male?” Excellent point.

Women were often priestesses called Gydhja. Heathens revered these women and they helped people when it came to healing, seeing the future, and talking to the gods. Yes, there were priests (Godhi), but women played a significant role as well.

Although nowadays some sects of Christianity allow women priests, this is something that has occurred within the past fifty years. Even so, many sects–including the Catholic Church–do not allow priestesses. Obviously a travesty and it aligns with what is in their bible.

Women Fought and Traded Alongside Viking Men

Preconceived notions aside, we know from burials that women did accompany men given the strontium isotopes in their teeth. And while more Viking men than women came from Scandinavia, there was a large enough faction in both sexes which came from other places. In other words, there was more diversity in women than men, but at the same time, there were enough men who came from different places who were given Viking-style graves to suggest that the women weren’t slaves or concubines, necessarily. The grave goods in the burials suggest that they were people of some status other than slaves.

Not all women who came with the Vikings were warriors, though. Most likely many of them were traders, artisans, skilled crafters of goods, and other support laborers. Sure, there were the camp followers, but there was also a need for someone to support the armies or raiding parties, as well as establish connections with the locals in the area. Both men and women could easily fill that role.

Women in Viking Society Had More Rights

We know that a woman could divorce a man under certain circumstances. We also know that women could own land, titles, and a fair amount of property, especially if they were widowed. Women were priestesses, and seidr was considered more of feminine magic than male magic. Freyja was a major deity, right alongside Odin and Thor. We know that Freyja gets first pick of the dead warriors — which presumably includes female warriors. Yeah, Odin gets the second cut. Think about that.

I’m not claiming that everything was fair for women. In fact we see in our myths that Odin was and could be downright misogynous. Just read the passages from the Havamal about his belief concerning women, and I rest my case.

Christianity is Misogynous

Okay, so let’s look at what Christianity says about women. Paul says women should obey their husbands in Corinthians. Timothy has a slew of bullshit. Outside of the Bible, you have people like Martin Luther saying “If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.” Wow. What an asshole.

Women have almost always been the victims of witch hunts since Christianity began. The “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” in the Bible (Exodus 22:18) has given religious leaders a reason to murder innocent women throughout the ages. And while men did get caught up in this bullshit, more often women are the targets.

6. Most Heathens accepts Science as fact; Christians, not so much

Most Heathens accept science and the information it has brought to us on how our world was formed, Sure, we have our own version of fundamentalism, but if pressed, I think most Heathens would accept the latest archaeological findings.

Norse Creation Stories

Our religion has its own creation stories. We certainly don’t accept that the world was created in six days like the Christians. Most of us also don’t believe that our world came into being when fire and ice joined together and made rime that a cow licked to create Frost Giants and gods. And most of us don’t believe that Odin and his brothers killed Ymir to create our world. If hard pressed, I’d say that Heathens consider the Norse creation story as a myth and not fact. I believe the story is an allegory of sorts, explaining to a Bronze Age to Iron Age culture how the world came into existence. It gives a satisfactory tale that people enjoy listening to.

Viking Creation Stories Are Oral Traditions, Similar to the Children’s Game of Telephone

Viking stories were oral traditions. That means they weren’t written down. Sure, we have images of certain stories that show that the key components were still told, but oral traditions change after time. Since the creation story was written down well after the Viking Age, chances are it changed quite a bit over the years. Chances are the story people told before the Viking Age began and what they told after Scandinavia was Christianized were probably very different, as our Northern ancestors told and retold the stories countless times, embellishing them for the audience, similar to the children’s game of telephone. (Or is it called “operator?” I can’t remember.)

My point is Heathens generally don’t consider these stories as gospel. They are stories about our gods and heroes that have elements of truth in them, but aren’t considered a science text. Even so, we have sagas that have led us to discoveries such as the Viking settlement in North America and other interesting archaeological finds.

5. Heathens consider our writings incomplete and written by humans; Christians believe that their Bible is the word of their god

Bronze age to Iron age peoples wrote the Bible, not their god. There are so many inconsistencies within the Bible that you really can’t expect to take the text as law. Heathens, on the other hand, know that our stories were passed down in an oral tradition until someone like Snorri Sturluson wrote them down. We know they’re not complete, and we know that they’ve been influenced by Christianity.

We also know that there are common themes in the Norse stories we read. For example, we know that Tyr sacrificed his hand to Fenrir because we see images of Fenrir and Tyr on artifacts.

What about the Havamal?

Some believe the Havamal is Odin’s own writings. I can’t say for certain, but there might be a glimmer of truth to that. Still, if you believe the Havamal is Odin’s own words, that’s okay. He provides guidelines and not laws like the Christian god for how to live your life. It’s simply words of wisdom coming from the All Father.

The Havamal does have misogynistic statements in it. But you do have to consider the source–if indeed Odin wrote it. I don’t consider Odin a role model for how to treat women, and you shouldn’t either. So, like anything, Heathens take the story with a grain of salt. Or they should.

Heathens Accept Unverified Personal Gnosis or UPG (More on this later)

As Heathens we accept that the Heathen gods are still around and speak to us personally. We don’t require a church to hear our gods.

Okay, I’ve espoused enough for this time why Heathenry is infinitely better than Christianity. I’ll hopefully have a wrap up sometime soon. Again, take what you like out of this and tell me what you think in the comments section.

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Twelve Reasons Why I Follow the Heathen Gods and Not the Christian One (Part One)

Twelve Reasons Why I Follow the Heathen Gods and Not the Christian One (Part One)

Sure enough, a Christian came on board and asked why I believe/follow the Heathen gods. I have tons of reasons why, but I’ll be happy enough to mention twelve. The problem is my explanations are lengthy, and I have a lot to say, which means this is probably going to go over three posts. Which is fine, since I’ve been failing miserably at keeping my posts up.

If you’re a Heathen, chances are you will find my arguments useful, especially if you have to talk to a Christian (ahem,…family member?) about why you’re Heathen and not Christian. No doubt there are other reasons, but I back my statements with facts and science. So, feel free to quote me.

So, without further ado, here are my first four reasons for why I follow the Heathen gods.

12. The bullshit Adam and Eve story being taken as fact.

Not a reason for why I follow the Heathen gods, but rather why I don’t follow the Christian one. First on my list is the Christians’ entire creation story of Adam and Eve. Yes, I know this is in the Torah, but I suspect that most Jews don’t take the Adam and Eve story as fact. If you believe that Adam and Eve were actually real, you’re an idiot.

Billions and Billions…

The Earth is billions of years old. Yes, BILLIONS. That means if you subscribe to the whole Genesis thing, you’re essentially a creationist that believes the first Homo Sapiens came into being about 6000 years ago. (That’s counting back all the lineages from Jesus to Adam.)

But we know thanks to Archaeology and Paleontology (Science, people!) that our species of Homo Sapiens evolved some 200,000 to 300,000 in Africa. We left Africa some 100,000 years ago in a migration. So, Adam and Eve could not have existed at all, let alone 6000 years ago.

Adam and Eve–Seriously, People?

Yes, yes, there was most likely a mitochondrial Eve whom all humans obtained their mitochondria from, who lived some 150,000 years ago, but this isn’t the Eve of the bible. In fact, it’s an unfortunate term, because the bible thumpers use this as proof for an Eve. Just as there was a Y-chromosomal Adam (again, unfortunate term) who lived somewhere between 180,000 and 560,000 years ago. Never mind the fact that “Adam” couldn’t have been an actual Homo Sapiens, but was probably one of the precursor homids we evolved from.

What apparently happened is due to the two or three times humans nearly went extinct, those with mitochondrial Eve’s mitochondria survived, just like those with Y-chromosomal Adam’s Y chromosome, survived. Kids, it’s not rocket science. And I should know, being a former rocket scientist.

Yahweh the Asshat

Okay, so we’ve cleared the existence of Adam and Eve up, it’s time to analyze the story, itself. Looking at the whole Adam and Eve story suggests that the Christian god is a serious wanker. He creates two naive adults (that are basically children), puts a tree of knowledge in their garden, and tells them not to eat from it.

I don’t know about you, but what responsible adult would do that? Let’s change the tree to a firearm, god to a parent, and Adam and Eve to a brother and sister. Now, tell me, would you leave a firearm out where kids could get them? I thought not.

Furthermore, we have a supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing god. Would a decent god who knew what would happen would stick a tree and a serpent in the Garden of Eden to tempt them? Seriously? Who does that? A sadist, that’s who.

Where the Christians Get it Fucked Up

You might be interested in how the whole Christ myth plays into the Adam and Eve story. You see, Yahweh was so pissed off, that he allowed Adam and Eve’s original sin to get inherited by all their descendants. So, we all do time for a sin committed supposedly by the first humans. Let’s pretend we’re lobotomized for the moment. What judge would make the innocent great-grandson of a murderer do time? And not just the innocent great-grandson, but the innocent sons and daughters of the murderer, their kids, their grandkids, and anyone else in the line, in-perpetuity?

Now, wait, it gets better. Send your son down to Earth, have him antagonize officials enough to get himself crucified so he can redeem all of humanity for the sins of the first supposed humans.

But science proves there wasn’t an Adam and Eve, right? So, what does that say about Jesus’s sacrifice?

Ask and Embla (the Norse Adam and Eve)

Okay, so you’ve read the whole Norse creation myth how ice and fire collided to make a rime, and a cow licked the salt from Ymir. And how Odin and his bros slayed Ymir and created Midgard. And how Odin and his bros created Ask and Embla…

Guess what, people? It’s a fucking story by an Iron Age culture how the world came into being. It isn’t fact. It is a story told by people with limited knowledge of the world how it was created. That means it may have kernels of truth in it, but a lot of it is just storytelling.

Next…

11. Eternal damnation for not believing

Okay, this is rich. You don’t believe in Yahweh or Jesus, and you burn in Hell forever. You sin against god’s laws and you burn in Hell forever. Hels Bells, even the US penal system only keeps you incarcerated for life if you’re really bad, and puts those to death who commit really heineous crimes.

Yeah, Heathens have our own version of the Christian Hell in Niflheim called Nastrond. Murderers, adulterers, and oath breakers get chewed on by a dragon. (I kind of like this), but honestly, is it for eternity? We don’t know. And oddly enough, Valhalla has plenty of adulterers, oathbreakers, and murderers, according to the sagas, so I really doubt Nastrond keeps them all there.

I’m not sure what to think about Nastrond. Is it a Christian addition to our stories, or does it really exist? Even the Greek Hades had a place where people who sinned against the gods got eternal punishments, but for the most part normal people existed in Hell as shades. Heroes were brought to the Elysium Fields. Everyone else just sort of hung around in an okay sort of afterlife.

So, do murderers, oathbreakers, and adulterers go to Nastrond forever? Hel is often fair, which makes me think the punishment fits the crime. Break an oath or cheat on your spouse once, and maybe you get gnawed on for a bit. Commit genocide and start a world war, and maybe you get chewed on for as long as it takes. But what do I know?

10. Heathenism is an ancient religion; Christianity is a new religion

Let’s talk religion, shall we? Heathenism is an ancient pagan religion that has its roots in animism. We were some of the last pagans before Christianity took hold, because the Norse were in remote areas.

Although religion primarily came from the Middle East, we still have proof that Stonehenge and other monuments were erected some 5000 or more years ago–around the same time as the Sumerians were creating their own monuments. I can’t say that Heathenism sprung from these early roots of sun and moon worship, but certainly there are links to shamanistic and animistic beliefs.

From what I can tell, Heathenism in the Nordic cultures came out of pro-Germanistic beliefs, thought to appear somewhere around 500 BCE. Yahwism appeared around 1000 BCE but he was a Canaanite god who was one of many gods and goddesses. He even had a spouse named Asherah who was worshiped with him. Judaism didn’t start being monotheistic until somewhere between 515 BCE and 70 CE. And Christianity didn’t really appear until about 42 CE with Paul’s proselytizing.

You may be able to point to Judaism and say your religion started with that, but honestly, not so much. You don’t follow all the laws laid down in Leviticus–you mix meat and milk, you mix different types of textiles, and you probably eat pork. And you certainly don’t kill your kids for being disrespectful. Not to mention that you now celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday and not Saturday.

9. Heathenism does not preach; Christianity is a religion of proselytizers

When was the last time you had a Heathen knock on your door and ask you if you knew about the good news from Odin?

As Heathens (and Pagans) we really don’t give a shit about what others believe as long as their religion doesn’t interfere with our rights. Look, you can believe your garbage about creationism all you want, but I draw the line when you try to teach kids your Yahweh and Jesus myths as fact. Just like I draw the line at having legislators come up with deeming a human life starts at conception (thank the Roman Catholic Church and evangelicals for that.)

Look, I don’t give a shit if you have a nativity scene or Christmas lights at the State Capitol. I don’t care if there’s an Easter Egg hunt on the White House’s front lawn. What I care about is whether you decide to make Christianity the main religion of the United States.

Heathenism isn’t about proselytizing. It’s about your relationship with the gods and nature. A Heathen has a relationship with his or her gods and nature, and doesn’t really give a shit what you believe as long as you don’t shove it in his or her face.

Tune in next week for my next set of why I follow the Heathen gods.

 

Eostre and Spring: Is Easter a Christian Holiday?

Eostre and Spring: Is Easter a Christian Holiday?

Every year about this time, Heathens, pagans, and those who don’t celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter are quick to point out that Easter isn’t a Christian holiday; yours truly included. But I do wish to address Easter as a Christian holiday, even if it has taken its name and customs from pagan celebrations.

Easter as a Christian Holiday

I’m talking about Easter first as a Christian holiday so we can distinguish between the Christian holiday and a pagan celebration. Despite the name, Easter, the holiday has its roots in the Jewish celebration of Passover.

If you’ve ever watched The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston, you know that Passover celebrates the flight of the Israelites from the Pharaoh’s oppression as described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible. Never mind that archaeologists are pretty sure that the pyramids were built by paid labor and not slaves. Furthermore there are no records by the Egyptians of Israelites in Egypt, let alone slaves.

Jesus purportedly entered Jerusalem for the week of Passover, which, for his troubles, ended up getting him nailed to a cross.

Why Easter is Primarily Christian

Now, before we go into all the pagan traditions surrounding Easter, I’m going to point out that despite my dislike of Christianity and its destruction of paganism, pagans can only superficially claim Easter because it is around the Vernal Equinox. The whole fairy tale of the “purportedly magic Jew” rising from the dead after being crucified is more or less their shtick. It happens around the time of Passover, which is based on the Book of Exodus in the Bible.

I can hear you saying “But Tyra, what about the other resurrection myths? What about the celebrations of Dionysus and Osiris? What about Beltane? And what about Odin hanging from Yggdrasil for nine days?” Yeah, yeah. All that is true and chances are the Christians stole the ideas from pagans, but the whole bullshit celebration of Easter is undoubtedly theirs. They wove the pagan stories together to fit their religion and there you have it, a Christian story.

Nothing is particularly new with the Jesus story. There have been many instances in religion of gods becoming men or appearing to be men. There are many instances of gods being crucified or hanged from trees. And there are plenty of instances of men or gods rising from the dead and becoming more powerful. The Jesus story is just a narrative that puts those elements together in a one god, Christian fashion.

But Easter is Pagan! Right?

Easter isn’t as pagan as Christmas. Sure, it takes elements from various beliefs and spins them into a story that has both familiar and new elements present. The story uses archetypes that are ingrained in our psyches. But it is a Christian story. Why? Because it doesn’t quite mimic any other pagan myth out there.

Before Easter, pagans may have celebrated the equinoxes, although the solstices seem to be more popular for obvious reasons. Imbolc was the Celtic version of Entschtanning (celebrated by those in Urglaawe) also known as Grundsaudaag, which happened around the first or second of February, which we now celebrate as Groundhog’s Day. Beltane was the Celtic version of Mayday, which celebrated the beginning of summer. As Heathens, we really didn’t have an Equinox celebration, as far as I know.

Although St. Bede mentions the Anglo Saxon month of Eostre, which is named after Eostre/Ostara, we know very little about Eostre. She had a feast day around the same time as Easter, which probably made the whole Christ thing more palatable. The fact that Eostre gave Easter its name is probably one more way the Christian church co-opted Pagans.

What About the Pagan Trappings Around Easter?

Sure, Easter took on the pagan trappings of Eostre/Ostara. No bunnies were visiting Christ on the cross, as far as we know. And while eggs are purported to be the symbol of rebirth among the Jewish peoples, I haven’t done enough research into that to back that up. But you can read about my opinions, Was Easter Appropriated? HERE.

Ignoring Easter

This year I nearly forgot about Easter except my husband had the day off. And to be point-blank honest, I was more concerned about avoid talking to my Christian family that day instead of anything special. So, our dinner was stir-fry venison. Because that’s a proper Eostre dish. I’m just saying…

This doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate Eostre bunnies and stuff yourself full of Cadbury eggs. The whole candy thing was a 19th century invention anyway to give candy makers a boost, so it’s not religious at all. Personally, I’m good with any holiday that promotes candy.

 

When You Don’t Hear from the Gods

When You Don’t Hear from the Gods

Lately, I’ve been dealing with not hearing from the gods. It’s not like they abandoned me; it’s more like they seldom chime in. You’d think with all this time at home during the pandemic, I’d hear more from them. Instead, I’m hearing less. Part of it may have to do with the chaos and weirdness in the world. Let me explain.

The Gods are Not Our Bitches

You’ve heard me say it over and over, the gods are not our bitches. Unlike the Christian god who promises to be your very own personal Jesus, our gods don’t coddle us. Sure, if a god takes an interest in what you’re doing, you might get some help. But in many cases, they let us live our lives and figure out our own problems. They’re not vending machines where we put in a quarter—can you get anything from a vending machine for a quarter nowadays?—and get a favor to pop out. Sure, there’s the whole gifting thing, but really, when it comes down to it, the gods do what they want.

I’ve come to this conclusion as I’ve seen People Behaving Badly™ in the news and in real life. Part of me wants to run to Tyr and demand him to reinstate justice in this world, only I realize that our current situation is clearly human caused. Tyr didn’t put idiots in charge—we did. And if they blatantly violate the rule of law, then that’s our mess. Tyr is many things, but he isn’t a white knight coming to save the day. If that were true, Nazism wouldn’t be on the rise. Hel’s Bells, Hitler would’ve never risen to power.

You Want a God to Bail You Out? Not Our Gods

If you’re expecting a god to come bail you out when things get rough, you probably shouldn’t be in Heathenry. The Christian god promises to do just that, only expect to be disappointed when shit goes south. I’ve noticed that the Christian god takes a lot of credit for other people’s hard work. People give thanks to the Christian god when someone improves after an operation or treatment when it was clearly the surgeon and modern medicine that cured them. A sister of mine who is a Christian claims Jesus won’t let her fall, when it is clearly the work of my other sibling who bails her out, or her church friends who help her when she is down.

Our gods expect us to take responsibility for our actions. Sure, we have the concept of luck or orlog—the ancient Heathens recognized that sometimes, no matter how much you try, shit happens. Some folks seem to have rotten luck that is tied to their wyrd or fate. But I would point out that many people make their own luck.  Sure, it’s not your fault you were born in the circumstances you’re in. And sometimes, no matter how careful or clever you are, shit just happens. But often the choices people make affects their orlog. I mean, take drinking and driving. You might get away with drunk driving for a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you got into a traffic accident and got killed or killed someone. Or you might luck out and get arrested for DUI. Of course, luck is relative when it comes to that.

My point is that with some notable exceptions, we make our own wyrd. Our choices define our wyrd. Our gods understand this and they allow us to make our choices. In fact, they delight in seeing us succeed on our own, because it makes us stronger as individuals.

So, What Should You Do if You Don’t Hear from the Gods?

Your first step should be to remain patient. I know it’s ridiculously hard, but remember that what seems like a long time for us is incredibly short for gods who are billions of years older than us. We may find ourselves adrift and without guidance for quite some time. But, that’s what the runes are for. The runes are able to give us guidance when we don’t hear from the gods. So, my recommendations are as follows:

  • Continue making offerings to the gods as you normally do.
  • Practice Meditation. Yes, meditation. It will help quiet your mind and enable you to hear the gods better.
  • Establish a relationship with one of the wights in your area. If you’re agnostic, like I am, go ahead and at least make offerings to them.
  • Talk to your ancestors. If you were on bad terms with parents or grandparents who are dead, look to talk to ancestors from generations farther back. Not all of them were complete asshats. And yeah, they do listen. They may not offer much to say, but perhaps they can offer you comfort.
  • Use your runes for advice and guidance. Often, they can bring insight you didn’t have before.
  • Be patient and wait. The gods are not your bitches.

Pareidolia, or Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Pareidolia, or Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Many people have asked me about “knowing” when a god sends signs to them. Some of the signs are real, but most of the signs are simply pareidolia, which is obviously a holdover from our evolution. Let me explain.

What is Pareidolia?

A face in a house — a type of pareidolia

Pareidolia is seeing patterns in random things or events. Our genetics are hardwired to see patterns where there really aren’t. Our minds are structured to look for patterns in the world around us; to see order in chaos. Good examples of pareidolia are seeing a face in the moon or hearing a secret message when a record is played backwards. Maybe hearing “words” coming from a noisy brook or seeing faces in the trees. Pareidolia is responsible for people finding patterns in random numbers or discovering “secret messages” by using numbers and parts of the bible.

Why We Evolved with Pareidolia

Pareidolia is a useful feature in ancient, and even modern day, humans. It gives us the ability to see possible threats in the form of predators. It allows us to look at someone’s face and interpret whether they are friendly or dangerous by their expression. If we didn’t have pareidolia, chances are we wouldn’t have survived as a species. For example, it gives us the ability to recognize game when we hunt. Anyone who hunts knows to look not just for the whole animal, given that many game animals live in dense forest. Hunters look for images that come together as parts of an animal, such as a leg, torso, or even the head amid the chaos of branches, rocks, and trees.

Examples of Pareidolia

Descent of the Snake at Chichen Itza

I’ve already covered the face in a tree and the man in the moon, but there’s more to pareidolia than that. It’s finding patterns in randomness. The constellations are a great example of pareidolia. Ancient peoples looked at how the stars appeared to them in the night’s sky and “saw” creatures, heroes, and gods in them. No matter whether you think Ursa Major looks like a bear or a plow, the stars align themselves in the sky according to the Earth’s position in the cosmos. If the Earth revolved around a different sun, or in a different part of our galaxy, or in a different galaxy, our constellations would look very strange to us. And no doubt we would come up with new constellations.

We use pareidolia in emoticons. Even though this is just a bunch of symbols, we recognize the faces: a wink ; -) a smiley face  : -) or a startled face =:0 Chances are, you probably have used one of those at one time or another. Every time we “see” a face in something, even when there isn’t a face, that is pareidolia.

Some architects have used pareidolia in their designs to cast shadows in certain ways. Like Kukulkan in Chichen Itza on the equinox, known as the “descent of the snake,” or certain architectural features that make shadows that appear to be a person.

What Does Pareidolia Have to do with the Gods?

Sometimes a raven is just a raven

Now that you understand what pareidolia is, you can see how easy it is to try to recognize and organize patterns in a random number of things or events. So, sometimes you might see things that are random and attribute it as a message from a particular god. For example, let’s say I walk down the street and see a guy with an eye patch. Then, later that day, I do a search on the web for something and the name “Odin” crops up on a website.  And then, as I’m taking a walk, I see a raven. Is this a sign from Odin that he wants to talk to me?

Probably not. There is such a thing as coincidence. But, being a good Heathen, I might think that Odin is trying to tell me something. Only, there’s really no message. Think about all the cases of pareidolia we see on the news. How someone thinks they see Jesus and the Virgin Mary on toast or in a stump. Or how someone claims they see things that suggests its a sign from otherworldly beings. Like having one’s entire neighborhood flattened by a tornado only to have their house spared. It’s in our nature to want to find meaning in things, even when there is none. Just because you got spared when everyone around you died doesn’t mean the gods were looking out for you, it means you were lucky. Now, if you tell me that Thor appeared, warned you a tornado was going to hit, and you escaped, that’s different. I’m then more inclined to believe the gods watched out for you.

Is it a Sign, or is it a God?

Let’s say that you do end up seeing “signs” everywhere, and at certain times. Does that mean it’s just coincidence? Or is it a sign from a god? My first inclination is to go with pareidolia, BUT gods have been known to be subtle. Maybe too subtle. It took Tyr practically bashing me over the head to get my attention. Yeah, I can be pretty clueless. But seriously, if you start seeing patterns, you can ask the god or goddess for something more obvious. If they’re truly interested in you, they’ll oblige. Make an offering to them and ask for guidance. It won’t hurt anything and might cement the relationship. If nothing comes of it, so what?

My thoughts are if the god or goddess wants your attention, they’ll get it. After all they’re gods. They have a way of getting what they want.