Happy New Year! Enjoy this free wallpaper for 2019! Just download it and use as your desktop. Enjoy! Have a great 2019!
Well, that title is a bit of click-bait, isn’t it? Seriously though, as Heathens looking into the upcoming new year, we do have oaths, resolutions, or at least, things we’d like to accomplish next year. This is why I’ve come up with six resolutions we, as Heathens, should make for next year. See if you agree with me.
Take Better Care of Yourself
You may think it’s odd for me to tell you to to be selfish and take care of yourself first, but that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Your resolution should be to care for yourself better than you have been caring for yourself. This means getting more sleep, more rest, better quality food, and exercise. Why? Because if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. And if you care for others, i.e., children, animals, elderly, disabled, or sick, who will take care of them if you become sick? No one.
So, you need to care for yourself, in order to care for others in your life. Eat organic foods and less junk food. Exercise at least three times a week, preferably more. If you do get sick, stay home and get well–go to the doctor, if necessary. There are people who depend on you to be on top of your game; you won’t be 100 percent if you’re tired all the time, sick, or out-of-shape.
Did you know that 50 percent of Americans’ diets consist of processed food on average? Yes. All the soft drink, frozen meals, breakfast cereals, desserts, canned foods, and prepackaged whatever isn’t necessarily healthy for you and takes you away from your Heathen roots. I encourage you to buy local foods, which have ties to the land you live in, and will sustain you better and taste better than the shit that comes prepackaged.
Learn a New Skill
As Heathens, it’s important for us to keep our minds and bodies challenged. That means learning a new skill, whether it’s a new craft, a new language, a martial art, a musical instrument, or a new sport. Learning new things not only improves your mental function, it helps postpone the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. When we work on things that our ancestors did such as knife-making, hunting, knapping, leather tooling, farming, raising livestock, weaving, spinning, foraging, gardening, preserving food, and whatnot, you may find a greater understanding and link to the past.
Learn to Meditate
Meditation isn’t necessarily sitting cross-legged and saying “Ommm,” although you can do that, if you want to. Meditation is what is called “mindfulness,” which is being aware of your body and your surroundings. It’s being present within the moment.
Meditation allows you to pay attention to everything around you. It allows you to clear your thoughts and lower your heart rate. It allows you to reduce the stress in your life and your reaction to the stress. And it also enables us to forge a link between ourselves and the gods.
When we clear our thoughts, we open our minds to the gods and allow them to enter. Although they can overcome the constant chatter of our busy minds, they don’t like having to do that. Tyr, I know, isn’t thrilled with dealing with the chaotic “monkey mind” that we all have. He’ll do it when he has to, but he prefers an ordered mind. Loki, on the other hand, is great with distractions.
One good book worth considering is Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. There are other good meditation books as well, so if you’d like other referrals, I can provide them.
Get Outdoors More Often
It’s all too common for humans to become “box people,” as one friend used to call people who never stepped foot in nature. These people went from climate-controlled homes to climate-controlled cars to a climate-controlled workplace, and back again. They had safely encapsulated themselves in boxes that didn’t challenge them. Oh sure, they might enjoy a nice day outside during lunch or on the weekend, but rain, snow, wind, heat? No way.
It’s ridiculously easy becoming maudlin about nature from the 10th story of a high rise, or even on the manicured lawns of suburbia. When you’re out in it, you have to learn what nature requires you to do. That means planning and preparing to be out with it. The wild is not a kind mistress — some areas are downright dangerous for the unprepared. Heathens need to go to those places –wild and natural places–where there is both beauty and danger, and know what to do. I’m not telling you to risk your life, by any stretch; I’m asking you to claim what is your birthright as a creature of this Earth. This requires knowledge, preparation, and skill.
If you’re not ready for a wilderness experience, you need to start small. Go to a park and enjoy the grass underfoot and the trees overhead. Watch the animals, however tame they may act around humans. Take walks more outside. Pay attention to your surroundings. Read about places you’d want to visit and go there when funds are available. In the meantime, learn the national forests and parks in your area. Learn about the wildlife. Become a hunter and angler. The more you learn about nature, the better that knowledge will serve you as a Heathen.
Learn More About Your Ancestors
Love them or hate them, your relatives and ancestors say a lot about who you are. Without them, you would not exist. Whether you were adopted into your current family or whether the family who raised you were your actual birth parents, every Heathen should know where they came from. You should honor those ancestors whom you deem worthy of honoring. If you have no recent ancestors whom you feel are worthy of reverence, that’s okay. Go back further, or choose to honor more distant ancestors in general. Not all of them can be assholes.
Even if you can’t go back very far in your lineage, knowing and understanding the people whom your ancestry belongs to is a good idea. Why? Because you can add and incorporate customs, gods, and practices into your beliefs and honoring. That way, it becomes something more personal to you.
If you’re adopted, honoring the ancestors of your adopted parents can also bring meaning as well. After all, they chose you to be part of their family and kindred. Remember, we’re talking ethnicity here, and not race, because race is a construct. We’re all humans, which means if you were raised Swedish, even if your birth parents might have been Anglo Saxon, you’re Swedish in ethnicity, if not birth.
Learn More About Our Gods and Our Past
As Heathens, it’s important to read the Eddas, stories about our gods, and important literature that has made up much of what we know about the Heathens who came before us and Heathenry. Learning how to translate and read old manuscripts is a part of it, certainly, but even if you can’t pony up for a course in Old Icelandic, Old Norse, or Anglo Saxon, just reading the translated stories will provide richness to your life and your beliefs. It’s a good idea to do your own research and formulate your own thoughts–lots of recon wankers will tell you what to believe because they have a “theory.” Trust me, you can decide for yourself.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on resolutions. If you did, consider buying me a coffee for my hard work. See you here in 2019. May you have a wonderful and safe New Year!
Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle–when you were young, chances are you were told about the jolly man in the red suit who filled stockings and put presents under Christmas trees on Christmas Eve. Even if you were raised pagan or in another religion, it’s hard to imagine a more ubiquitous figure than Santa Claus. So, it’s somewhat tragic that I stepped on the road to skepticism at the tender age of four or so with the disbelief in Santa Claus.
About St. Nick
We pagans love to put our spin on Christmas traditions — Heathens, no exception. Santa Claus does borrow heavily from the story of Odin and the Wild Hunt, but St. Nicholas was purportedly a Christian saint who was born 280 A.D.
Known for his generosity and kindness, stories about St. Nicholas and his miracles were popular among Christians. Nicholas could raise the dead, save innocent men from execution, multiply wheat during a famine, calm storm winds at sea, and even had a good throwing arm that most baseball pitchers would kill to get. Okay, maybe not the last one. But the story below suggests he had to have an arm to throw gold into a chimney.
This Christian saint is reputed to have saved three daughters from being sold into prostitution by providing a dowry for them. He did it in an unusual way. He threw a bag of gold into the chimney of their house the first night. The gold fell and spilled into the stockings of the women who hung them up to dry by the chimney. He did this three nights in a row. On the third night, the father discovered Nicholas had done this good deed. Nicholas had the man promise he would not tell anyone how the daughters came by their dowry. (Never mind this is the most famous story about him.)
St. Nick’s Popularity
Apparently, old St. Nick became quite popular. Christians celebrated feast day, the day of his death on December 6th, with presents given to the poor. (Morbid that one would celebrate a saint’s death. But, that’s the Christians for you.) Saint Nicholas presumably died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 73. Martyrdom is so overrated.
But, the common folk loved the Saint Nicholas stories. Saint Nicholas was popular even in the medieval era, with many people attributing Saint Nicholas to act of kindness, generosity, and charity. Not to mention gifts. The Protestants tried to do away with St. Nick and substitute Christkindl, the baby Jesus, who gave presents. But Nicholas was too popular, beating out the Christ child bearing gifts. To avoid issues with the Protestant church, Protestants called St. Nick Father Christmas. And Christkindl evolved and the name became “Kris Kringle,” thus giving Santa a new name.
By the way, Santa Claus got his name from a corruption of Sinterklaas from Dutch settlers, who stuck with Saint Nicholas even after the Reformation.
But What Does Heathenism Have to Do with Christmas?
Despite St. Nicholas’s obvious Christian roots, Christmas day was the birth of Mithras, a Persian sun god that was popular around the time of Christ and the new Church. The festivals of Saturnalia and Yule were already firmly established. It made sense to adopt these solstice celebrations and make them into holidays to help convert the pagans.
St. Nick took on characteristics of Odin in Northern Europe. Odin rode Sleipner during the Wild Hunt. Children were encouraged to leave hay in their shoes for the steed and Odin would reward them with a gift. In some places, St. Nick rode a horse to give his gifts. It’s easy to see how Heathens could make the connection between the two.
People being people simply adopted Christmas for Yule, but even kept the Yule name. In places where Thor had been popular, the Yule Goat became popular, and even pulled St. Nick’s cart with presents. The Christmas tree, handed down from Germanic traditions, represents the World Tree to Heathens and obviously a holdover from pagan times. Queen Victoria made the Christmas tree famous when she adopted the Germanic customs. So, as you can see, Heathenism has influenced many of the current Christmas customs.
A Four-Year-Old Skeptic
Unless your parents are hardcore skeptics or complete and utter religious assholes, they allowed you the fantasy of believing in what is commonly termed as make-believe things. We can debate what we consider make believe versus real another day. When I was four, my sister’s fake enthusiasm for Santa already convinced me, a beginning skeptic, that the guy in the red suit was a lie. I had inklings that Santa Claus didn’t exist. The logic of so many Santas everywhere you looked didn’t jive with what I saw, and my parents’ explanation that these weren’t really Santa, but Santa’s helpers, didn’t make sense. (Those were supposed to be elves, you see.) So, the Occam’s razor solution was that my parents were giving me presents and not an imaginary guy riding a sled pulled by eight plus one tiny reindeer.
What Should You Tell Your Kids About Santa?
As Heathens, we’re supposed to be above the whole bullshit lies, but Santa Claus is pervasive. If you have kids, they’re going to get an earful about Santa. If you don’t tell them, their friends will tell them, and they’ll be asking you why the fat man in the red suit isn’t stopping at your place. Telling them that Santa only visits Christians makes him look like an asshole and makes you look like you’re following the wrong religion. Trust me on this when I say that sort of thing makes an impression on kids early in life. You don’t want to be the Grinch even if Santa isn’t really our thing.
We can bring Santa Claus’s image back to his Heathen roots of Odin and the Wild Hunt. Telling your kids that Santa Claus is just the Christian version of Odin and that he’s a wintertime spirit who does not care what religion you are will strengthen their belief in the god as being good. (They can learn about the bad sides of Odin later as they grow up.) This isn’t a lie, because Odin really doesn’t care what religion you are and yes, Santa Claus, despite being Saint Nicholas, has taken on the trappings of Odin.
Celebrating Santa at Christmastime is okay. If the kids figure out that you’re the one handing out presents, be honest and tell them that all parents who celebrate Yule and Christmas do that to honor their gods. Santa Claus isn’t a lie–you are the duly appointed gift giver. And if a child hears that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, the answer is yes, there is, he just goes under a different name.
Yule is one of our biggest celebrations as Heathens, but if you’re a solitary Heathen, like I am, you may be wondering how in the Hel you can celebrate it. So, I’m offering ways you can enjoy Yule, even if you’re a solitary Heathen.
Greet the Sun on the Solstice
If you’re a morning person, you might want to get up before the dawn and greet the sun. Or, if you’re a crazy bastard, you can stay up and greet the dawn from the other side. Either way, you get to greet the sun on the solstice. Write a prayer or poem to the sun and read it out loud, or just maybe say a few heartfelt words to the sun. Maybe you’re not one for words, but maybe you can read the story how Sunna was put to drive the sun’s chariot each day. Do what feels right to you.
Honor the Ancestors
Mother’s Night is December 20th — a day when we honor all female ancestors who came before us. Even if you do not have recent ancestors you wish to venerate, you can offer food, mead, and other gifts to distant ancestors, both known and unknown, thanking them because without them, you would not be here. You can also offer gifts to the gods, whom many of us look on as our ancestors as well.
Bake Yule Cookies
Nowadays with so many types of cookie cutouts, you’re sure to find cookie cutouts that have no Christian significance. Snowmen, reindeer, Yule trees, stars, are all pretty common. Hel, I bet you could make an angel into a Valkyrie easily. Your non-Heathen friends and family members won’t care about the shapes either.
Make Some Mead
If you have any time off this holiday season, it’s time to get some decent local honey and make some mead. Never made mead before? What is wrong with you? Making basic mead is relatively easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wondering what kept you from making it for so long. And while it won’t be ready for this holiday, it’ll be ready for spring. Even a gallon of must makes 5 to 6 bottles of mead, so what are you waiting for? Here’s a mead making kit for you.
Drink Some Mead
Okay, so what do you do in the meantime while you’re waiting for your mead to ferment? Why not enjoy some mead? Don’t have any? That’s okay. You should be able to find someplace that carries esoteric wines like mead in your city or town. Have it ordered, if you really can’t find a place that carries it. Or order online. One meadery who will ship is Hidden Legend.
Make a Yule Feast
Just because you’re the only Heathen around doesn’t mean you can’t share a Yule feast with your family and friends. Invite your friends over on the solstice for a Yule feast, complete with mead. Bake a ham or pork roast and enjoy the holiday with good friends and family. Most people have obligations starting Christmas Eve, so having a celebration for the holidays ahead of the total Christmas thing may be welcomed.
Offer a Blot to the Gods
Offer a blot to the gods this solstice. Write out your prayers or let them come from the heart. Either way, make it personal and heartfelt. Remember each god you honor and those who have helped you in the past year.
Remember the Wights
Whether or not you believe in the wights, now is the time to offer the Tomte and the Nisse as well as any house elves porridge (with a pat of butter). These critters also like milk, cookies, chocolate (keep out of reach of pets), and other gifts.
Hunting season has drawn to a close, which means Yule is around the corner. Suddenly, I’m going from Hunting to Yule once we celebrate Thanksgiving next week. (Yeah, Thanksgiving gets preempted by hunting season.) So, we celebrate Thanksgiving the week after. After that, we’re in the few weeks before Yule, which means a busy time.
This year I told my non-Heathen, agnostic, mostly atheist, husband I wanted to celebrate Yule, too. We were both raised in Catholic families (yeah, crazy) and we were both raised in the Christian tradition of Christmas. So, Yule will be somewhat new to him, and the prayers and offerings will be private.
Why I’m Keeping the Prayer and Offerings Private
Prayer and offerings are part of our beliefs, and yet, it can look strange to those outside of our religion. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my beliefs, it’s just that my husband doesn’t understand or believe in them. Looking at it from an atheist perspective, I get it. It looks like a bunch of woo-woo to him and it can look like I’ve lost my marbles. (Maybe I have?) But I do get it. Not everyone is going to look on our religion positively, which is why I’m presenting a more secular Yule to my family and not pushing my religion on those who aren’t interested in it.
Having grown up Catholic, the whole religious thing comes off as a way to either guilt someone or as a way to try to recruit them. I don’t push my beliefs on someone who does not have them.
How I’m Planning to Celebrate Yule
One book I’ve found helpful in celebrating Yule is A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule. It’s worth the four bucks on Amazon to buy the eBook, if you’re really looking for ideas. It offered some good ideas for me, so it might come in handy to you too. I’m also blending other celebrations we’ve had in the past.
December 20th — Mother’s Night
I’ve never really celebrated Mother’s Night, except perhaps by baking stuff. Yes, I’ll be baking cookies and desserts to prepare for the upcoming Yule. I’ll also be offering my female ancestors gifts on my altar. When cooking, I often go into meditation and focus on my ancestors. Sometimes, I’ll hear the ones who were closest to me in my mind. It is a day to honor them, so I do things that they would appreciate. Usually involves holiday preparations.
The Christmas/Yule Tree will already be up because I think it’s too much to try to get it put up during this time. Apparently people who put up their Yule trees during Yule don’t have time issues.
December 21st — Solstice/Yule
This is a big day for me. I will designate a Yule log to burn in my woodstove. If I can find good twine, I may make it prettier with pine boughs and pine cones. I will put together a venison roast for dinner and we will crack open a mead to celebrate. I may try my hand at making a yule log cake. In the late evening, I will hold a blot outside for the gods. I will also leave gifts to Sunna, Mani, Baldr, Loki, Tyr, and Skadi on my altar. I may gather the ashes from the Yule log later to smudge the corners of the house for protection. I will read the runes for the Solstice to get a feel as to what is to come for the new year.
December 24th — Christmas Eve
My family celebrates Christmas Eve and Christmas as a secular holiday rather than a religious one. Given that we’ll already have the Christmas Tree up, we have another big meal (usually a venison or antelope roast) and more mead. We exchange presents and open them up. Again, another blot for the gods and the wights.
I like the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve for reading. This is something I’d love to incorporate in my Yule plans.
December 25th — Christmas
We visit relatives in town and deliver presents. We then come home and have a feast (again). This time, it will be roast goose. Usually, I plan on a pork roast in honor of Freyr, but this year, we have a couple of geese in the freezer, so we’ll have a traditional Dickens type of dinner.
December 31st — New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve has never been a big thing with me. Even so, I’ll probably wait for the New Year and offer a blot to the gods as a thank you for the good things that happened this year and a prayer for a better upcoming year. I will then read the runes for the upcoming year again. Often the runes’ message coincides with what I learned earlier.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day may see me perform a salt ritual to protect the home and farmstead.
My Yule is Low Key (but not Loki)
Yule will be low key, and I prefer it that way. It’s 12 days of festivities and of those 12 days, I celebrate at least three with special meals. The blots I choose to do in private. The offerings will go on my altar and will be either left there, if not perishable, or left outside, if perishable, once I am done with them. Plenty of critters outside will partake of the scraps.
My prayers are more spontaneous, than anything. They come from the heart, and I do not write them down. The salt ritual too isn’t written down, but I call upon the wights to protect the dwelling and barn, and to discourage those wights intent on harm. It does seem to make a difference.
Celebrating with Non-Heathen Family Members
Obviously all my family members are non-Heathen, so I adjust my Yule celebrations toward the secular as well. The offerings and prayers are done when they are asleep (easy for me to do), and with those family members whom I visit at Christmastime, I focus more on seeing them and making them happy, not the religious side. After all, Yule is a family holiday, whether celebrating the ancestors, like on Mother’s Night, or simply getting together with family and friends on Christmas. I’ve learned to take everything in stride on holidays because getting worked up about them is too much stress for me.
Let me know what you do for Yule in the comments and let me know if there are any traditions you do that are special.
Historians used to look at folk tales and fairy tales as cute stories to tell children, but in light of current evidence, maybe they were true. I’m talking about other races like the Elves and Wights whom we show our respect. Maybe there is a collective unconscious like Jung proposed. Perhaps we’re remembering other races through the passage of time? Stick with me on this, and maybe I can offer a scientific and rational explanation for our stories.
Elves, Wights, and Hidden People
If you’ve been a Heathen for any amount of time, you know that we honor both the Light Elves and Dark Elves. We tell stories about trolls under bridges and we respect the Wights, the spirits of the land (even if we have a hard time believing in them). So much so that we honor these creatures and tell stories about them. In Iceland, they even route roads around rocks and move construction projects around areas purported to be homes of the Huldu or Hidden People.
We think and talk about people of an elder race. But what elder races? Because science confirms that there were “elder races” living during the time Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into other lands. Could our myths and legends correspond to these hominids?
What Races Coexisted with Homo Sapiens?
The first question to ask is what other hominid races coexisted with Homo sapiens. Although an older article, this New York Times article mentions that Homo erectus may have lived among Homo sapiens as late as 27,000 years ago. We know that Neanderthals lived among humans up until about 40,000 years ago. And then, there’s the mysterious Denisovans that we know very little about but know we have some of their genome as as well as Neanderthal. Then, there is Homo floresiensis, those “Hobbit” people, who lived in Indonesia up until about 50,000 years ago. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to primarily be talking about the Neanderthals, since we have the most information about them, but these arguments could work for any of the hominids that existed along with Homo sapiens.
Although Neanderthals were our cousins, DNA and archaeological evidence points to crossbreeding amongst the two species. Humans and Neanderthals common ancestors had separated about 400,000 years ago, which makes the interaction between the two species interesting. Unlike Homo sapiens, Neanderthals had been outside of Africa for nearly 200,000 before our ancestors stepped out. Their evolution continued in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. Could these be the “other races” our collective unconscious seem to point to?
What Our Ancestors Must Have Thought of the Others
Our Homo sapiens ancestors no doubt had contact with Neanderthals and other races of hominids, but I wonder what our ancestors thought of them. Neanderthals had bigger brains than our ancestors, had the ability to makes tools, and even had the ability to make art. They probably had speech of some variety, but their voices were higher pitched than ours. They buried their dead, or at least cared for the dead rather than leave them where they were or dump them in a garbage pit.
The Neanderthals were heavier set and tended to hunt close up against some pretty dangerous prey, like mammoths. That meant that they suffered some pretty serious injuries. Their heavier bodies, bigger chests, and large noses gave them the ability to live in colder climates. They had adapted to their environment successfully, which probably put our Homo sapiens ancestors in awe. Homo sapiens had evolved in hotter climates, making the colder climates our ancestors entered a real challenge in a lot of ways.
Did our ancestors emulate the Neanderthals? Did we learn from them? Were we at odds with them? One can only guess what our ancestors thought, but given that there are very few artifacts, other than DNA of the contact, I suspect the contact was more or less peaceful.
What Happen to the Others?
What happened to the Neanderthals, if they were so well adapted to the colder places? Why did a successful species go extinct after surviving some 350,000 years? Scientists don’t have all the answers, but they do have clues into why our “elder cousins” may have disappeared.
First, Neanderthals were never in large numbers. They lived in small familial groups and inbred quite a bit. The didn’t have the genetic diversity of modern humans — even though we’re pretty much a group of inbred hominids, ourselves, nearly going extinct about three times. They practiced cannibalism on more than one occasion. While no doubt our ancestors did too at various times, the Neanderthals didn’t have a large group to choose from.
Lastly, as their numbers dwindled, they probably sought mates outside of their race. We know modern humans bred with them and that people with ancestors from Europe and Asia have about 2 percent Neanderthal genetics. This suggests our races did have interactions. Apparently we could breed and produce viable offspring — at least, occasionally. Neanderthals were already going extinct, probably from lack of numbers and genetic diversity.
Neanderthals didn’t go extinct all at once, either. Pockets of them existed in various places until they simply died out or until they joined modern humans.
Are the Others the Basis for Elves, Wights, and Other Races?
Now comes my controversial conjectures. First, let me say that it is just the meanderings of some rather interesting thoughts — you can disagree with me all you want. But, science has proof of Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denisovians, and other races that lived during the same time as modern humans, whereas we have no physical proof of Elves. So, I’m simply connecting the dots between science and lore. Our legends tell of races that existed before us. Could the Elves, Dwarves, and other denizens be inspired by these older hominid races? Could the Elders simply be Neanderthals, eventually dressed up over time so they are unrecognizable? It’s a tantalizing thought.
In which case, our wights are ancestral spirits of former hominids. That the Alfar and Disir are indeed ancestors of humans — just very much older. Were they magical? Given I really don’t believe in the concept of magic, you can make your own inferences and not trust my beliefs, if you believe in that sort of thing.
We know from fairy stories that Elves weren’t always benign. We know that they may switch babies with their own progeny, hoping to fool humans. It’s believed that these changeling stories are in existence to explain birth defects and developmentally disabled children. This makes a lot of sense on many levels, but I can’t help wonder if changelings may have occurred with other races. What happened when a Neanderthal and modern human mated, in terms of progeny? Were changelings a description of what could have occurred if Neanderthals tried to substitute their children for human children in the hopes of giving them a chance to survive? I don’t know, but it is an interesting thought.
What Does The Rational Heathen Believe?
I really love the concept of Elves and Wights, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m largely agnostic about them. I’m more inclined to accept that they are a collective memory of past interaction between hominid races rather than accept the lore at face value. Still, whichever way you consider our stories, the ideas I’ve presented are intriguing.
I think I have another god I need to consider. Skadi, Tyr, Loki, Freyja, Freyr, Frau Holle, Odin, and yes, Thor, are all gods and goddesses have had my attention for some time. But recently, there’s been a shift and I’m starting to learn more about Perun, the Slavic god of Thunder. And oddly, he feels more familiar to me than Thor.
Who is Perun and Where was he Worshiped?
Perun is the Slavic god of thunder and lightning. People who lived in Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and other places where the Slavic peoples settled worshiped Perun. He is obviously a Northern god, who shares a lot of traits with Thor and Odin. He even shares traits with Tyr, being a sky god and a god of laws, thus making him an interesting god to me.
Unlike Thor, Perun is considered head of the Slavic pantheon. He is a sky god and from what I can tell, he had been the main god for most of the Slavs and the Kievan Rus.
Is Perun Another Name for Thor?
On first blush, Perun is a lot like Thor. He wields an axe or a hammer; a goat pulls his chariot. His hammer or axe returns to him after he has thrown it. He wields lightning and thunder. His beard is copper and he is incredibly strong. Like the Norse and Germanic gods, the Slavs look at the universe as a World Tree. At the roots is a dragon or serpent which Perun will fight.
So, looking at Perun, I see a lot of Thor. But Perun is also a wise god, like Odin. So he has some differences. Perun’s ax is no surprise either, given the concept of thunderstones. People believed that Neolithic stone axes and flint arrowheads came from the sky and protect them from evil. So much so that iron age burials often had stone age axes in them to protect the deceased.
Interesting Story About Perun and Veles
Perun’s enemy is a chaos and forest god (who is also the god of the underworld) named Veles. Veles steals Perun’s cattle, children, or wife in an effort to provoke him. The story goes that Veles hides from Perun and when Perun sees Veles, he throws a thunderbolt. Only Veles escapes. Hence the reason lightning strikes seemingly harmless places.
Veles isn’t necessarily an evil god, but he is a chaotic god. He often shape changes in the form of a bear or a wolf. In many ways, he resembles Loki of the Norse pantheon. Perun defeats Veles, but since Veles is a god, he does not die (or is reborn) continues his trouble making for Perun.
Interestingly enough, Christians morphed story of the Perun and Veles battle into Michael the Archangel versus Satan to gain converts. They already had the story from the Bible, they just brought more elements of the Perun/Veles story over to make it more familiar.
Perun’s Existence in History
The earliest mention of Perun is in the 6th Century by the Byzantine historian Procopius in his work, De Bellum Gothicum. We also know that in 998 CE (AD) the ruler, Vladimir the Great of Kiev converted to Christianity and had the entire population of Kiev baptized. Vladimir had the the very statue of Perun he commissioned earlier as a pagan torn down, dragged through the streets, and dumped in the river Dnieper. The statue was not allowed to return to shore until it went past the rapids.
Certainly there were Perun followers after this time, but it seems that with the conversion of Vladimir the Great, Perun’s days being worshiped widespread were numbered.
So, is Perun the Slavic Thor?
My take on Perun is that he and Thor have very much in common. Both are very mighty and strong gods. Perun has similar symbology to Thor, but has elements of (the good side) of Odin. Part of me thinks Perun is a form of Thor and Tyr combined. In this case, it makes perfect sense why Thor and Tyr approached me. Given that I have Slavic ancestry (as well as Norman, Germanic, and Rus), Perun may be another god I may call upon.
If Perun is Thor, then he is an accessible Thor to me. Seeing a Perun axe with Tyr’s rune clinched it for me. I think I’m going to have to honor Perun as well as Thor, Tyr, and the Norse gods.
I ran into this post by the 21st Century Viking about Winternight, and I got a good feeling about it. I could understand the writer’s general feelings about Samhain, seeing as I really don’t have much love for the holiday. But what fired me up was her wording:
For the Ancient Vikings this was a time to celebrate, this was the beginning of winter. They had come home from raiding and trading, winter was starting, and they were going to start the Winter Hunting.
Winter Hunting? Oh yes, count me in!
Winter Hunting after Winternight
Yes, I know Winternight is something from Stephen McNallen, and while I am not a big fan of AFA, I’m not against the holiday of Winternight, per se. It makes a certain amount of sense to me to mark the end of summer activities and go into autumn/winter activities. Like 21st Century Viking, I’ve never been fond of Samhain, so it stands to reason that something like Winternight appeals to me. Perhaps what’s missing is Winter Hunting, which I could totally get behind, because I hunt as a semi-subsistence hunter.
I had been in a fairly foul mood recently because the clock is ticking for me to get my animals into the freezer and I lost two precious hunting days due to family obligations. I realize that it’s just fate, and no matter how well you plan for something, life inevitably intrudes. It’s the chaos factors at play here. What should’ve been six animals in my freezer are only three because of yours truly, problems with “buck fever,” (look it up) and bad luck. I can look in the mirror every day at whose fault it is–is that Loki behind me?– but one must treat each hunting day as a new day. Last year, I brought home the majority of the meat, but this year looks sparse.
So, with Winternight, we’re entering the Winter Hunting cycle, and I hope I can make more successful so we’ll have enough food for the year. Otherwise, I may have to get creative on buying meat. The warm Indian Summer days evaporated on Halloween, and we’re now in the cold and wet phase of the season.
Hunting, NOT Shopping
For those of you who do not hunt, let me say that hunting isn’t shopping. You go where you hope there are animals — and you hope you can get close enough to humanely shoot one. I say humanely because neither I nor my husband want an animal to suffer. We want a clean, fast kill.
Wild animals generally don’t stand still for you to shoot. Once they figure you out, they beat feet to the next county–or next country, for that matter. Having gotten within 300 yards (that’s three football fields) of a pronghorn antelope I was trying to shoot and having the entire herd bust us and run away at 60 miles per hour (second fastest land animal), let me say, it has been more than frustrating.
300 yards. Sigh. They looked microscopic in my scope. They were out of my comfort range, so I didn’t take the shot. The days I counted on hunting antelope seemed to evaporate quickly. I just have a few more days and then the antelope season disappears for this year.
When Skadi Helps You Out
So, I’m running late to get to an appointment. I’m cold, I’m tired, and I’m sore from chasing animals in the back country. I literally get in the car and am about to turn the key when I look up. About fifty yards away from the truck is a buck. A legal buck. In a safe place with good angles, if I shot him. The only bad side of the entire thing is that, well, I’m in my truck. Without my rifle, orange, or tags. And I’m late, late, late to an appointment. Oh, and if he leaves, he’s going down a 50 plus foot embankment, and assuming I hit him, I’m going to have a Hel of a time trying to get him out of there by myself until my husband comes home.
What would Skadi do? (WWSD?)
What would Skadi do? I could reschedule the appointment, but not the buck. I got out of the truck and went back inside. I knew damn well that deer would vanish by the time I got my rifle and orange, but I got them anyway. I walked out of the house. He was still there. I walked down the drive to get a better shot and to ensure I wasn’t going to hit anything I didn’t intend on hitting. He just stood there watching me.
I aimed and pressed the trigger. No buck fever. No shaking. Just me and the buck. Nothing. Shit. I forgot to take the safety off. Again, lined up on him. Pressed the trigger. Loud boom and the buck dropped right then and there. No fuss, no muss. I went over to him and was about to put another round into him, only, he stopped moving and died right where he had stood. I thanked him and Skadi. As I’ve said, wild animals don’t hang around once they figure you out. The only thing I could think of was that the slack wind might have kept him from smelling me. Either that or Skadi wanted me to have him.
Now the Work Begins
After tagging the critter, I went back inside and rescheduled my appointment. Then, there was the little problem of getting such a big animal to my house. I thought about gutting him right there, but I really didn’t want a bear so close to my house. (Yeah, I live that close to the back country.) So, I drove my truck to him. Only, he was beyond heavy. I’m guessing he was close to 200 lbs. It took me two hours to get him into the house to gut and skin him. By the time my husband got home, I was finally pulling off the backstraps. It took me three more hours to gut, skin, and quarter by myself because I’m used to doing this with someone else.
So, I have a quartered deer waiting for me to butcher. And blood everywhere. And I do mean EVERYWHERE. I had to wash my clothes, hoping the blood would come out. Hel, I left bloody footprints all over the house. Thank the gods I have tile and not carpet.
Skadi asked me for the liver, which I will oblige. Beyond that, I at least have put bullet into animal and came away with more food right after Winternight. And now I have four animals down, which means I still must get more if I’m to get enough meat for the year.
Winter hunting. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Ah the joys of Samhain and the muddled mix of goddesses and pantheons that the Wiccans bring. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a person who believes the Heathen gods and goddesses are the same as gods and goddesses with different names in other pantheons. However, there are differences and I’m not into simply playing the mix-and-match game that many pagans do.
Is the Rational Heathen Against Following Other Gods?
Now here’s where my beliefs get tricky. I get that sometimes we get a call from other gods and goddesses, and I am not one to tell you whether to follow them or not. Chances are, if they’re helpful to you, you’re going to follow them. And you may add them to the list of gods and goddesses you follow. Our Northern ancestors were egalitarian in that way. The god helped you out? Well, follow him until he’s less than helpful.
No, what I object to is the blatant mishmash of religions and customs that integrate the gods willy nilly, without respect for each culture and pantheon. That smush Zoroastrianism with Celtic beliefs and call it good. Or that brings in Christian, Egyptian, and Norse gods and beliefs together in a type of melange that is quite unpalatable.
Look, I get that many religions are closely related. You want to borrow from them? Fine. But don’t tell me the Artemis/Hecate/Selene trio is Mani (who happens to be male). Or that a ritual you mashed together from Greek and Roman practices for Hecate works for Freyja. (It might; it might not.) This is your UPG, and very few Heathens are likely to concur with your interpretation. I am more open to Slavic and Germanic gods and goddesses crossing over than Middle Eastern deities combining with Nordic gods.
Samhain was the Celtic/Gaelic new year which is a lot like our Yule (which, incidentally, the Wiccans also celebrate.) Harvest was an important time for them, and Wiccans believe that the veil between the living and the dead thins during this time. Yule, on the other hand, deals with the the darkest times of the year, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, which is more in turn with the concept of the “Veils.”
Incidentally, my mom died during Yule. I don’t necessarily feel her presence at that particular time, mainly because she manages to get inside my head a lot, but it is certainly a noteworthy occurrence. The colder, darker days are deadlier toward animals, which suggests to me that we may have a closer handle on when the living and the dead have more contact.
I give you all my explanation for Halloween and Samhain in another post, so I’m not going to run through the entire litany here. Given that Halloween is a Christian celebration, it is something that simply doesn’t do much for me. I’ll probably celebrate a harvest festival, using the days after hunting season to celebrate what I will call Hunting Harvest/Thanksgiving as a way to celebrate a good hunt.
I sort of look at Wiccans who follow the Northern gods as “Heathen Lite.” They’re a type of Heathen, to be sure, but when you mix different systems, you can’t help but lose some of the authenticity. If you’re a Wiccan, I mean no insult. I like people who are Wiccans as much (and sometimes more) than some Heathens I know. Even so, you’re in Wicca for the magic and witchcraft. I get that. We have our own (ahem) “magic,” but it isn’t necessarily the spell variety. In fact, it’d be nice if Heathens did court the Wiccans to get some of their numbers in ours. (I guess we won’t do that by calling them “Heathen Lite,” eh?)
If you’re a Wiccan and you’re interested in our gods, talk to a Universalist Heathen and you might just be surprised how much we do have in common, even if we’re not into mixing our gods that much. You just might find our gods and goddesses are powerful and may help you more than others.
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