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Shamans and Charlatans

Shamans and Charlatans

I ran across a person who is making money hand over fist with her “channeling” archangels.  Now, you might tell me that I’m just bitter because I don’t make tons of money like she does. Okay, you might be right there. But I think charging a lot of money for a “gift” from a supernatural entity smacks of charlatanism.  Here’s why I think that they might be a charlatan.

What are Angels?

Of all the Christian constructs, I’m more inclined to accept angels and archangels over other supernatural beings.  The concept of the angel, that is a messenger of the gods, goes back a fairly long ways in history. The concept isn’t linked just to the Abrahamic beliefs.  The word, “angel,” comes from the Greek word, angelos, meaning “messenger.”  The Sumerians were the first to have angels.  They even worshiped a type of personal angel, similar to our Fygia that were, in essence, guardian angels. The Babylonians continued with angels and demons, which no doubt influenced the Jewish belief system, and thereby Christianity.

A UPG warning ahead (so you know).  I believe that the so-called angels of Christianity are actually gods from earlier religions, and that our gods have occasionally taken their forms (as well as forms of the Christian god) to appear to people who eventually become Heathens.  This is my experience, and you can take that with a grain of salt.  I know, in my case, Tyr has done so, and I suspect Odin has as well.  I also suspect other spirits and supernatural entities have taken the guise of a Christian angel to get their message heard.

Charging for Communing

The concept of communing with angels and archangels doesn’t seem that farfetched to me, as I’ve noted.  But the concept of charging people a monthly fee for their insight sends off warning bells as being a charlatan.  They claim that people won’t believe their message if they don’t charge something, but getting rich off advice given by the minions of a poor Jewish carpenter seems a bit hypocritical.  Okay, a lot hypocritical.

I remember being in a panel at a SF convention and using runes on someone else, rather than myself.  I was stunned to find people all around me who charged for doing that sort of thing with their Tarot cards. Never mind that I ended up being more accurate than they were.  That’s really not a boast.  I felt so out of my league with those people, that I ended up being stunned at my own accuracy.

Occasionally I have charged for my rune draws, but it’s a nominal fee — like $5.  I am very cautious about it, because I really don’t know if it works well enough to change people’s lives.  And quite honestly, the gods are the gods.  The gods are not our bitches.  They don’t come running when we call to them, nor do they do things we ask of them, unless they think it’s a good idea.  I suspect angels–if they really do exist–have better things to do than counsel people on their day-to-day lives. Yeah, and if I recall archangels seem to have lots of things to do besides talk to our silly asses day-to-day.  The gods do, I know that.

Yes, the runes are the runes.  They may or may not tap into a god’s psyche.  And one could claim, I suppose, that you spent umpty umpty bucks becoming a channeler.  You know how much training I had with the runes? Zilch, other than books.  You know how much training I had contacting gods?  Yep, zilch, nada, none.  And yet, I’ve gotten some interesting contacts.

Communing with Angels

So, do I think the people actually commune with angels and archangels?  Probably not.  In most cases, as much as I hate to say it, they’re charlatans like those people who did toll-free Tarot readings and advise people of their love life.  Maybe a few of them were actually legit, but most were just trying to make a buck off of incredibly gullible people.

Of those who are actually legit, I don’t think they’re talking to whom they think they are talking to.  For one thing, I don’t believe in the Christian god, and if he does exist, he’s not the god the Christians think he is.  So, the angels and archangels could be damn near anyone or anything.  Hels bells, it might even be a malevolent spirit.  If I hazard a guess, I think they’re probably talking to a wight, if they’re talking to anything.

So, How Does this Relate to Heathenism?

For those getting into Heathenism, and for those who have been in Heathenism some time, it’s important to recognize when someone is blowing smoke up your ass.  (As an aside, this term actually comes from an attempted “cure” by blowing smoke up someone’s ass.  I know, TMI.)  Basically if someone is demanding lots of money for something that isn’t particularly well defined, such as prognostication, you may want to ask a lot of questions.  Questions include:

  • How do I know that you’re really talking to <name that entity or god> and not just ripping me off?
  • What do I get in return for my money?
  • Who made you the Asa-Pope and why should I believe you?

I know, I know.  I’m a wet blanket here.  Look, there are plenty of major religions out there begging for money who have amazingly gilded churches.  The Catholic Church is just one of them.

Where Does the Rational Heathen Fit in?

You HAD to expect a Doctor Who reference in here with angels. I’m just sayin…

At this point, if you haven’t read a lot by me, you’re probably wondering what the fuck am I doing and what am I selling?  Look, I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve had several conversations with our gods, but I give the information I think is pertinent freely.  Yeah, yeah, I do have a premium version of this site and a pay wall on some pieces, but I’m pretty up front when I’m telling you that what you’re paying for is to keep me writing about the stuff you like to hear about.

I’m not lying to you and saying that Tyr has a special message for you if you only pay me $29.99 a month.  (He doesn’t, by the way.)  I don’t tell you I’m taking the money and saving souls while lining my pockets with the cash. (You’re going to Hel, by the way, if a god doesn’t claim you or if you haven’t died in battle.) What I tell you is that I could use some help monetarily and if you like what you’re reading and want to support my endeavors, I’d appreciate if you could at least pitch in a buck or two to at least keep the blog and the Internet up.

Maybe I’m not thinking big enough on this whole archangel thing.  Maybe I need to channel those, charge people $25 a month, and have my own videos…

Nah.  I’d probably get Weeping Angels.  In which case, we’re all screwed.

Dealing with Adversity: One Heathen’s Perspective

Dealing with Adversity: One Heathen’s Perspective

One thing that ties us all together, being gods, humans, wights, or other creatures, is adversity. With very few exceptions, most creatures deal with adversity in some manner. I would hazard to state that it’s conquering adversities in our lives that make our lives worth living.  But sometimes when we’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to think that it may be beneficial in some way or a cause for growth.

My Life is Shit, or Handling the Tough Times

Honestly, nobody except the true masochist asks for a shitty life. Sometimes that’s just what the Wyrd hands you.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it (after all, how do you know that you’re not fated to rise above the crap?) Poverty, disease, war, and death can really fuck up a person (duh!), but if you get through it, you’ll be stronger.  I don’t care for the writings of Nietzsche, but the quote That which does not kill us makes us stronger, does ring true.  I’d rather paraphrase it by saying, That which doesn’t kill us, pisses me off.

I get that the Wyrd may be what it is.  I get that you may have a hamingja that is full of bad luck.  And yet, how do you really know?  Nobody can really say for certain that bad luck follows you around like a little black rain cloud. You may be able to dispel that spate of bad luck and turn it into good.

With few exceptions, nobody has it easy.  I’ve had friends who looked incredibly fortunate, only to have adversity come crashing down. What looks good on the outside may be a total mess when you get to the fine points.  And what appears to be on overnight success often was built on the unseen failures before it.

How the Gods Handled Adversity

Let’s look at how our gods handled adversity.  Tyr, despite knowing he would lose his hand, stuck it in the mouth of Fenrir to ensure the wolf would be chained until Ragnarok. Odin lost his son Baldr. Thor has dealt with the Jotun in their own world with apparent failures because they tricked him. Each god has had their share of adversity in some way, and in many cases dealt with it.

We’re not told specifically how Tyr had to deal with the loss of his right hand, but we can well imagine the pain that followed.  Then there was the emotional trauma and the need to relearn swordsmanship with his left hand.  Now, one could say he’s a god and he’d have an easier time of it, but the stories don’t suggest that he could snap his fingers (of his left hand) and have all the abilities transferred over. In fact, we know that the gods feel pain (thanks to Loki), so we know Tyr felt pain. But we know that Tyr stood up in the face of adversity and continued onward.

What to Do When Life Hands You Lemons

You’ve probably heard the saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  I think that is a little too glib.  Shit happens.  I’ve written about when bad things happen, but I didn’t offer any good ideas for dealing with it.  Here, I’m actually going to offer some constructive advice.

First, bad things will happen in your life, just as good things happen in life. That is the nature of life. When it is death of a loved one, physical injury, or disease, you need to take time out to care for yourself. Get the help you need to center yourself and the strength to continue forward. You may find help where you least expect it and you might come out stronger.

If your adversity is something like unemployment, change in social status, a failed business venture, a divorce or break up, or simply a failure to perform, you’ll need to regroup for a time and consider your options. In the meantime, look for opportunities that may arise that you never considered. The times when I lost a job were simply times I needed to kick myself in the ass and find something else that worked better.  Often, we mourn the complacency we had when in fact, the gods are telling us there’s something better out there if we just look for it.

Your Wake Up Call

Use adversity as a wake up call. When my dad nearly died many years ago, I realized that I could either go the path I was on and be miserable, or take a new step in a different direction.  I chose the latter.  When I lost both my parents within a span of two years, I realized that I could continue the way I was going, or carve a new path. Although their deaths were traumatic to me, I ended up learning something. I realized that my parents had many regrets.  These regrets I didn’t want to have.

When a friend died of cancer, I saw the same issues.  There are too many regrets in this world, and in the end, when we leave it, we either leave with regrets or with the knowledge that we fought a good fight, and perhaps won.

I keep repeating the Doctor’s quote that “We are all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one.” The Havamal says it succinctly:

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well 
–Havamal77

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

If you’re like me, chances are you have Christian relatives who celebrate some form of the Christian holiday of Easter. If you’re the only Heathen in your family, you may get an earful about what is considered the most holy time that Christians celebrate.  Still, unless you’re looking to cut ties with your family–and I don’t recommend that–you may be looking for ways to enjoy the Easter celebrations.  If you’re a Heathen who loves to get into fights with family members over Christian holidays, or at least not willing to put aside your differences for one or two days, this post isn’t for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get involved with minimal headaches.

Put Your Pride on the Back Burner (or Don’t be an Asshole)

Unless you have an extremely open-minded family/extended family, most of them are going to take a dim view of you not being Christian.  I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. They’ve been indoctrinated into the Christian belief system, and it’s unlikely you’re going to change their minds. You’re going to the Christian hell, and that’s all there is to it, (unless they can persuade you into the fold/back into the fold), and they really don’t get why you would worship pagan gods.  At this point, all you can do is grit your teeth and hope to get through the Christian talk without losing your cool.

That being said, understand that this is a Christian holiday, even if they took on the pagan trappings surrounding it.  Easter is considered to be more important to the Christian religions than Christmas, so realize that you are the outside here. It is you who is extended the olive branch, not them.  So, don’t expect for them to understand/accept you being Heathen in their most holy time.

Because this is their most holy time, mentioning the appropriation of Eostre’s holiday at the Easter dinner is probably not going to do you any favors. Yes, they eat ham, which honors Freyr, but let it slide. Yes, they decorate eggs.  Yes, they associate chicks and bunnies with Christ’s death and resurrection, but pointing out the incongruity of it all won’t cut it. If we want to maintain the peace in our celebrations, it is better to sit and listen rather than fight a foolish battle. This is their Easter–not ours, so let’s respect their religion, just like we’d want them to respect ours.

So, What Can You Enjoy?

At this point, you’re wondering what you can enjoy out of Easter.  There are a lot of cool things you can do and still be part of the Easter celebration.  Here are some of the things I recommend.

Egg Coloring

We color eggs for springtime, so there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy coloring eggs with your Christian family. Talking about spring and its renewal, as well as the cycle of life, is fairly safe.

Easter Egg Hunt

Why not hold an Easter egg hunt? Put together some of those plastic eggs and fill them with goodies. Hide them and watch as your family searches for them. You’ll all enjoy it.

Chicks and Bunnies

Whether live, toy, or simply drawings, the images of chicks and bunnies are pretty much safe territory.  You may want to talk about the Oschter Haws which was brought into Pennsylvania by German settlers. Avoiding the Urglaawe references, your Christian family may be delighted to learn that that’s where the Easter bunny who laid colorful eggs came from.

Easter Candy

Easter candy originates from clever marketing by candy makers in the 19th century to capitalize on an untapped market. There’s no reason for you to mention this, nor is there any reason why you can’t have some yummy candy in pagan symbols such as rabbits, chicks, and eggs.

Easter Brunch or Dinner

Never turn down a good feast, even if it’s in honor of a god you don’t follow.  All the trappings are Heathen, or at least, pagan, so enjoy spending time with family and friends. You may want to even bring some mead so your family may enjoy something a little different than the traditional grape wines. Toast to your family and to those family members who are no longer with you. You’ll be honoring the ancestors and still not offend your family.

Talk about Family, both Present and Past

Speaking of family, strike up a conversation about your family and your ancestors. Talk positively about them, or if someone in the family knows a particularly good story about an ancestor or a relative who is alive, encourage them to relay that story.  As the good Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

Listen to Your Family, Even if You Disagree with Them

If your family starts talking about Christianity, listen to them. You don’t have to agree with them, but when they tell you about their faith, they tell you about themselves. Ask questions. Ask why they believe what they believe, and don’t argue with them over their beliefs. You may discover that your mom believes in the Christian god because she finds comfort in a god who promises to care for her. Or your dad might actually not believe in the god but goes to church because the family does it. Or maybe your cousin is an atheist at heart.  You can learn a lot about your family just by listening.

Go to Church with them

This suggestion is somewhat dangerous when it comes to family, not because you’re likely to change your faith, but more likely because you may offend or get into an argument with a family member. Some Christians, most notably Catholics, have rules against participating in sacraments such as the Eucharist (the bread and wine) because they believe you must be of their denomination to participate. (It has to do with transmogrification, but that’s another long post.)

Why go to church with your family?  Well, first it puts you on the same page as your family members so if they discuss the sermon, you know what was said. Secondly, you can see Christianity with all its pagan influences.  Third, churches often have amazing artwork that is worth seeing.

Just sit and watch as they go through sitting, kneeling, and standing routines. Listen.  It may seem worthless, but in a way you are gathering intelligence about this religion. That way, you understand your family’s behavior a bit better.

Take Time Out for Our Gods, Wights, and Ancestors

I’ve given you ideas for keeping the peace with your Christian relatives.  But this isn’t about Heathenry, it’s about keeping the peace in your extended family. Before you join in the Easter festivities, make an offering to the gods, especially Frigga and Frau Holle, the wights, and your ancestors for a peaceful gathering. And thank them after the day for their help, especially if things went successfully.

Hopefully, I’ve given you ideas for staying sane around Christians during their holiday.  If, in the end, you do decide to try out some of these ideas, I’d be interested to learn how they worked out.

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What is Your Legacy?

What is Your Legacy?

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life.

— Havamal, 77

A friend of mine died recently.  It wasn’t unexpected, but it was depressing nonetheless. She was concerned with her legacy after her death, which is certainly understandable. But there were several things that happened around this time that made me think about a person’s legacy.  I’ll probably be saying something someone who reads this will take umbrage at, so be forewarned.

There’s a lot of conjecture whether someone who is of another faith goes into their god’s afterlife, while we Heathens go to ours, but I truly suspect that if there is an afterlife, that we all go there, regardless of our faiths. This is my belief, and a few of my UPGs (Unverified Personal Gnosis) seem to confirm this. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), and given that none of us REALLY know, it’s sort of a moot point, anyway.

Shortly after my friend’s death, I went to a convention that I was committed to going to.  There, I ran into some new people whom I haven’t met (I know quite a few peeps in my real life) and the comment one person made after reading my bio and talking to me was that I was vying for the title of the most interesting person.

Mundane versus Interesting

That, of course, got me thinking. It wasn’t my intent to become anything anyone would be interested in. My life seems rather mundane, at least to me.  There are plenty of things I have to do so I may eat, such as writing Internet content, hunting, and taking care of the critters. I’ve done <mumble, mumble> racing and have had plenty of outdoor experiences, but I hardly think of myself as interesting or unique.

If anything, I have some of the worst patience when it comes to living.  My basic problem is that it’s exceedingly hard to cram in all the experiences I’m looking for in a finite unit of what amounts to a lifetime, that I sort of become frenetic when I do stuff. There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t been, and too many things I haven’t tried. So, I get that my life seems on the surface interesting, but in reality I’m racing against time to do stuff I want to do, even if it’s a pain sometimes to make plans for it.

My husband remarked that people think my life is interesting because they don’t deal with the minutia that I do all the time. They hear the stories and see the outcome.  Hence, they compare their lives which are relatively comfortable by comparison and look at my life as an adventure. Now, to be honest, there are some interesting stories I have that are even amusing, but it isn’t something I set out to do to impress anyone.

Just Make It a Good One

As I said earlier, my friend before she died was concerned with her legacy, in this case, as a writer. I get that one’s legacy is important, but to quote the Doctor, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” What we leave behind isn’t immortal, by any stretch.  But our deeds, our stories that bear repeating are, assuming people find them interesting in some fashion.

Seldom does the person who lives a common life end up remembered for the day-to-day crap. To paraphrase an old adage, boring lives rarely make history. The person must have done something notable to get considered worthy of our attention.  But even then, it’s a hit or miss.

You Want a Guarantee? Buy a Toaster

Even if you live an uncommon life or achieve some sort of fame or notoriety, there’s no guarantee you’ll live on by your work or deeds.  I’ll make my point with writers, though you can do it with just about anything.  There are plenty of prolific writers who aren’t household names. Unless you’re a well read writer, you probably don’t know who Anthony Trollope was.  He wrote 47 novels in his lifetime and quite a few shorter works.  He was famous in his day. How about Lauran Paine, who wrote more than 900 works?  How about Andrew Murray who wrote more than 240 works?

Now, there are authors whom we do recognize such as Isaac Asimov, Barbara Cartland, and Michael Crichton, who were prolific, but it’s no guarantee that will happen just because you write a lot, or even make a bestseller.  Doing something well and extraordinary my may continue a legacy, or may not.  In fact, some authors do better after they die than while alive.  Which is why pursuing fame is difficult.

My friend’s legacy is sadly mixed. Her books didn’t take off the way she hoped and toward the end she was doing things that she hoped would make her books appear better.  She was a good writer, but like many writers, she wanted everything perfect. Only there wasn’t any way for them to be perfect.  Still, she has a legacy of sorts, and one that will hopefully be remembered.

What the Fuck does this have to do with Heathenry? 

If you haven’t read my quote from the Havamal at the beginning, read it again. At some time, despite my insistence that I refuse to die, I suspect we all are going to the grave. What lies beyond is anyone’s guess.  Sure, we may end up in Helheim, Valhalla, Folksgangr, or any one of the halls of the gods.  Maybe we’ll just be in our graves.  Maybe we reincarnate, or maybe we just go into oblivion and our bodies rot.

When we go, we should have lived a life of honor. And at least an interesting life. 

The Wights Won’t Let Me Go Back to Atheism

The Wights Won’t Let Me Go Back to Atheism

Well, okay, that was a shocker.  Sometimes I need to be reminded that the world really is weird and sometimes despite my statement being The Rational Heathen, I find something I can’t explain.  This time, it’s wights.

How This All Started

I’ve been reading quite a bit from the Atheist Republic  and finding that I have a lot in common with those unbelievers. I’ve never pretended to be a devout religious fanatic, which is why when I’ve communicated with Tyr and some of the other gods, I’ve felt like, well, a poser.  You see, I’d call myself agnostic in a heartbeat — except for that.  Today I was feeling pretty ambivalent about the gods and was about to say something on a private Facebook group about it, and when I hit enter, the words vanished.

Poof.

None of my other posts had.  Just those.  Tried again.  Poof.

The Wights’ opinion and a Doctor Who Reference

I wrote “Okay, I was going to talk about my indecision about going back to atheism and the wights blew my words away. If they don’t behave themselves, I’ll threaten to call down Thor.”

I hit enter.  The only thing that appeared was Okay.

I edited the post and began to wonder what the fuck was going on.

Do the Wights Really Listen?

Well, crap on toast.  I don’t know what to think about that little interchange.  As a friend put it when I bemoaned why Tyr would even venture to approach a near atheist, she said “he must like a challenge.”  I guess that’s true.  I don’t know why Tyr would consider me, but I have some suspicions. And I’ve been surprised at some of the allies he’s picked to help me.  Maybe the wights are just part of that group of allies.

I kind of wonder since I did a salt ritual recently to clean out the bad wights if the good ones have stuck around and are trying to keep me heathen.  You have to wonder when your computer only acts weirdly when you write about them or question your own heathenism.  It doesn’t fuss when working on other more intensive projects.  Just saying.

My Atheist Leanings

Some days I feel like maybe it’s all a delusion and I really need to accept that there are no gods. I think that maybe I’m just giving myself consolation by thinking there are entities greater than ourselves that can help us through life.  Otherwise, life gets scary if we really think we’re on our own.

I can’t help but wonder if this was the rationality in looking for gods and wights.  It’s a big scary world when we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves.  That being said, I get weird shit happen when I question it. It’s like the gods set up those pesky wights to keep me in line.

I’ve still been losing critters, but not at the rate it has been.  Of course, some of it is just plain bad luck.  Some of it has to do with diseases.  I think it is funny when I start writing about wights, they pay more attention.  Maybe that’s the way heathenism works.

Is there such thing as Good and Evil in Heathen Belief? (Part One)

Is there such thing as Good and Evil in Heathen Belief? (Part One)

I’ve been thinking about basic heathen morals and if there is such a thing as good and evil when dealing with Heathen and Asatru beliefs.  I’ve been considering stories that come from our ancestors, and I’m convinced that there is such a thing as good and evil, but not in the same way that Christianity and other religions define good and evil.

Faerie or Folk Tales

Some of the coolest stories come from our fairy tales or folk tales that have been handed down for thousands of years.  These stories are now told to children because in this day and age few people believe in magic, fairies, and whatnot. These stories often were told with Christian trappings because nobody wanted to get into trouble with the Church.  Still, there are a lot of pagan influences throughout the stories, and many of these stories are the same ones but with different trappings.

Morality in folk tales can be sketchy at times, but I’ve given it some thought and I think we can still pull out what the stories are supposed to teach.

Evil Stepmothers and Cinderella

We know about evil stepmothers and stepsisters from hearing stories such as Cinderella, or in the German, Aschenputtel.   This is highly suggestive that there is evil as acknowledged by our ancestors.  The stepmother isn’t evil because she doesn’t worship the Christian god or break one of the Ten Commandments.  No.  She is evil because she is vain, jealous, and vindictive.  She is also evil because she punishes the weak and the person who did nothing to deserve being punished.  She hates Cinderella because Cinderella isn’t her own child and is beautiful.  The stepsisters are evil because of the same reasons but also because they are cruel and try to prevent Cinderella from getting a better life (destroying her gown, forcing her to clean up after them, etc).

Our ancestors made evil people in stories ugly because it’s easier to understand that the person’s inner ugliness shows outside of them. It’s simplistic, but understandable why the villains are ugly and the hero is beautiful.

So, we understand that evil in Cinderella to be:

  • Jealous
  • Vindictive
  • Vanity
  • Petty
  • Being mean
  • Mistreating of others/Bullying
  • Forcing an innocent person into servitude (we can argue about this and the nature of slavery, given that humans have own slaves since the Bronze Age and before, but yes, it is wrong.)
  • Preventing someone from doing something to improve their life
  • Lying (when the servants of the king try to find who the slipper fits the stepsisters try to claim it to the point of even cutting off their toes.)
  • Ugly (both inside and outside).

Huh.  How about that?  I think I stumbled onto a code for good and evil in our stories.

You might argue with me that Cinderella has been tainted with Christianity, but I really don’t think so.  There are too many other Cinderella-type stories in other cultures — somewhere around 500 in Europe, alone. There are Cinderella stories not only in Europe, but also in the Native American tribes, the Egyptians, Africans, and Asians.  From what I could find around the Interwebs, it looks like either the Egyptian version or the Chinese version may be the oldest.  The Chinese story of Ye Xian is dated somewhere around 890 CE, but whether it is the first version is questionable.

I suspect that our fairy tales come from an older time, and apparently I am in good company on this because researchers think that stories such as Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin go back to prehistoric times.

You may argue that Cinderella is not a true northern folktale, but given its prevalence, its archetypes,  and appearance throughout cultures, I suspect it is a story that our ancestors told before humans disseminated throughout the world.  You could (maybe) argue that Cinderella came with the Egyptians or the Chinese via the trade routes at a later time, but there really is no way to put a finger on how Native Americans got the story before Europeans arrived unless it came with them across the Bering ice sheet some 13,300 years ago.  If we take the Egyptian civilization starting roughly 5000 to 3100 BCE as the predynastic era (before the pharaohs), and ancient China at 2700 BCE, we can see that these stories actually appeared at least 10,000 years before those civilizations could have created them.

We know that humans (or at least hominids) moved into Europe some 1.2 million years ago, and arguably maybe even earlier.  With each new discovery, it pushes the out of Africa time frame to be earlier and earlier for human migration. So how old the story of Cinderella is will probably remain a mystery.  I’m guessing it is at least 15,000 years old, but may be older.

The Smith and the Devil

One of the stories, The Smith and the Devil is believed to go back to the Bronze Age.  Never mind the fact that heathens don’t believe in the devil and the Christian hell–four thousand years ago people were telling a story about a clever person who tricked a malevolent entity out of a bargain. Whether it was a bargain for his soul or some other thing in the original story, we’ll probably never truly know unless the good Doctor shows up with his TARDIS and takes us to see it.

I honestly can’t find the story Googling it, but I have gotten a rundown of what the story is about.  A smith is very poor and is offered a Faustian bargain with the devil.  The devil offers a gift but in return, the smith must give the devil his soul.  The smith asks to be able to weld any two objects together.  He welds the devil to an inanimate object, thus tricking the devil out of the skill and saving his soul.

I did read Gambling Hansel, which is an offshoot of The Smith and the Devil, which definitely fits the bill when it comes to Faustian bargains.  I would also suggest that Rumpelstiltskin is of the same ilk because a malevolent being demands the girl’s child in exchange for spinning straw into gold.

So, what is the evil here?

  • The malevolent entity that seeks souls, death, a child
  • We can assume that the entity is evil because of its demands
  • Forcing someone under duress into a Faustian bargain
  • Taking advantage of someone in a bad situation

Why our hero is a hero:

  • He or she outwits the evil entity often by using its own power (its name or the gift it offered) against it  

Good and Evil in Heathenry?  Why, Yes

So, looking at these folk tales, you can start seeing what our ancestors considered moral.  They did make snap judgments on what was good and what was evil.  Evil is taking advantage of innocents and people who are in a bad situation.  Evil is too much pride to the point of vanity.  Evil is lying.  Evil is that which seeks things that should not be bargained for: your life, your soul, or a child.

Seems to me like we do have good and evil at least on a folk level.  Next week I’ll talk about some of our stories of the Aesir and Vanir and see if we can ascertain if indeed there is good and evil in those tales.  (Spoilers: yes, yes there is a notion of good and evil.)

Round Up of Things on My Mind: The Hat Trick — Or Why Learning Dead Languages is Cool, more Doctor Who, and Why Loki does a Terrible Job at Matchmaking

Round Up of Things on My Mind: The Hat Trick — Or Why Learning Dead Languages is Cool, more Doctor Who, and Why Loki does a Terrible Job at Matchmaking

From Doctor Who. Damn, I saw horns.

Some days I get a wild hair and start looking for way cool things. It just so happened that I came across this site that had the song, Blue Monday, played on obsolete 1930s instruments.  Now, even though Blue Monday is technically from my era (oh gods, did I admit how old I actually am?), I never was fond of the original, but I do like this version.  Anyway, the site is a listing of tons of free stuff, including free courses.  Now, in my copious amounts of spare time, I actually have more shit to do.  Yay me!

Norse, Of Course

One of the things they do have is an Old Norse course.  Ooooh, I can hear your mouths watering on the link to the class on Old Norse.   They also have Icelandic, but you’re going to have to look for that. Unfortunately I don’t see anything for Elfdalian, which makes me sad.

Of course I have to take Old Norse class. This to me is a hat trick for dead languages because I was crazy enough to take Latin in high school and college, and Anglo-Saxon in college.  Working with languages, whether Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Japanese, Italian, or computer languages is really enjoyable.  So, Old Norse makes sense.  Here is the link for it again.  You’re welcome.

If you want to really be a literary snob, learning dead languages are the way to go.  Yeah, they’re cool.  If you want to become a writer, I highly recommend learning Latin, Anglo Saxon, and probably Ancient Greek to understand English better. Old Norse is just my way of learning something that works with our gods, and of course, reading Eddas. 

I will possibly be talking about the classes I’m taking for fun as well as my thoughts about heathenism in future posts.  Oh, and the occasional snide scientific comments.

No, No Horns!

I know “disapproval” is misspelled. I didn’t make the meme, I just use it.

Well, I just saw The Girl Who Died which was Season 9, Episode 5 of Doctor Who and all I could think about were those damn horns on those helmets.  No, no, no!  The Norse didn’t wear horns on their helmets.  This silly idea came about in the 1800s when Wagner’s Ring Cycle came into play (Get it? Get it?) and the costumer designer put horns on the Viking helmets.  And the image stuck.  Rather silly, really.  If you’ve ever sparred with swords (yes, I have) you’d know that helmets are damn heavy.  And if you want to have your head whacked silly, try putting horns on helmets.  While they might catch the enemy’s sword, chances are they’re more of a nice hand hold for your enemy so that they can toss you in the dirt and use a misericorde to put you out of their misery for wearing such a stupid thing. (Yes, I’m very punny today!)


It’s stuff like this that drives me apoplectic.  I really considered the notion of not continuing to watch the rest of the season because of the huge gaff, and because I’m not too fond of the new Doctor.  He’s getting better, but I really miss. David Tennant.  Even then, the Brits have no clue how firearms should be handled and it’s obvious throughout the shows. So I am mentally correcting them throughout.  But that’s for another day.

Loki’s Hand at Matchmaking

This goes under: sometimes you can’t make this shit up.  I want to share an experience I had with an old friend who isn’t much of a friend any longer.  (Long story that, in and of itself.)

This friend was a geek and really cool until got married and became “Born Again” because of his wife. His mom, for whatever reason, became Wiccan. I don’t know all the background behind this. At one point, his mom was remarrying and she invited her son and his wife to her wedding.

Now, can you see the mess this is leading up to?

I’m not Wiccan, but I understand that Wiccan can encompass the goddess and god, and a number of other deities. I don’t know what was said as an invocation, but the daughter-in-law thought she heard the name of a demon mentioned.  (Look, I have no fucking idea — I heard this from the son.)  So the son and daughter-in-law turned with their backs toward the mom on her wedding day.  No, they didn’t just leave. No, they didn’t try to understand what was going on.

Classic. Christian. Arrogance. And. Intolerance.

Sometimes karma is a bitch. What warped god came up with slamming those two together?  I’m thinking Loki — it has all his earmarks on this.  It is funny in a warped sense, and it is tragic at the same time.  Loki tries hard, but even he loves mischief. So, I really should do a blot to him just for the bizarre humor of it all.


So, what in the hel is this post about?  Nothing really.  Sometimes I just write about shit that’s on my mind.  I also wanted to share with you a cool site I thought you’d like. I also had a chance for a Doctor Who reference.

Eostre — Was Easter Appropriated?

Eostre — Was Easter Appropriated?

As the Rational Heathen, I’ve been called out occasionally on agreeing with the beliefs that Christianity appropriated the trappings and dates of pagan festivals and gave them a shiny new coat of paint and something for the masses to celebrate instead of their old customs.  While I agree that in some cases, particularly Eostre/Ostara, we don’t have the proof, my gut tells me that the trappings surrounding Easter has more to do with pagan origins than Christian ones.  Let me explain.

Easter Bunnies Do Not Make Sense from a Christian Standpoint

While growing up, I had a tough time swallowing the whole rabbit/egg/chicks thing when it came to the resurrection of Christ.  Don’t get me wrong–I love chocolate and eggs and the whole idea of renewal, BUT…nowhere in the Christian bible is there a rabbit handing out eggs and candy.  Nor is a rabbit or an egg linked as a symbol of resurrection in the bible.  I suppose we could look at these as symbols of resurrection, but that sounds remarkably like a rite of spring and not Christ rising from the dead. Yes, yes, we could point to spring as the earth resurrecting from winter, but given that Christ’s crucifixion was only during spring because of Passover (Jesus went to Jerusalem during the feast of Passover), there’s no real bunny-earth-chocolate connection there. The bible doesn’t make that connection, so why do we?  More likely we’ve had something that pointed to rabbits and birds as symbols of springtime as a time of renewal.  I suspect it is the way we celebrated the return of fertility and birth of animals and plants. Being the clever Christians, they quickly pointed to the rabbits and baby birds and said they’re symbols of the Christian Easter.  Easter, which existed for Christians, needed a shiny paint job to get everyone on board with it. Why not go with the fluffy and cute, which probably was already there in the pagan world?

The Easter Bunny

Even History.com admits the ubiquitous Easter bunny most likely has pagan roots because rabbits are prolific little buggers.  What better way to show fertility and new life than something that breeds…er, like rabbits?  The Germans who showed up in the United States in the early 1700s are said to have brought their stories of “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws,” an egg-laying rabbit. (Incidentally, this isn’t the only occasion Germanic peoples have brought holiday customs to the United States–Christmas is a biggie too.)  It’s interesting to note that Osterhase has a similar root to Ostara.  A coincidence?  Unlikely.

Other candidates for passing out eggs included foxes, storks, and other birds. Let’s continue.

Eggs

I’m pretty sure Christ wasn’t hatched, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that the colored egg thing isn’t really a Christian thing. A nice stretch the History Channel made–and to be honest, I’ve heard this too–is that the egg symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the tomb.  Okay, then.  The custom of painting eggs goes back to the 1200s.  Why?  Well, they think that maybe eggs weren’t allowed to be eaten during Lent and painting the eggs for Easter made them extra special.  I can see that…maybe.  In which case, it was a way to make nasty old eggs look yummy.  (The fasting in Lent generally lasts 40 days–you’d have a lot of eggs by then.)  I grew up Roman Catholic, but not eating eggs wasn’t part of Lent when I was growing up. In fact, the Catholic Bishops say eggs are okay, even if you go with the traditional fast.  Maybe this is something pre-Vatican II?

But then we still have the Osterhase who lays colored eggs.  Who knows?  Maybe both contributed to it. One German site I found says that the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Persians looked at eggs as the symbol for rebirth and fertility.  I’m not relying on this site, but it does make sense that a Middle East death cult would take on the trappings of pagan symbols.

Candy

I’d love to claim candy as a pagan/heathen tradition, but really the Easter candy started with chocolate eggs in the early 1800s.  Probably a nice little marketing idea.  I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t give out chocolate eggs at the crucifixion or at the resurrection.

But What About Eostre/Ostara?

Eostre/Ostara isn’t a goddess we know much about.  But I suspect we’ve lost much since the rise of Christianity.  It’s interesting that St. Bede is the reason we even know about Eostre.  He wrote in the 8th century about Eostre who had the month of April bearing her name. There are some folk who even dispute whether or not Eostre was a goddess, but I think it is likely she was. Given the general fertility rites of spring, we can guess that Eostre was a dawn and fertility goddess, akin in some ways to Freyja. Wikipedia states:

“As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend…”

I suspect that Eostre and Ostara are names for the Greek goddess of the dawn, Aurora, but this is conjecture on my part. Still the names have basically the same roots, which means that the goddess was worshiped well before our ancestors separated. It also gives me credence when I say that Eostre/Ostara was a goddess and not just a name for opening or new things.

When we talk about Eostre existing or not, this is all more or less by guess and by golly.  Yes, there has been at least one person who has put forth some very convincing arguments that she didn’t exist. No, I’m not convinced, but with good reason.  We just don’t know. The problem with his arguments is no one has a time machine (yet) that allows us to go back and see what really happened.  Where is the Doctor when you need him? (Did you REALLY think I was going to write a post without a Doctor Who reference?  Oh, ye of little faith!)

Trying to Reconstruct from the Ashes

Doctor Who aside, we Heathens are basically left with the smoldering remnants of what used to be a rich and detailed belief system.  We can only gain glimpses of what our ancestors believed and try our best to reconstruct and fill in the blanks. Some of us hear the gods and goddesses and can write about our UPGs, but there’s really no way we can find out scientifically what actually existed without some new artifacts, or someone somehow going back in time and bringing us the information.

Our neolithic ancestors were very sophisticated people who were unlucky enough to not have invented a written language. Even the Norse and Germanic tribes, while they did have the runes, they were used for ceremonies and inscriptions. Looking at the stone age construction we’ve discovered in recent times, shows that our ancestors were quite capable of building impressive temples, stone homes such as those in Skara Brae, and stone monuments.  But much of what they created did not survive. Statues made of wood rotted or were burned. Metal statues of gods were most likely melted down and reused. Without identifiable written language and without much art of gods or goddesses available (and knowing that’s what the art depicted), it’s  questionable that we can ever truly reconstruct what happened in our past.

Whether you believe Eostre is a construct of Bede or not, the point is that Christians took on pagan trappings to ease the masses into their religion. After all, if your god accepts bunnies, chicks, and colored eggs–which is something you did to celebrate your former god–it probably doesn’t matter much to you that the names changed.  It’s the same thing, just a slightly different flavor if you keep the basics intact.

Why Bad Things Happen: One Heathen’s Perspective

Why Bad Things Happen: One Heathen’s Perspective

Bad things happen.  When I look at things like the Paris attacks, I can’t help but wonder why.  And as a former Christian turned Heathen, it’s easy for me to fall into the “why did god/the gods let this happen?” mode.  The words, “shit happens” really does embody the Heathen and pagan view, so you’re probably going to get my rationale when it comes to this. Here is my perspective on why shit happens.

Christian God Versus Reality

You’ll see me talking about the Christian god quite a bit, because, quite frankly, as Americans, we deal with a Christian-pervasive society.  While it is true that some folks have grown up without being in Christian family, I think most of us still have the Christian influences in our lives. Growing up in a Christian household, I was told to trust in god. That god had a plan. That god would take care of me. That everything would be okay.

If you’ve gone through some tough times, you know damn well that reality is never that cut and dry.  That bad things happen to good people all the time and bad people do get away with things. Sometimes we see karma in action, but more often, we are left wondering how in the Hel we can pick up our lives and move on.

I can point to many instances of bad things happening to good people: children having cancer, tornadoes and hurricanes killing good people, and terrorist attacks. In many cases, the victims were Christians and perhaps very good people. The Christian god was asleep at the wheel on that day when bad things happened, otherwise, he wouldn’t have let it happen, assuming he was an all-powerful and benevolent deity.

Why the Gods Don’t Interfere — at Least Not Much

I personally believe that no god is truly all-powerful. Some are more powerful than others, which makes sense. But none of them are everywhere or paying attention to everything. My own patron god doesn’t always hang around my life because, quite frankly, it’s boring to him. Other gods may pop in and out as they will, but they aren’t with me all the time.  Yep, sometimes I’m alone.

I went through some trying times and, quite frankly, got a little snotty with one of the gods for “abandoning” me. He showed up in a dream later and told me that he couldn’t prevent what happened. It was the Wyrd, and he thought it sucked too. But he did have some solace for me, which made me hesitate and think about the situation. In retrospect, he could’ve told me to fuck off and send me back to whatever I decided: Christian, Agnostic, or Atheist.  But he didn’t.  Instead, he sought to console me, which was surprising. At least to me.

Our Place in the Wyrd

Basically, we’re all stuck with our Wyrd or fate. We like to think of ourselves as masters of our destiny, but even science says that free will may be an illusion. This sucks big time. The only thing that affects the universe is our choices, and depending on what we decide, our decisions spin off another universe. That’s amazing, if it doesn’t make your head hurt. We coexist in the past, present, and future, but we can’t perceive those times because of our limited, linear thinking. Or to quote the good Doctor:

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff…”

Yeah, I just quoted Doctor Who.  Get over it.

Basically, if you believe in physics and science, some things are just beyond even the gods. The Norns are possibly the only ones who handle our destinies, but even then, they just spin, measure, and cut. They don’t show us what the measure of our lives look like.

What’s more, we really don’t know what else is going on beyond our simple point of view. There may be something; there may be nothing. We just may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What to Take Away from All This

Bad things happen. Good things happen. Not everything that happens is something we want. Sometimes it happens for a reason. More often, it happens for no particular reason other than our choices, or no choices, or a single quantum flip. Sometimes the gods can help us; other times they can’t. That’s why in the end we have to deal with all the unfair things life throws at us, as well as all the good things. When we as Heathens understand that our destiny is due to our choices combined with quantum physics, we can finally understand the nature of the universe and the gods just a little better.