Ah, the Heathen life. The Rational Heathen has goats, which means spring kids, and the insanity that brings. If they all had lived, I would’ve had ten Kids on the Block. Yeah, bad pun, deal with it. Right now, I’m down to seven and as bad as having a 30 percent attrition rate is, it beats out the really bad year when I lost all the kids due to various aliments.
I Hate Spring, and Here’s Why
Here in the Northern Rockies, the weather is typical spring. In other words, the weather sucks to pull goat babies out of the butts of pregnant doe goats. Temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night and the days can soar as high as 40 or 50 degrees. And it alternately rains and snows. And melts. And makes everything muddy. And I mean everything. It sucks, especially for newborn goats who really have no defense against the weather. So, even though it is Freyr’s season, it is a real pain in the ass for someone like me who has livestock. I’ve been spending most of my time awake and going down to the barn every two to four hours to check on the does. So, it means long nights.
Around here it’s been guess and by golly when they actually were bred. That’s my own fault because I got a new goat buck who was just a kid. So, I left him with the does so I could be sure they would be bred. All this winter, I watched the does balloon with babies and waited. One of my best goats had twins, only to have them succumb to pneumonia. Then, the kid train started. I had four does deliver in two days. Eight kids total.
One didn’t survive despite my ministrations. It happens, but I take it personally every time. No idea what killed him. If we had decent goat vets out here, I’d consider a necropsy, but the last necropsy told me that I had a healthy, dead kid. True story, that.
It’s Not Easy
Right now, I have seven kids with a couple being somewhat sketchy because they had bacteria infections. I’m treating them will all the medication I can muster. Kids born during mud season are just about guaranteed to have some illness. What’s more, I have one who is a quarter of the size of the others and who has a birth defect that a kid last year had. Same mom.
The mom doe goat in question is about as disappointing as they come. Her first kid was born with two long back legs and died within a day. The second kid from last season had a fused toe joint that curled the hoof under the leg that made him very lame. He survived only to die of bloat. The little doeling is a runt and has one leg where the toe joint has somewhat curled and is twisted a bit. Two different unrelated bucks; same doe. To make matters worse, I can’t milk that doe because she is wild in temperament despite the handling, and she drinks off herself. She also drinks off her mom.
So today, we slaughtered the doe goat and butchered her for meat. Not what I would prefer, but either you make it in my herd or you don’t. I can’t afford another pet goat, especially one with a bad temperament. Her kids, if they survive, won’t be bred. Since their father was a cashmere buck, I’ll be keeping them for fiber (wool).
Spring and the Heathen
Despite my obvious dislike for the season, Heathens in the past looked forward to spring. Sure, it meant lambing, kidding, calving, and planting seeds, but what it really meant was the onslaught of winter was finally over. I suspect that many people and livestock went into survival mode in the wintertime. Even with winter grazing, livestock couldn’t really forage for food as they could in the spring and summer, so either had to be sold, slaughtered, or had to be fed. This meant that you could only keep the animals you could afford to feed or the land could support. This also meant you had to keep your breeding stock and hope that the critters made it through the winter.
Spring was the return of life, and therefore the return of food for our ancestors’ livestock. New kids, calves, and lambs meant an abundance of food for the next winter, if they survived the harsh realities of an early spring. Livestock was typically smaller than modern day’s version, so they didn’t need near as much to eat as their modern counterparts, but they didn’t produce as much either. I suspect the goats from the past were hardier than those we have today. Those who didn’t survive didn’t pass on their genetic code.
Kids and the Modern Heathen
As a modern Heathen, I am slightly more self sufficient than city dwellers, living a semi-subsistence lifestyle. But even I must use modern technology to keep my animals alive during this topsy-turvey time of spring, here in a land with unpredictable weather. We get warm and cold spells, rain and snow, and of course, wind that threatens any young creature’s life. I look at the deer around the house and am amazed that they live as long as they do with the same weather, predators, and diseases we must endure. It is a true testament to life that despite adversity, wildlife thrives.
I have three crates full of kids that need to be hand raised. I have five goats who need to be milked. I’ll get about two gallons of milk a day — enough to feed the little ones with some addition of cow juice. I’ll also bring hay up to get them started.
A Lesson I’ve Learned
If there is a lesson to be learned by this, it is that our ancestors had hard lives. They didn’t have the antibiotics and other medicines I have available. They probably sweated over their livestock as much as I do, or even more, because they couldn’t just go to the store and buy a package of hamburger if it didn’t work out. Each dead kid, each failed milker, and each failed crop put them one step closer to starvation.
It gives you an idea how far we’ve gone as a species. Even our poorest people in first world countries fare better than that. There are enough food pantries in my area that can prevent hunger for those who do not qualify for food stamps or SNAP benefits. The Heathen then relied on their family and kindred to prevent starvation, but it could be a closely run thing. So, even though I pay homage to the ancestors, quite frankly, I’ve had enough of a taste of their lifestyle to know that it’s harder than it appears. At least I’m unlikely to starve if I lose any more kids.
I stumbled across 18 Thought-Provoking Questions that Will Free Your Mind in 2018 and was amused by the questions so much I had to share it to my Facebook page.
This is what happens when Firefox and Pocket recommend articles for me to read. Sadly, I am an Internet junkie–I was addicted to the Internet long before the concept of Internet addiction came into existence–and I had to read the blog with their 18 questions. Unfortunately, I can’t take the questions–or myself–seriously, so I thought I would give you my honest (and hopefully, amusing) answers.
You may be wondering how I expect to improve myself with my bad attitude. I really don’t. If I wanted to improve myself, I would swear off computers for good and go live in a cave. But I can’t, and I don’t. Look, I’m now playing Age of Empires: Castle Siege, and trying to beat the shit out of other kingdoms.
Oh yeah…questions. Here goes:
1. In one sentence, who are you?
Look, is this a trick question? Now, I have The Who’s lyrics running through my brain:
I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said you can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away
—Who Are You by The Who, written by Peter Townshend.
Okay, I’m The Rational Heathen. Enough said.
2. In one word, what do you live for?
10 million dollars. Okay, that’s three words.
I kind of like: Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.
Yeah, I kind of like that. And I know that’s 15 words.
3. What is worth the pain?
Pain? Are you serious? Fuck that shit.
I guess it depends on your definition of pain. If you’re talking childbirth-pain, I opted out of that. So, the next question of mine would be: what kind of pain are we talking about? You mean muscle strains? That’s pretty minor. Are you talking broken bones? Been there. Dog bites? Yeah, I’ve got holes in my arms. Accidents? Waking up in the hospital with tubes hanging out of you is no fun. So, what is worth that?
My point is that there is pain and there are annoying inconveniences. Pain is something that warns you to not do something stupid. Stuff that causes annoying inconveniences can be dealt with. So, pain is relative.
I’m not saying to not strive for lofty goals. Hels bells, I’m one of those who have done some pretty hair-raising shit and lived, but the reality is that if you’re truly committed to a particular goal, the effort it takes will pale in comparison to the prize. The problem is when you sacrifice yourself, your morals, and your family to achieve that goal. In other words, you shouldn’t destroy yourself over an obsession.
4. What will you never give up on?
Chocolate. There, I’ve said it.
This question is like the previous question. There are things you will stick to and things you will let go of. Be aware that some things should be given up when they’re a lost cause or an obsession. You can’t always will things to go your way.
That is a lesson I have learned the hard way.
5. What do you always try to avoid?
Filling out forms and doing bookkeeping. I hate it.
6. What is something you take for granted every day?
7. What do you need most right now?
Ten million dollars. Oh, and sleep.
8. What would you immediately do differently if you knew no one would judge you?
Are we talking legal judging? Or are we talking societal pressures here? If it is legal judging, I know of several assholes who would get a serious smackdown. And they deserve it.
As for societal pressures, hmmm. I don’t give a shit what people think about me. It’s pretty obvious.
9. What’s something nobody could ever steal from you?
Can’t take the sky from me.
10. Who would you like to forgive right now?
Oh, there’s a Christian thing here. You know, I have very little forgiveness left. Those I’ve wanted to forgive, I’ve already forgiven. Those I have not forgiven, I won’t because I don’t trust them to behave any differently. At the same time, I don’t stay awake thinking about what they’ve done. They’re gone from my life.
11. Happiness is not __________?
Getting your teeth pulled out. Unless you are in pain from a bunch of rotten teeth. Then, you might be happy. Or a masochist.
12. What impact do you want to leave on the people you love?
Sounds painful. How about a good story?
13.Life is too short to tolerate _________?
Assholes. And bad olive oil. In that order.
14. What’s something that used to scare you but no longer does?
Seriously. Back in high school, crows used to fly at me. Guess I pissed off Odin sometime. Now I’ve handled birds from quail to large raptors.
15. What do you want to remember forever?
How about just remember? Probably where I left my keys.
16. What do you always look forward to?
17. What recently reminded you how fast time flies?
Oh, thanks for reminding me of this. My upcoming birthday.
18. What’s something everyone should be able to say before they die?
Dinner was good.
Okay, so I’m not so deep. Maybe you have better answers than I do.
I have a confession to make: I am not in the Yule spirit. Or the Christmas spirit. Or any other fucking spirit. I know the holidays are around the corner, but I can’t really feel the part yet. Hels bells, I don’t even have the tree up.
When She’s Not in the Mood
This time of year reminds me how lonely being the lone Heathen of the Apocalypse can be. What’s more, life has a way of shoving you back into reality. If you’re going through difficult times, you probably understand what I’m talking about. Life doesn’t always hand you roses, so as the saying goes, when handed lemons, you make lemonade.
I think part of the reason has to do with the end of general season hunting. Sure, we can still hunt for grouse and turkey, but both are being wily and frustrating. Recently I lost my two goat kids to weird shit that happened two days apart. And work has hit a slow down, and I need to figure out ways to fill in the ample gaps. I’m concerned over the shit that I have to deal with every winter, which means I should expect this, but sometimes I just don’t.
It’s enough to piss off Spiderman.
It’s Times Like These…
It’s times like these where the gods and goddesses get an earful from me, but surprisingly, all I’ve been asking for is strength to put myself back on track. Okay, that’s bullshit. I don’t lie well. I do ask for help, but honestly, I know better than to expect handouts. So, I look at what I can do to make things happen more positively this season.
Remember, Tyra, the gods aren’t your bitches. <deep breath>
So, how do you handle the holidays when your life isn’t making you jolly?
Center Yourself and Take Care of Yourself First
|Thanks to Magickal Graphics|
As a Heathen, it’s important to understand that you are responsible for your life, despite all the curve balls the Wyrd throws at you. You cannot fix things if you’re sick, exhausted, or emotionally spent. You’ll spend your time digging a deeper hole rather than filling it. Even if you don’t want to be honest with everyone else (which you should be), you need to be honest to yourself. You have to take care of yourself first. I learned this lesson when Tyr — and then, Loki — showed up in my life. Even now, I remind myself (often in Loki’s nagging voice) to self-care. I remember to exercise, eat right, and yeah, try to get enough sleep. And I try to meditate, even if only for minutes at a time.
Consider New Options
A huge failure I see with people is refusing to step out of their current situation. I’m as guilty as the next party with that. Sometimes we don’t take the next step because it will shake up the status quo, which may not be comfortable, but is often more comfortable than dealing with change and the unknown. Eons ago when I was younger, but not wiser, I went from job to job when I really hated the corporate culture or the people I worked for. As one gets older, the change gets to be a hassle, but sometimes you’ve got to do it. I would look at people who worked at a company for 10 to 15 years, even though they hated it. Some actually died at their desks from heart attacks. Don’t be like them.
Remember: there are always options. Understanding this will help you make your decisions.
|Thanks to Magickal Graphics|
Lastly, Force Yourself to Enjoy the Season
I insisted that my husband help me take out the Yule/Christmas tree now. With much fussing and fuming, we got the tree and the ornaments out tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll be so fed up with the damn box, we’ll put up the tree. Which will make both of us feel better.
Yeah, it sounds weird, but by doing things that should make you happy, they make you happy. Even now, as I write this, I feel better that I got that done. I should probably bottle that cherry mead that has been waiting for me patiently…
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If you’re new to Heathenism, or even if you’ve been a Heathen for a while, you may or may not have seen the Julbock or Yule Goat as part of the Yule celebration. The Yule Goat or Julbock is a pagan Scandinavian tradition that predates Christianity that sneaked into Christmas celebrations in Scandinavia. It’s an interesting tradition that we can easily incorporate into our Yule festivities.
What is the Julbock?
You may be wondering what the Yule Goat is and what significance it has for Heathens. After all, a goat is a goat, right? Well, maybe.
The Julbock is associated with the last sheaf of grain harvested, which in the past was considered to have magical properties. Called the julbocken, it was associated with proto-Slavic beliefs with the god of the harvest and the fertile sun, Devac, represented by a white goat. It was common for someone to dress up as a goat and demand presents as offerings. In this way, Yule was part of the harvest festival that has been carried into the winter solstice, perhaps as a way to entice the sun to return by paying tribute.
Historians think the Yule Goat may be linked to Thor’s goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr in many respects. Given that Thor provides rains and Sif, his consort, is the goddess of grain, you can kind of see the relationship and symbolism.
The current Julbock appears in Scandinavian tradition as straw tied with red ribbons in the shape of a goat. The Gävle Goat is Sweden is probably the best known Julbock since 1966. Not surprisingly, it has been vandalized by arson at least 36 times and has been hit by cars, kicked to pieces, and stolen. Apparently it is too big of a temptation to not offer it to the sun.
In the past, the Julbock kept watch to ensure the Yule, and later Christmas, preparations were done correctly. It seems to be a benevolent Krampus in that respect. In medieval times, the Julbock was associated with wassailing, playing pranks, and performing plays. Youths in costumes would go house to house singing and performing plays for food and spirits. These plays would often feature a Julbock in them.
In the 19th century, the Julbock was the bringer of presents before the whole Santa Claus thing took hold in Scandinavia. An adult male relative of the house would dress up as a goat and hand out presents. This eventually faded out as the Santa Claus tradition took hold in the latter half of the 19th century. Even so, there is at least one piece of art showing a rather pagan Santa Claus riding a goat. This artwork is entitled “Old Christmas” which gives us an interesting mix of the two traditions.
How to Add the Julbock in Your Heathen Celebrations
|Julbock for sale at Amazon|
Now that you know a bit about the Julbock, you may be wondering how to add it to your own Heathen celebrations. Unless you’re a farmer, chances are you don’t have the last bundle of wheat from the harvest, so you may have to be satisfied with your own Julbock decoration or even these nice Julbock Yule tree ornaments.
But you don’t have to stop there with relegating the Julbock as a Yuletide decoration. If you have a large party on Yule, you can add your own Yule play which includes the Julbock. Celebrate Yule by wassailing. When it comes time to handing out Yule presents, who says you wouldn’t look marvelous in horns and a goat hide? Many cool possibilities here.
So, those are my thoughts on the Julbock. Maybe you have some ideas for celebrating Yule that I haven’t mentioned. Let me know how you incorporate the Julbock in your Yule.
Disclaimer: I’ve included some links to my affiliates in this post where I may receive a small percentage of compensation from your purchase. If you’re planning on buying ornaments or your own Julbock and enjoy this blog, I would encourage you to use my affiliate links. The money helps support this blog. Thank you.