I think I’m getting high off mint.
I don’t think of myself as a particular lightweight when it comes to alcohol or medications. (In fact, doctors usually have to use several times the amount they think they need for me to be numbed. And I won’t go into alcohol, at this time.) So, when I was digging up mint out of my garden to replant and possibly sell, I felt a wave of absolute joy from something. I suspect it was a wight of some sort, or maybe an ancestor. It could’ve been me getting high off the heady scent of the mint, but I think it unlikely.
I had planted the mint several years back in an attempt to rid some other noxious weeds with my more preferable version of a weed. Out West, we have the unfortunate situation of having constant invasive plants. The mint, although incredibly invasive, is minimal compared to the other invasive plants, some which are quite poisonous to wildlife and livestock. At least the mint can be eaten without harm.
The intoxicating smell of the mint, the gentle breeze, and the sun suddenly transported me into several minutes of pure joy. I swear, I felt hands on my shoulders as I stood there alone. Then, as quickly as it came, it left, but not before leaving me in wide-eyed wonder over what just happened.
Being Closer to Nature
Our ancestors were closer to nature than we are. Let’s face it, most of us grew up in urban or suburban environments. A few of us actually lived in rural areas. Even so, we still aren’t as close to nature as our ancestors who had to deal with the good and the bad on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong: nature can be deadly, and often is. We, as humans, have learned to keep the bad stuff (as defined by humans) at bay, but unfortunately, we’ve put the good stuff at arm’s length as well.
I moved into the mountains when I could. I’m not unique that I did this nor that I have a meager ranch of a few acres whence I get a large portion of my meat and some of my vegetables. When I do the work, I get the feeling that this is just a taste of the backbreaking work our ancestors had to endure. It wasn’t romantic or pleasant, but it did come with the benefit of being closer to what this Earth is all about.
Both my parents loved gardening. My mom was a Master Gardener. Even so, I don’t recall her
planting more than tomatoes, zucchini, and basil for food. My plants are in container gardens (with the exception of mint) because of the rocky ground here, but I have a variety of lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, beans, squash, corn, and herbs, all in containers. Yeah, it isn’t in the ground, but it is easy to get to.
I don’t know what my grandparents did in terms of gardens. My dad worked on a farm when he was younger and ate fresh food. My mom probably did the same. Her dad was a baker who loved to hunt. I know little of my dad’s side — I know his brothers were hunters. I do know some relatives and have some genealogy charts. Maybe I need to take another look at them.
I suspect that there are farmers and hunters in my ancestors. At some point, all our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. So, maybe they would look at our lives and marvel at the easy way we have it, but also the apparent lack of connection.
I had an odd dream last night. In the dream, I was hunting with my husband (not unusual) at a ranch we had never been to. There were many strange things there, but the oddest had to do with a big pavilion that was set up for hunters. When you went inside, you were in row after row of cubicles with phones and computers, presumably for those waiting. Only, everyone in there was dead. They had killed themselves because they were waiting to hunt, but couldn’t. They were being told to wait, and they could only read while waiting.
None of them bothered to step out of the tent. None of them tried the Internet connection or computers. None of them took the chance to go out and hunt. In retrospect, I think the dream had to do with how people are choosing to live their lives. They are sitting in a row of cubicles until someone tells them they can go hunt, or they go crazy and kill themselves.
I wonder if this is a metaphor for life? People waiting around in cubicles until they die, never taking the chance of stepping out and hunting, even if they were wrong? It makes you think, doesn’t it?
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I’m pretty much what most people would consider close to a subsistence hunter. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that I live in a state where I can hunt nearly year round. Lately, I’ve run into what can only be considered a goddess’s sense of humor.
My Relationship to the Goddess
Most of my life I’ve spent outdoors and in cold weather because, quite frankly, I melt when I have to deal with heat. Any heat. Cold and snow has always been my thing. When I went out in the forests in the past before I became a heathen, I could feel something there. Something powerful and something that could be dangerous. That pretty much describes Skadi. You respect the goddess and she’ll let you live another day. Don’t respect her and you’re dead. Even those who have a healthy respect for her can screw up and end up frozen to death, buried in an avalanche, drowning under the ice, or eaten by a predator.
Yeah, you better respect her.
I’ve had a healthy respect for her for years, but she can sometimes surprise you with unexpected things. For example, our success in hunting is directly related to her graciousness — and the kindness of the wights. We always be sure to thank the animals we kill and apologize that we must do this to eat. I sometimes leave little offerings for the wights in that area as a thank you. I wish I was better at this, so I need to do that more often.
Thanks to Magickal Graphics
Skadi Always Liked You Better
Skadi can be a bit of a capricious goddess when it comes to hunting. For one thing, it’s tough to ask her to send animals your direction. When she does, it’s amazing. The animal will actually wait for you to kill it. Now, you may think I’m bullshitting you on that, (I would), but I’ve seen it now at least four times, and maybe more. Most of the time, she blesses my husband with such animals. (I personally think she likes him better.) But recently, she gave me a turkey which I shouldn’t have been able to shoot, and when I hit him, he could have run off, but instead waited for me to finish him. (When I dressed him, I found that the shotgun load had broken a wing, but didn’t do any other damage.) You see, turkeys are fast runners as well as fliers, so having one wait for me was pretty amazing.
Now, you may say the goddess had nothing to do with that. You may be right. Maybe animals just wait to get killed. But I kind of doubt it. So, I thank the wights and the goddess for the game and feel good about the hunt.
Explaining Hunting Rules to a Norse Goddess
Sometimes even I forget the basic rule: The Gods are Not Your Bitches. But to be honest, hunting isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. Animals tend to make themselves scarce with people around, which means locating them can be problematic. I’ve looked over the statistics for our state and hunters maybe fill around 8 percent of their tags. That counts all animals with a tag taken, not just deer or elk.
Hunting also means you abide by a set of artificial rules. You can’t hunt on private property without permission, you can’t hunt at night, and you have a certain season you can hunt. The type of game is restricted, such as males or females, age, and how you can harvest your animal. Basically it’s enough to drive anyone who isn’t familiar with it all insane, which is why it can be a bit problematic when you have the goddess’s attention and try to explain what kind of bear you want to hunt, why you can’t bait them or hunt at night, you can’t hunt a sow with cubs, and sure as shooting, you can’t shoot the bear she dropped in your lap in the middle of a public road. (Yes, this did happen to us.) The goddess delivers, just not always where you need it. I suspect it is her sense of humor for having to endure my litany of conditions. (At this moment, I have a vision of Skadi peering over the 2016 hunting guide and frowning perplexed.)
At the end of the season, I should give the goddess the hunting guide as a burnt offering in my woodstove. No doubt she’ll find the reading pretty strange.
The Wights and Hunting
There have been places where the land felt wrong, no doubt due to the wights there. Luckily where I now live most of the wights feel more welcoming than anything, which amazes me. It may be just me and those who can feel them, or it may be that they are more open to humans. I don’t know. I do know that I offer the local wights eggs and milk to them frequently, and they seem to like that.
Why I Hunt
My husband and I have been hunting a long time. We love nature and we love animals, but importantly, we love the meat we get. We’re not particularly interested in antlers, mainly because you can’t eat those, but we won’t turn down a trophy buck if he walked out in front of us. I think that Skadi approves of that, simply because it is respectful. We try to use most of the animal and give back into nature that we can’t use. Overall, it has served us well.
Hunting, Gathering, and Being Heathen
I think that many people have lost their connection with nature and the natural order of things. Some of being a heathen means that we should keep the connection to the land and nature the way that our ancestors did. As a hunter, I’ve had to learn to read animal signs and tracks, know how to stalk an animal without my scent giving me away, and of course, locating the beast we’re looking for. I’ve been getting better at identifying edible plants as we hunt and learning to gather them for food. It’s a delightful skill, and one that I feel the pleasure from those wights around me when I recognize the bounty they have offered us.
When I look at what we do versus those who sit and analyze the dusty tomes, hoping to glean a bit of truth, I know that my path is more fulfilling in a lot of ways, at least for me. Yes, there are those who cannot do what I do on a daily basis, due to where they live, but there are many ways to get in touch with our world.
Some Suggestions for City Folks
Look, I spent my childhood and adolescence growing up in suburbia. Even so, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the forests near my home back when parents didn’t worry so much about where their kids went. (Somehow, we survived.) Anyway, I’ve been to the big cities like New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Chicago, so I get the problems you people have. So, here are my suggestions to help you get a little closer to nature.
- Take a class in wildcrafting or foraging. Believe it or not, even in the big cities nature tries to reclaim what humans try to eliminate.
- Plan a day trip at least once a month to someplace wild. Go for a hike. Find a place to meditate. Look for wild edibles. (It’s important to have someone who knows what they look like identify them to you first before you take them. Also it’s important to know what the state laws are for gathering wild edibles.)
- Learn to hunt. This is a bit of a steep learning curve, but it can be done. Take the Hunter’s Safety course. Don’t want to use a firearm? Bowhunting is certainly a possibility. You will have to learn how to handle your weapons safely and get good at shooting, whether with a rifle or a bow. Find someone to mentor you. You might just discover a new skill that puts you in touch with your ancestors.
- Plant a container garden with herbs. You can bring them inside when the weather gets cold and you have terrific herbs to use in your cooking.
These are some ideas off the top of my head. Maybe you have other ideas on how you can become part of the natural order. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but you can always talk to me about it and give me your ideas as well.
|Thanks to http://magickalgraphics.com|
Well, it’s harvest time. Today I was preserving some peaches I received from a local farmer, and it occurred to me that most people really aren’t in touch with their food. Oh sure, you go to the grocery store and buy stuff. Maybe you plant a small garden, if you have the space, but many people don’t. So, you buy your food from who knows where, and pray to Freyr that maybe he’ll accept your thanks.
Kids, we need to talk.
Freyr isn’t Going to Bless those PopTarts
Let’s get one thing straight: I like PopTarts as much as the next person. They’re great junk food, but they’re not what harvest is about. (Actually I don’t eat PopTarts; I’ll eat the organic “toaster pastries.”) Anything that is over processed really isn’t great for you. I would argue that the more processed the food is, the farther away from you it is, the more chemicals added, the less healthy and the less nutritious it’s likely to be.
I also think that if you don’t pay much attention to where your food comes from and what goes into your body, you need to rethink your commitment to being Heathen. You may argue that where you get your food doesn’t matter, so I guess I’m going to try to reason through this.
Our Ancestors Were Farmers
When we talk about Freyfaxi and Harvest celebrations, we’re celebrating the harvest and thanking the gods, particularly Freyr, for the bounty. Most of our ancestors were farmers at one point, and if you go back far enough, they were hunter-gatherers. In all human history of some 200,000 years when homo sapiens has been in existence, people have been in touch with the land and nature until very recently. You could argue that the first cities emerged in 4000 BCE in Mesopotamia, and while that was very long ago, when you consider humans have been around 200,000 years, we really haven’t been in cities that long. What really started separating people from agrarian life was the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.
Now, I am not a Luddite against progress, but the Industrial Revolution started moving people
wholesale off the land and toward factory work. As a result, many people lost their ties to the land. They forgot important things such as how to read the weather, track animals, or know how to plant a good crop. There were still farmers, but many ended up being forced into a monoculture type of growing (where you only plant one cash crop.). The Irish learned the hard way with the potato famine that planting one species of one particular crop can be dangerous.
Monoculture and Why You Should Care
After WWII, we started moving away from small farms as corporations bought up farmland that was owned by families for generations. As a kid, I remember seeing my mom distressed to see oil company logos on farms (no doubt due to hedging the bet that ethanol would become an additive to gas.) What we didn’t see were all the farms that went under and got snapped up to plant certain monoculture crops. Monoculture, as it pertains to agriculture, is growing or raising the same type of species or subspecies because it produces high yields, is pesticide resistant, or is better performing than what is called heritage crops. The problem with these crops is that they have no genetic variation, and thus simple to wipe out with a blight or disease. Many of them are, in essence, clones. Clones aren’t harmful to you, unless there is something wrong genetically with them, but the lack of diversity increases the chance of a serious famine.
That Chicken (and Pork) Contains Arsenic
The problem with our food system isn’t just that its monoculture. The big farms often use chemicals to enhance yield. In the case of chicken, pork, and turkey, the big farms used a chemical call roxasone which is an arsenic-based drug used for treating coccidia in animals. Chickens almost always have coccidia, as do a number of other animals, but there are other treatments available that do not have the same ingredients. It is common for industrial agriculture to just feed these chemicals all the time in the food to ensure that the animals are coccidia free. A study that was published on the National Institute of Health site shows that the amount of arsenic in chicken meat is substantially higher than chicken that were raised organically. This study caused the FDA to remove approval of 98 of the 101 arsenic-based additives that go into food. Incidentally, another arsenic-based drug is allowed in turkeys, and with three chemicals still at the industrial agriculture’s website, you can bet this is still a problem. The conclusion of the study was:
The present study provides strong evidence that the use of arsenic-based drugs contributes to dietary iAs [inorganic arsenic] exposure in consumers of conventionally produced chickens. Our findings suggest that eliminating the use of arsenic-based drugs in food animal production could reduce the burden of arsenic-related disease in the U.S. population.
As an aside, Snopes.com, which usually gets things right, has this somewhat misleading title. While 70 percent of the chicken in stores may or may not have elevated levels of inorganic arsenic, the actual study showed that half of the conventional chicken tested positive for roxasone in the study and that the roxasone decreased while inorganic arsenic increased. The study suggests that an additional 3.7 people in 100,000 could be exposed to enough arsenic to cause bladder and lung cancers.
Why Being Self Sufficient is Important for Heathens (and
At this point, you may be saying “Tyra, that’s only one case.” Is it? How many times have you heard of a food recall that expanded across more than one state? (I bet there’s no fewer than five states in any real recall.) How many times have you heard of problems due to various pesticides potentially killing bee populations? How many times have you heard how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were produced so that they would withstand an herbicide?
As a semi-subsistance hunter, I look at the way foods are produced and ask myself how this is good for the land, the next generations, and for myself. I’m not a rabid environmentalist, but even I realize that we can’t sustain our current conventional growing and farming methods. This is not a healthy way, nor is it a way I could imagine any god would approve of. So if you’ve celebrating or are celebrating Harvest Home, Freyfaxi, Thanksgiving, or another harvest tradition, look at what kind foods you’re being thankful for. Are they from our fields and woodlands, neighbors, or local farmers, or are they from big industry agriculture and maybe halfway around the globe? In the first case, you have connection to your food. Maybe you know the farmer whom you bought the peaches from (like I do), or maybe you grew an apple tree in your yard and you’re canning apples and baking apple pie.
Being Self Sufficient isn’t Easy
While it’s incredibly hard in this age to be truly self sufficient, there are many things that you can and should do, even if you live in a city. Maybe you have to rely on someone for most of your food. Do it responsibly. Here are my suggestions:
- Plant a small herb garden in pots. Maybe plant some tomatoes and peppers in a patio garden.
- Hunt. Yes, hunt (and fish). The meat is healthier for you and it is completely carbon neutral.
- Learn the local edible plants and learn how to prepare them.
- Have a garden, if you have a yard.
- Raise your own chickens for eggs and meat. Many communities allow chickens. Check out Backyardchickens.com for lists of communities that allow them.
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and get to meet the farmer and take stock in the farmer’s success.
- Buy organic foods, or foods that are produced naturally. They don’t have to have the organic label, but you need to know how they were produced.
- Buy local.
- If you have some room and your ordinances allow, small milk goats are awesome.
Hopefully, I’ve given you ideas how to make a difference and respect our land and our gods. And next year, you’ll feel closer to our gods because you participate more closely in the cycle of life.