Now that the Equinox has passed, you can feel the changing of the guard, especially if you live in the northern states. This year, it’s almost as if the gods and goddesses have had enough of the fires out here. It is as though we’ve gone from summer to winter in one day and then the actual fall settles in.
A Time of Change
Autumn is a time of change. It heralds the coming of winter and the urgent need to prepare for it. For those of you who buy foods from the grocery stores, chances are the changes you’ll see is more pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween candy. For me, it’s a time to search for upland birds, can my harvest, and run my dehydrator 24/7. I’m looking at my livestock and wondering who I’ll be slaughtering so I can have more meat in my freezer. I’m considering how I’m going to keep the fresh stuff preserved so that I can enjoy it when it is cold and snowy. And I’m waiting for general hunting season where I can hunt deer and elk.
I truly feel that our gods and goddesses are linked to the seasons. This makes a lot of sense because our planet is governed by the laws of physics — even at the tiniest level. This makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever contemplated the overall nature of the universe.
The Gods and Goddesses of Autumn
I did some basic research, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t a lot written about what Northern gods go with what season. We can make obvious guesses for winter and spring, but fall may be a little bit questionable simply because it is a time of transition. Even so, I’m going to share with you my insights, and hopefully you have some insights as well.
Probably the biggest goddess of autumn (and also of winter) is Skadi, the Norse goddess of the hunt and of winter. She’s the one I pretty much go to when it comes to hunting, and I feel more in tuned with her every year. She is not an easy goddess to deal with, but she is honorable and very powerful. The story about Skadi seeking retribution for her father’s death is a story which shows how far she is willing to go if you fail to heed her.
Ullr is the god of hunting, of snow and skiing, and of snowshoes. Ullr was considered an important god among the Scandinavians, no doubt since snow plays a major part in their weather. I’ve read various claims that Ullr is Skadi’s second husband after Njord. The story goes that Skadi could not abide Njord’s home near the sea, and he could not accept the high
mountain tops and snow, so they divorced and Skadi married Ullr.
Tyr is the god of laws, justice, and the sky. While it seems odd to associate Tyr with a season, I believe he has power over the solstices and equinoxes, given his role as the sky god and lawmaker. It has been my experience (and you can take this as an unverified personal gnosis) that Tyr governs the laws of physics. When we deal with the movements of our planet in relation to the sun, it is really all physics.
I also ran across an interesting point that in some heathen segments Ullr may be an aspect of Tyr. It seems far-fetched, but apparently Ullr was invoked during duels, which was often used to determine who was right and who was wrong. Furthermore, there is an episode in the Atlakviða which has the swearing of an oath on Ullr’s ring. I can sort of see how this might fit together, but unless I have another UPG, it’s unlikely, at least in my own mind that Ullr is Tyr.
Although it seems somewhat out of place, I’m putting Freyr as one of the autumn gods. The reason I am putting him in the autumn gods is quite obvious: he is the god of the harvest. The final harvest usually occurs sometime around the equinox, or maybe just a little later. Sometime in the fall farmers tended to slaughter livestock that they were not keeping over the winter, and preserving them. It makes sense that Freyr would preside over all of this.
It may seem to be another stretch to put Frigg as a goddess of autumn, but I don’t think so. Frigg is a goddess of the hearth and home, of the distaff, and the wife of Odin. She has ties to Frau Holle and appears to be important in all manners of the home. To me, it makes sense that as the weather gets cooler, people are more inclined to stay indoors. So, I’m likely to think that preserving food and caring for the home falls right into Frigg’s domain.
I hope you enjoyed this piece. No doubt, you can think of some other gods and goddesses of autumn. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say and who you would recommend.
Our next big seasonal date to look forward to is the Autumnal or Autumn Equinox in the northern
hemisphere. Often called Mabon or Winter Finding by pagans, there are a lot of good reasons to celebrate the season.
Mabon or Autumn(al) Equinox takes its name from a Welsh god, rather than a Norse one, but seeing as many of the Northern gods are interconnected, I’m hesitant to dismiss the name or the celebration outright. A later name for Mabon is Winter Finding to make it more Asatru-like. That being said, our celebration may have “Wiccatru” roots, which if you’re a recon, you may simply disdain the idea of celebrating it and move onto something more “authentic.” That’s cool, but holidays do shift around, and I suspect late harvest was also celebrated by our ancestors.
Plus, it’s as good of time as any to celebrate the end of the growing season and the arrival of fall.
What the Autumnal Equinox is
The autumn equinox marks the official beginning of autumn. Never mind that you’ve felt a shift in weather patterns sometime in August or early September, we generally consider the equinox to be the beginning of fall. The equinox, for those curious, isn’t when the day is equally night and day, although it’s damn close and I’d say for all intents and purposes, we can call it that. What the equinox actually marks is when the sun crosses the celestial equator for the first time since spring equinox. The celestial equator is an imaginary line above the planet above the actual equator. The sun doesn’t really move relative to the solar system–our planet moves. Our planet is tilted so that when it reaches a certain point in its revolution around the sun, the sun dips to the south on the autumn equinox and moves to the north on the vernal or spring equinox. It’s at this point we start really racing toward less light, although the summer solstice marks the high point of the daylight hours and we begin decreasing light after that.
The earth is actually spinning like a top, only relatively slower because of the magnitude. The pole actually wobbles and will be in a different place about 10000 years from now.
So, Did Our Ancestors Celebrate Winter Finding?
If you want to be really picky, chances are Winter Finding wasn’t celebrated. Instead, our ancestors may have celebrated Alfarblót which occurred around October 22nd. Alfarblót was a more private affair for families, even though it was a harvest festival that honored Freyr and Freyja. Sort of a Thanksgiving for Heathens.
So, if they didn’t celebrate Winter Finding, should we ignore it? Probably not. It is, after all, the equinox, which means it’s a good of time as any to have a celebration. It’s a goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. It’s also a good time to bid farewell to the harvest. I read that it’s a good time to get mead started (yeah, I can see that) in time for Yule. So, maybe the equinox is a time for a community harvest celebration and Alfarblót for a more private celebration?
Then, What Should We Do with Thanksgiving?
|Thanks to Magickal Graphics|
The November Thanksgiving is an American holiday that has its roots in harvest festivals but has been co-opted by Christians to give thanks to their god. I suppose as a Heathen one could get stubborn and decide to not celebrate it since the fields are most likely fallow and the foods have been already put up. But at the same time, hunting season is mostly over, which gives us another bounty–game meat. I actually delay having Thanksgiving because hunting ends that Sunday after. Who says we can’t use it to thank Skadi and Ullr for a successful hunt?
It even makes a lot of sense, given that fall turkey puts some birds in the freezer. So, maybe celebrate it as the end of hunting season and the start of preparing for Yule might be appropriate.
I hope I’ve given some good reasons to celebrate the autumn equinox. Do you celebrate Mabon, Winter Finding, or the autumnal equinox as a Heathen? I’d love to hear what you do.
I’m really a technophile, despite all my attempts at leading a semi-subsistence lifestyle. I was one of the folks who helped bring about the whole technological revolution we see today, (don’t get too excited–lots of people did more than I did). Even so, if I had been smarter with money than I had with technology, I probably would be in some huge place enjoying retirement rather than working for a living. Ah, hindsight being 20/20.
That being said, one of my not-so-secret addictions is technology. No, I don’t have to have the latest and greatest things, but I wouldn’t object if someone handed them to me to play with. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my laptop and now, my cellphone. A goodly portion of it is for work, but let’s face it, with Netflix and Hulu, I get some entertainment there. I wouldn’t be putting out this little Heathen blog without computers and the Internet. So, it has become a necessity.
Before the Dark Times. Before the Silicon Chip…
And yet, I remember a time without computers. (I can hear your collective gasps as you read this: “Just how fucking old is the Rational Heathen?”) Okay, computers existed, but they filled government and University server rooms. You used punch tape and punch cards and printers. My first experience with computers was an HP that had 1 MB of RAM that was time shared with 33 other users across the state. Hey! That was downtown!
I was one of the few holdouts who looked for payphones to make phone calls. Even now, it has flummoxed my sisters that I don’t text (try explaining the lack of cell service where I live.) So, I am a techno-savvy Luddite. Yes, eventually even I have to stay connected.
Getting on Point
I’m not going to wax eternal about the halcyon days of the days before computers, the Internet, and cellphones, but I am going to talk about what it is doing to us as a species. Nowadays, we rely on computers to entertain us, keep our knowledge, and teach us things. Unfortunately, the more we use the technology, the more we rely on the technology. The more we rely on the technology, the more we can’t do the things we need to know if we are to survive should there not be that technology present.
Luddites and Stone Carvers
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Surely there were Luddites out there when the printing press was invented, stating that if we use printing presses, people will forget how to use calligraphy. Or maybe when paper was used, the stone carvers were up in arms because vellum could be destroyed, whereas stone was nearly forever. I can just hear the stone carver telling his son, “I don’t care how portable that contraption is! It’ll burn, and then you’ll have nothing! You’ll see!”
Somehow the portability and convenience won out. We figured out ways around having paper being burnt up, although there were certainly setbacks (i.e., the library at Alexandria), but for the most part we got beyond it. We made copies. We treated fragile manuscripts with care (we still do). But having repositories on computers make works more accessible to more people. We simply have to be more careful with the original.
Nothing demonstrates this more than with our own Declaration of Independence. The original was damaged sometime in the early 20th century in an attempt to make it more legible and the writing continues to fade even though great care has been taken to preserve it. Yes, we have made copies, but having the ability to read it right from the computer is important, too. It gives us accessibility.
Where I’m Going with This
Technology has its place. I know this. But technology isn’t everything. When I was growing up, we were promised technology would fix our problems. Well, certain problems, it has, but it has caused more problems. You see, the basic issue isn’t the technology: it’s us. We mortal, organic creatures are limited by our very nature–a nature that we’re getting farther and farther away from over time.
The past few days I’ve been in a blend of technology and nature (a weird mix, to be sure). I’ve been hunting turkeys. I’ve been working on projects on the computer. I’ve been getting new goats. I’ve been butchering a chicken and cooking it. I’ve been milking goats and collecting eggs. I’ve been setting up a podcasting studio. I’ve been enjoying the beauty of the arrowleaf balsamroots and glacier lilies that have exploded in color. Everything I’ve been doing has been taking up my time, and yet, I’ve been living in two different worlds.
The Peacefulness of Nature
Despite the hard work of hand milking, I really enjoy peacefulness. I’m working with the animals, who really don’t care what I’m writing–they only care about getting grain and getting their udders relieved of pressure. I am outside, in the forest where my home resides, and enjoy feeling the sun on my face and see the deer and other critters around me.
It can be peaceful or stressful, depending on the circumstance. We have some very big predators here: wolves, coyotes, black bear, grizzlies, and mountain lions. The mountain can kill you if you aren’t careful: the weather can turn deadly in a heartbeat for those unprepared. Then, there are the even present threat of wildfires.
Unplug for a While, and Be Present
But there is something to being with nature, despite all the hazards. And there is something to being unplugged, at least for a while. Imagine, if you would, nobody calling you, texting you, no social media to interrupt you. Just be present in the moment. Look around. Admire what the gods have created and feel what it’s like to just be alive. Sometimes just doing that is all you need to connect with them. That’s how I finally connected with Skadi, after many years of trying without success. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’ve found if you open yourself up to the gods, they may just come to you.
Accept what they offer, even if it is only a feeling, a word, or a thought. The more time you spend with them, the more often you may hear them. And isn’t that what Heathenry is really about?
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.