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.
Saturday I went down to the food bank to drop off some eggs from my chickens. They had been
laying up a storm and there was no way for me to use them all up or sell them before they went bad. So, I went to one of the many food banks we have in the town nearby and dropped them off.
Eggs and Christians
It happens that this is a food bank run by Christians. You go in there and chances are you’ll hear some talk about Jesus. I expect that. But what I didn’t expect to hear was one of the folks saying that they were helping the poor “because they love Jesus.”
I almost asked, “Would you still do this if Jesus didn’t exist?” But I didn’t feel like taunting the people who were helping me out. After all, I was under their roof. But it did get me thinking. Would these people really operate a food bank and help the poor if their god didn’t promise some sort of reward, i.e. eternal salvation, for it?
This is the problem with being a follower of Tyr. You get lots of uncomfortable and unpopular ideas.
Are They Giving Because it’s the Right Thing to do?
To me, the whole idea of helping the poor because they expect a reward in return seemed disingenuous. I mean if you’re helping the poor because your god commands it and not because you genuinely care about other human beings, you’re basically a fraud. Granted, you’re a fraud doing good work, but you’re expecting something instead of being as altruistic as you claim to be. Now, one can argue with me that the motivations really don’t matter; it’s the actual act of providing food to poor people that makes the difference. And you’d be right to a certain extent, because people can’t eat intentions. People eat food. But by the same token, it helps to understand what the motives are because it may be the difference between feeding people and not.
My Intentions aren’t Pure, Either
I’m not saying my intentions are lofty. To be brutally honest, I had too many eggs and I hate to see them wasted. I also will take a tax write off, if I can find the slip they filled out for me. I suppose I could have used the eggs to feed my dogs or even thrown them out, but as I said, I hate wasting things and if I can’t use the eggs, I’ll give them to people who will use them. But I don’t expect an eternal reward over just being nice to other people. I suppose one could argue that I am helping those within my “tribe,” and I am just offering help to those in need.
Ethics of Reciprocity (or the Golden Rule)
No doubt you’ve heard Jesus’s proclamation to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That “Golden Rule” is actual a version of Ethics of Reciprocity and all religions generally have their own versions. Even ours. We should treat people the way we want to be treated. (Or don’t be an asshole.) The reason is pretty clear–if everyone is nice to others, we all get along. Look at the way we’re told to treat travelers: we are to open our homes and treat them well. We hope to have that same treatment should we travel. In earlier times, those who traveled needed hospitality in a dangerous world. While our world isn’t quite as dangerous (at least in developed countries), hospitality in a strange place is welcome. It is a form of Ethics of Reciprocity.
Which Came First: the Christian or the Eggs?
Getting back to the whole Christian thing, I really had to wonder what kind of people I was dealing with. If these people did acts of kindness only because their god commanded it, what kind of people did that make them? Would they act another way if their god didn’t tell them to behave? And what if they found out I was Heathen and not Christian? Would they change their behavior after finding out?
There are other food banks around town, some run by Christians and some that are simply nonprofit without any religious affiliation. It happens that I was in town on a day when the Christian food bank was open and the unaffiliated food bank was closed. To me, it didn’t really matter what the affiliation was as long as it went to someone who could use them, but you see, the unaffiliated food bank volunteers didn’t necessarily work in the food bank because a god dictated it.
Heathenry as an Adult Choice
One of the things I like about Heathenry is the lack of divine handouts of rewards and punishments. We really don’t have a code of conduct that commands us to behave, although the Havamal highly recommends certain behaviors. It makes sense that our gods want us to act like adults, rather than kids who need to be afraid of a punishment if we don’t behave. Adults usually don’t expect gold stars when they do something nice, nor they expect external damnation for being shits. Now, if we break the law, there are certainly punishments, and there are certainly consequences to our actions, but that is usually handled within our interactions with other people. You act like a shit and people will behave negatively toward you. You behave and act nice, people are more likely to be positive.
I guess the upshot to this very long–and getting longer–post is that Saturday I got a really good look at the differences between Christianity and Heathenry– besides just the monotheistic versus polytheistic mindset. As a follower of Tyr, I’m pretty transparent in my motivations; Christians, however, do nice things because they’re earning brownie points with their god (assuming he exists). While heathens can be sneaky and crafty, one of our big no-nos is breaking oaths. Christians, however, have a whole slew of commandments where many believe if they just believe in Jesus, they will be forgiven. Their commandment to not “bear false witness against thy neighbor” generally means to not lie, but oaths seem to not exist, except perhaps in marriage. And those can evaporate into thin air with divorces and annulments.
Perhaps it’s a matter of being genuine. I spend each day trying to live honestly, so when I see duplicity, it sort of gets on my nerves. It’s that Tyr thing again.
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:
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well
One thing early on in my switch to Heathenism was my discovery that the gods actually had a lot to say to me. As a scientist, my first thought was: “Okay, I’m losing it.” After all, if you’re hearing voices, chances are you’re suffering from something like schizophrenia. That’s probably why my patron god eschews just popping into my brain unannounced. I’d just check myself into the local psychiatric clinic and be done with it. Which is why when I do get responses from the gods, it’s usually in some form I can accept and one that won’t leave me wondering if I need to check myself in for a thorough psychiatric evaluation.
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My last blog was about trying to do too many things all the time. When I looked at it while it was still scheduled (I write these things ahead of time and set the date for publication), I realized that Loki led me off on a tangent again. This becomes infuriating after a while, but understandable. The trickster god is constantly looking for ways to throw my life into chaos — some good, some bad. And sometimes he’ll do it in a heartbeat when I’m trying to write a blog post.
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One thing I don’t seem to have gotten over very well is my Catholic need to martyr myself. (I can just see Tyr shake his head in exasperation when when I do this) — if the Lord of Swords thinks it’s folly to overextend myself, I suspect it is folly.
But the holidays are a great time to overdo everything, including overextend oneself. But as Loki constantly reminds me (and yes, somehow Loki pops in to remind me to self-care– more on that some other day), there’s no way I can possibly care for anyone else if I don’t care for myself first.
(At least, if you’re going to have psychoses, have useful ones where the gods talk some sense into you to do things that are good for you and those around you.)
Anyway, Back to the Holidays…
My mom used to put on a big shindig every Thanksgiving and Christmas. When my ancient Mother-In-Law moved to our town, I channeled my mom and tried to put together celebratory meals. The reality was far from wonderful. My husband and I hunt and hunting season chews up Thanksgiving handily. While I am grateful to Skadi and Ullr for our meals, hunting takes up a lot of energy. Having Thanksgiving later than the prescribed day helped, but by the end of it, I was channeling my inner bitch. I was exhausted, overworked, and feeling overwhelmed.
Loki reminded me to self-care.
I threw something at him.
Sick Critters, and Life Intrudes
To make matters worse, the weather got evilly cold. The Jotun were here to plunge us into temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Skadi granted us more opportunities to hunt. A bunch of my livestock got sick and no matter what I did, they remained sick. So, I finally got a veterinarian out. Blood draws and plenty of medicine.
Then, there was the little matter of butchering the deer we got the week before. Usually I would have it all cut up, but with the amazingly brutal weather, the quarters froze right up. So, I could thaw them out and butcher them at a slightly more leisurely pace.
I still need to take care of the skins, even though they’re salted.
I have writing work and other work to do. My plants in the greenhouse are questionable now. I finally get around to watering them anyway.
Loki reminds me to self-care.
I have this blog and three others to write. I have assignments to get done. I have to make money somehow…
To Drag this Back on Point…
The problem that we as humans deal with is what society constrains us when it comes to things we must do. Sometimes, we take what we perceive as obligations when in fact, they’re simply man-made constructs. We do things because we were taught to do them, whether or not it makes sense for our lives. As much as I love Tyr, he has enough control over my life with physics, the laws of nature, and the laws of men. Chasing after some perceived societal norm around holidays when it stresses me out isn’t healthy. Hence, Loki steps in and whines about my lack of self care.
That’s why when my husband pointed out that doing a dinner thing wasn’t working for me, I needed to step back and rethink what I was doing. I was trying to follow my mom’s style, which isn’t mine. Holidays, as wonderful as they are, need to be something that aren’t done “just because that’s how we do them.”
Whether celebrating Thanksgiving/Harvest or Yule/Christmas, we as humans must make them joyous occasions and not stressors in our lives. Loki reminds me that being human means being fallible. That means that sometimes we can’t do “all the things, all the time.” Tyr agrees. Which suddenly has reduced the stress in my life.
I still have all the other things to get done, but somehow, the gods make them a little less frenetic. Probably because they don’t judge me on what I accomplish in the minutiae of my daily life. Not like the Christian god purportedly did.
Thanks, and hopefully this rambling post made sense to you. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll listen to your inner Loki and remember self care as well.