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?
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.
Sometimes I’m at a total lost when it comes to what I should write for the Rational Heathen. I look over my past writings, peruse the pagan blogs, then the Christian and atheist blogs, and then end up playing Age of Empires. See? I really do work on this.
The past several days I was beating my head against the proverbial writing wall, so I just gave up and worked on some other things. Then, in the morning when I was waking up, I heard a god…
If you’ve been a Heathen for any amount of time, you’ve heard of UPG or Unverified Personal Gnosis. If you don’t know what that is, let me explain. It’s when you have contact with our gods in the forms of communication, thoughts, or inspiration that cannot be verified because they are personal. They can be little things, such as knowing that Freyja loves chocolate (she does, by the way). Or UPG can be big, such as the hand of Thor grabbing you and demanding that you become his gothi or gythia. (Far be it from me to tell you otherwise.) So, what’s the big deal with Unverified Personal Gnosis, and why is anyone fussing over it?
What’s All the Fuss?
People fuss over Unverified Personal Gnosis because it is something that isn’t easily provable. It’s personal, meaning that only one person has had that revelation. We can’t go back and quantify that the gods really did speak to that person. To use logic, it’s very hard to prove a negative.
Let’s take my assertion that Freyja loves chocolate. You might ask me how I know that. It could be anything along the lines that chocolate makes people feel like they do when in love, Freyja always accepts my petition when I offer a blot of chocolate, or Freyja told me she loves expensive organic, fair trade, 95 percent pure cocoa chocolate. Any one of those could be the reason I give you, and it’s up to you to decide if that really did happen, if I’m a bit crazy (or on mind altering substances), or if I lied to you. Maybe you talked to Freyja and she told you she hates chocolate. Or maybe she likes the cheap chocolate from two Halloweens ago.
Whatever. The point is that as Unverified Personal Gnosis, the knowledge obtained can’t be readily verified because it is personal. It’s my word against yours. And with some people, it’s in the realm of woo-woo and make believe.
Can Unverified Personal Gnosis be Verified?
The question then is whether UPGs can shift into the realm of being verified. That is a good question, but I suspect that since we just can’t call up the gods any time we feel like it, the answer is no. Even so, sometimes people can corroborate experiences. When I received some very amazing UPGs, I actually mentioned them to a gythia or two. They could confirm that the information I received fell in line with what they knew of those particular gods. Some of what I experienced were similar to what the gythias’ own UPGs were about. In other words, I felt fairly certain about my experiences. Whether anyone else thinks they’re real is another matter.
I’ve known people who have claimed to be god-wives. I honestly can’t say that I believe their experiences 100 percent, but that is their UPG and not mine. My UPG doesn’t conflict with theirs, so I really can’t say that it didn’t happen. But at the same time, there’s no proof that someone hasn’t married Odin or Loki or Thor, just as there is no scientific proof that any of the gods actually exist.
The Burden of Proof Lies with the Person Making the Assertion
Logic dictates that the person who makes the assertion is the one who needs to provide proof. For example, if I assert that there is a pink unicorn on my front lawn, I have the duty to prove to anyone that there really is a pink unicorn on my front lawn if I want people to believe it. Otherwise, it’s my lawn and my imaginary pink unicorn amusing just me and the rest of the world doesn’t care. Likewise, we can claim there is a Thor, Tyr, and Odin, but if we don’t provide substantial proof, their existence is a matter of faith. In other words, you won’t win any logic debates with an atheist if you pull out the faith card.
Proof in the gods’ existence doesn’t mean people had oral traditions about them and wrote them down some 800 to 1000 years ago. Archaeological finds that verify people worshiped these gods is not proof, either. Proof means that you can produce undeniable evidence of the gods’ existence which can be duplicated by others using your methodology. So, our Unverified Personal Gnosis is just that — unverified.
Enter the Recon (Or Why Accept Historical UPGs and not Modern Day UPG?)
(Oh shit, someone knew I was going to drag them into this.)
Some reconstructionists tend to be lean more toward the atheist beliefs (or lack thereof) and less toward faith. ( I say “some” because I do know some recons who do accept UPGs as part of our religion.) These so-called Heathens will tend to dismiss, and even make fun of, other people’s Unverified Personal Gnosis. This is a religion, not a LARP with extra study.
That being said, I have to wonder why they are quick to accept past Unverified Personal Gnosis and not modern day UPGs. At one time, every story we have about the gods and wights came from someone’s UPG somewhere. It stands to reason that we can’t possibly verify any of the myths and legends we have about our gods, so either we accept them as UPGs and move on, or we thoroughly discount them as having any basis in fact.
Just because we find some stories in the Eddas and other documents as being historical does not mean that the entire piece can be taken as purely factual. We know this because science proves that our world isn’t made from the body of Ymir, there was no giant cow licking rime ice to create the first gods, and earthquakes do not come from Loki being splashed in the face with venom.
Accept Unverified Personal Gnosis for What it is
UPGs are, by definition, personal. My UPGs may sometimes contradict yours, should you have them, and other people’s UPGS may contradict each others. Some UPGs will be shit made up by people, whether because they want to feel important, misunderstand what happened to them, or because they are mentally ill. I suspect that Unverified Personal Gnosis acted that way with our ancestors.
UPGs had to be the way our ancestors learned about the gods. Think about it. There wasn’t a giant classroom with a bunch of Heathens sitting around throwing spitwads at each other while Odin tried to teach them cosmology. (Or was it Tyr?) I can just imagine Loki teaching everyone how to misbehave while Thor comes in to maintain order. Yeah, warped mind. Deal with it.
But I digress. Our myths and legends sprang mostly from UPGs. People in certain kindreds accepted UPGs from others who were respected in the community and UPGs from those whose stories corroborated. Different places most likely had their own stories and even tutelary gods and goddesses, but their stories have morphed or outright disappeared with the coming of Christianity.
My point is that we should not shun UPGs, but we should embrace them. We have a chance to rebuild our Heathen past and blend it with today’s knowledge. We can do so by recognizing UPGs for what they are and accepting those that make the most sense.
At some point, if we talk about our experiences in Heathenry, someone inevitably brings up Unverified Personal Gnosis. I’d actually would prefer to ignore the whole UPG side of Northern paganism, but seeing as UPG dragged me into being a heathen, I suppose I should talk about it in some rational manner. (Rational manner, Rational Heathen — get it?) So, I’m tackling the tough questions and looking hard at the section of UPG.
Warning: UPG Ahead!
The problem is how do you know?
Lots of people have what could be considered UPGs when it comes to their religion. The fact that there are some 5000 religions out there, each with people (alive or deceased) claiming they’ve spoken to gods, suggest that there are plenty of people who are either delusional or who actually have gods who speak to them. And a majority of people out there tend to believe these people, whether it is Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, or any other -ism or -ity you care to name. The simple answer is often the most likely: we’re all fucking crazy and we’re all in some sort of state of self delusion.
But look at the numbers of Christians who believe that the wine and bread becomes Christ’s body and blood through transmogrification, or believe that Christ rose from the dead. Look how many Muslims believe that the archangel Gabriel spoke to Mohammed. Look at the people in other religions who believe in ancestor worship, such as in Shintoism. Then there are plenty of pagans who have spoken with their gods. What gives?
At this point, you’re thinking I’m probably recommending that you stick with atheism and be done with it. That’s really not what I’m thinking, although atheism would probably do some folks a world of good, methinks. At one time, I would’ve told you that it was all in your head, but having experienced UPGs, I have to reconsider them from a rational point.
What Changed My Mind
What is Reality? — the 64 Million Dollar Question
I realized by this accident that we really don’t know what reality is in the true sense. We can think we imagined things that were true, and think things that are true that we have imagined. The line can get extremely blurry from time to time when people witness something, as any good cop or detective will tell you. Unless you have a camera or a trained observer, people are likely to come up with all sorts of eyewitness accounts. My question is does it make it less true because someone saw it differently? Can the camera “fix” the state like the quantum physics experiment? Probably not, but who really knows?
Our senses tell us whether things are true or not, but our senses can be deceived in all sorts of ways. Our mind can think through things logically and still be wrong because we don’t have all the facts. So, I was left feeling incredibly insecure about what everything really was.
That’s when Loki showed up.
Apparently I wasn’t dealing with the entire concept very well, and I wasn’t really taking care of myself. I was out of the hospital and working hard to bring in money again. (You think you’re poor? Get injured when you’re self employed.) Loki showed up at Tyr’s request and nagged me to take care of myself. At first, it was amusing. Then, it got annoying. Loki took great delight in annoying me. Then, he got bored when I started to pay attention.
Loki is truly the ADHD kid of the gods. A lot of people see him as evil, but I don’t see it quite that black and white. He’s capable of great mischief when he wants to do it, but I recognize the times when he can be a great ally. This doesn’t make me a Lokean, but it does make me somewhat more sympathetic to him than some people are.
But Back to UPG…
My thoughts on UPG are kind of mixed. I’ve seen some shit others have also seen that I can only attribute to a god or goddess (or weird blind luck). My thoughts are if you get UPGs, and they help you along in this world, and harm no one, then who is to say they are bad? I mean it’s one thing if a god tells you to care for yourself, and it’s another thing if you think that god tells you to harm someone. As long as they are not hurting you or someone else (or don’t tell you to do destructive things), I’m willing to consider that you’ve heard them. And if your UPG matches mine and others, I’m going to think it’s a distinct possibility.
It seems to me that there are two camps when it comes to Thor: those who think he’s at least average intelligence (for a god, whatever that is), and those who think he’s maybe not as dumb as a post, but would be challenged by one occasionally. Since I picked on Thor last week, I’m going to test his good graces again and tackle his intellect.
All Brawn and No Brains
I suspect that thinking Thor is stupid is a relatively recent phenomena which has to do with our current stereotypes. Although the stereotypes are changing, the common stereotype of the muscle man is the stupid jock. I think, rightly or wrongly, that stereotype has been crafted over the years. Although science disagrees that people who are athletic are stupid, it’s still a stereotype that is perpetuated. I did a quick look on the Internet in the quest for the search of why muscular people, particularly men, are considered stupid. I found a reference on that oh-so-accurate Wikipedia (that was sarcasm, for those not paying attention), and even a blog which mentions a study on it.
My Own Experience with Jocks
Growing up, I had the joy of dealing with bullies, and dealing with kids who were naturally better at sports. I had undiagnosed asthma which precluded me from doing well in physical activities when I was younger. This was during a time when people thought asthma was “all in your head.” It took years for me to admit I have it, and now that I do, life is much, much easier. But I digress. Most of those kids were, well — not the brainiest — and those who were smart, tended to hide it for fear of being bullied. To add to the stereotype, I grew up when nerdy guys in lab coats got people to the moon.
In college, I saw kids who got scholarships and were treated like gold because they were good in sports. While not all the jocks were stupid, many were not the sharpest knives in the drawer, because they often were given a pass. I went into the sciences, geek girl that I am. So, the stupid jock was commonplace.
My junior and senior year, I worked out and trained in martial arts. So, I got to know the weightlifters. Many had been the kids everyone picked on when they were small; a good portion of them were introverts. So, they did the best thing they could think of: not become a target. Many of the people I knew in martial arts were smart. Yes, there were the average and idiots in the group as well, but most I would categorize as being clever enough.
So, why the dichotomy?
When We Moved from Agrarian to Industrial
I think that the shift in emphasis started in the 18th century, but really didn’t take hold until the 19th century and early 20th century where people started separating themselves into white collar and blue collar (note: this is not a rich versus poor argument). My parents looked down on those who didn’t have office jobs as being unable to be smart enough to attain those positions. Never mind that many of the blue collar jobs paid better than white collar jobs. I suspect that this attitude was fostered though the colleges and through those who were able to work pushing paper for a living. I suspect that the GI Bill after WWII and emphasis into getting higher degrees also pushed more people into thinking that manual labor means you can’t hack an office job.
I’ve already mentioned the moonshots, which were a result of the cold war. In fact, I suspect that the emphasis going into science and other intellectual activities caused a bigger split, suggesting that you couldn’t be both strong and smart. Sure, we had our Hollywood heroes, but they emphasized not strength, per se, but beauty. Professional athletes were always admired, but they were never considered brilliant, except when it pertained to their performance
When Physical Prowess was Admired
It used to not be that way. Prowess in sports suggested you were good on the battlefield. Being physically fit has paramount before firearms became prevalent. After all, whether you lived or died, whether your family would survive, and whether you had enough food was largely dependent on your fitness and skill as a hunter, warrior, and farmer. Firearms replaced swords, pikes, maces, and knives, and armor went away. No longer did you have to carry some 50 to 70 pounds of armor and weaponry. While there were wars, most problems were resolved in torte.
Brains and brawn weren’t considered mutually exclusive. Many warriors were considered clever and intelligent.
So, What About Thor?
I feel that Thor has gotten a bad rap, not because he’s stupid, but because he has likable characteristics that make him more…well, human. Somehow he loses Mjolnir, and has to go in drag to get it back. He journeys with Loki to Jotunheim and yes, he is tricked by the Jotun’s magic, but then so is Loki. Then, there’s the story how Thor tricks a dwarf who is about to marry his daughter in the Alvissmal where the gods promised Thor’s daughter while he was away. Tricking a dwarf to stay above ground after sunrise (and thus turned to stone) doesn’t suggest a stupid god.
I am not an expert when it comes to Thor, but what little dealings I’ve had with him shows me a strong and compassionate champion. Yes, he has a temper; yes, he is not beyond using his strength. But I have noticed that he is more likely to forgive if someone makes an error like Thjálfi did in breaking the bone of his goat and sucking out the marrow. As one of the gods who favors humanity, I can think of no better champion.
I don’t think Thor is stupid. I think that because his strength is so great, we sometimes don’t take into account that Thor is smart too. After all, he’s the son of Odin and Jord. Would Odin have a stupid kid? I don’t think so.
I ran into this post on Happily Heathen about dedicating oneself to a god or goddess. It left me
My Experience with the Gods or Your Mileage May Vary
I’m taking a big breath as I write this as I try to put into words what kind of relationship I have with the god. There was no contract and no ceremony. I guess seeing the Deity Dedication Contract on that page on Happily Heathen made me concerned. You see, Tyr is all about oaths and contracts. You fuck it up and you’re screwed in a big way. He gets that we as humans make mistakes, but formalizing an oath is even stricter than a marriage vow. You can get a divorce from a marriage vow, and it may be messy or in some warped cases, even deadly. You fuck up with a god, and you’re screwed. Big time.
Oath Takers and Oath Breakers
Whether you believe in Nastrond, where Nidhoggr chews on oathbreakers, adulterers, and murderers, is immaterial. The Eddas have a type of morality play where oathbreakers are indeed punished through fate or karma. To make an oath to a god is a very serious obligation and any promises you make to them, you need to keep. These aren’t the Christian god who probably would forgive you if you promised something under duress. No, these are our primal gods who will take your promise seriously.
This is why as a person who follows Tyr, I am cautious about any oaths, or even everyday agreeing to things. This shit takes control real fast and you’ll soon find yourself overextended and over-pledged. And taking oaths you can’t keep.
That being said, it’s good to understand the limits of what you’ll allow versus what you won’t if you dedicate yourself to a god. Some gods are more respectful of limits than others. Others will ride roughshod over you, even if you say no. Just because you say you don’t want X doesn’t mean they’ll respect it. I know there are other bloggers who will say so-and-so will respect any boundaries you set. Some gods/goddesses will. Others won’t.
These are gods, and they are not your whiny-ass bitches. (Whoa! Where did that come from? Did I just hear someone say that to me?) Harsh, but very, very true. You are dealing with something far more powerful, and more elemental in this Universe than you’ve ever imagined. Don’t pretend there’s a safe word that will make everything all right.
A Great Big Bull’s-Eye
Once you’re of interest to one god, it’s like grabbing the attention of the entire family, so to speak. When Tyr and Thor entered my life, I didn’t expect attention from Loki, Odin, Freyja, or Freyr, but I’ve got it. It’s weird to have an occasional god pop in and see what I’m up to. Why do they do that? Who in the Hel knows?
It can be annoying at times, and even disconcerting because, let’s face it, I’m a skeptic, and in fact, I’m still trying to keep the agnostic part. But it’s hard to remain agnostic when the gods decide you’re worth paying attention to, for whatever fucking reason. It’s weird, really. I understand why, but it still surprises me that I’d attract attention.
No Skinriding, Please
I’ve heard the term skinriding as a type of possession some folks go through. It’s a weird experience
I think it really depends on you and your personality and how it meshes with the god/goddess. For all I know, we all might be suffering from multiple personality disorders, which makes us in serious need of therapy. If there’s one thing that will have me check myself into the loony bin, it’ll be not being in control of myself. So, absolutely no skinriding. I know Tyr knows my rules and is okay with it.
If you go down the path of skinriding, be sure you can handle it. And be sure it’s a god whom you trust.
So, Should You Dedicate Yourself to a God?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I don’t have an answer for you on that. Only you and your god(s) can tell you what is right for you. All I can do is provide advice when it comes to what to think about. You want to make oaths? That’s your call. You want to allow possession? Again, that’s your call. You want to formalize your oath with a contract? Okey dokey.
If you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to draw a god’s attention, chances are you know what I’m talking about. And maybe if you find yourself in this position, my words might actually make sense. Do what you think is right, but also be cautious. Don’t agree to things you might regret later. And once you do go down that rabbit hole, there’s no turning back.
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” — Morpheus, The Matrix
I thought since I made the comment about Ragnarok, I should probably delve into the story of Ragnarok. As a rational heathen, I thought Ragnarok was a load of crap added by Christianity to provide a “changing of the guard” from pagan to Christian. After all, it’s easier to worship the white Christ if your gods are dead. Naturally, Tyr had something to say about that.
What is the Twilight of the Gods?
But before I get into that, let’s look at Ragnarok in brief. Ragnarok, or the Twilight of the Gods, speaks of an apocalyptic scenario where the Aesir and Vanir go to the final battle against the forces of chaos. We will suffer three winters in a row without summer called Fimbulvetr, Sunna and Mani (the sun and moon) will be swallowed by the wolves that follow them, the stars will disappear, and the earth will shake. The gods along with warriors from Asgard, and I presume from any hall in Asgard, will fight the Jotun and Loki’s children in one last battle. Odin dies, Thor dies, Tyr dies, Freyr dies; everyone gets wiped out except Víðarr, Váli, Móði and Magni. The fire giants set the nine worlds ablaze. Two humans, Líf and Lífþrasir, will survive somehow encased in Yggdrasil. Beyond that, we’re left to start again.
Some of the things that struck me with this apocalypse is the relative similarity to Revelations and other apocryphal texts (see what I did there?). It’s so close to the Christian teachings that I was sure it was just something borrowed. That was before I had the UPG.
Yeah, Tyr actually interjected into my meditation and told me Ragnarok will happen. Seriously, bro? You mean Fenrir is eating Odin and everything? Yep. But the story as written is tainted with Christian and metaphorical trappings. Ragnarok is a cycle and not just the end of the world. For those who have proposed this or been inspired through UPGs to propose this, you’ll be glad to hear I actually concur with you. Ragnarok has happened and will happen again. Same players throughout time. It’s how the Wyrd spins the universe. Our universe is part of the multiverse and the final fight comes down to the destruction of Midgard, whether it is Earth or the universe we inhabit. Is Sutri’s fire from the sun as it expands? Or is it a tear in the fabric of the universe that causes other universes to leak into ours? I have no clue. But I do understand that it is a metaphor for things to come. Or things that have come before.
When is Ragnarok?
Then, there’s the question of actually when is Ragnarok? The stories I’ve read seem to imply that it has already occurred. If it has, it has happened in the ancient past, and I’m not talking millions, but billions of years ago. Try before our universe came into existence some 13.82 billion years ago. Give or take a few years. Either that, or it’s the Christians trying to bring closure to our stories so that we accept that our gods are dead through Ragnarok. If it’s something in our future, then Ragnarok may also be something in our past, but I doubt strongly that any of us alive to read this blog will experience it within our current lifetimes. If for some weird reason that does happen while you’re reading this post, well, good luck. I am probably long dead by then. Unless there’s some sort of bizarre timey wimey stuff going on that my feeble brain isn’t getting right now because I haven’t had my tea yet. Then again, the theory about a block universe may be right, time is an illusion, and everything exists somewhere in spacetime.
The End of All Things
Those who are of the Christian and Muslim faiths believe in apocalypse, albeit with different endings. Even the origin of Ragnarok is debatable, whether it comes from beliefs of the Proto–Indo-European peoples before they finally separated and made the story their own, or whether it was somehow taken from the poem, Muspille.
My guess is that people embellish what Ragnarok looks like in order to put into understandable terms how bad this could go. Without a decent frame of reference, talking scientific theories to our ancestors would be talking gibberish. Our ancestors from ten thousand years ago were not stupid. They had the same brains we have. But they didn’t have the technology we do, nor did they have the knowledge to comprehend what we understand now. Assuming humans survive ten thousand years from now and continue to progress at the rate we are progressing, my guess is that our technology might be as baffling to us as it would be to our ancestors. Unless our ancestors were educated to how our world works most of the things we use daily would seem like magic.
End of the Universe
What does science have to say about this? Well, obviously humans have a fair number of hurdles to survive before we reach the end of the Universe, assuming it does end. Putting those aside for another blog, physicists point to the Universe doing one of four things: the Big Freeze, the Big Crunch, the Big Rip, or the Big Bounce. None of these theories are proven, but all seem to have their proponents and detractors.
The Big Freeze
The first would be that it could simply expand and continue toward its low energy state. In other words, entropy takes over and the universe cools to the point where everything is at an equilibrium because it continues its progression toward infinity. This is called “the Big Freeze” in physics, and makes Fimbulvetr look toasty warm. There is no energy to sustain life and everything goes somewhere near absolute zero. Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it? This assumes an infinite Universe.
The Big Crunch
Then, there’s the Big Crunch. Based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Big Crunch is the answer to the Big Bang that created our universe. It also assumes a finite Universe. If the universe reaches a critical density, gravitation attraction will pull everything back to where it started, create a massive black hole, and swallow up everything. Hence the name “Big Crunch.” But we don’t know if that will really happen because we know that the Universe is actually increasing its rate of expansion in places that are furthest from us. Hence we’re dealing with “dark energy”which is constant in our Universe. This fact leads to…
The Big Rip
The theory of the Big Rip takes the Big Freeze one step further. Dark energy is to blame for this one where the expansion continues to the point where nothing we know is recognizable. The Universe never disappears, it just becomes scattered even more than in the Big Freeze. Everything breaks down, even at the atomic level. There is no energy to hold anything together and atoms fall apart and scatter into quarks. Depending on which camp of scientists you talk to, it may or may not happen. Latest I’ve read is that in 22 billion years the Universe will undergo the Big Rip. Researchers in Vanderbilt University have pretty much said this, but given the fact that our understanding of the Universe changes with each discovery, it’s hard to decide if this is just the flavor of the day for the ending of the Universe, or whether it will stick.
At the moment, think of it as a really bad Fimbulvetr if this is a new concept for you. Everything is cold and nothing can ever be put back together. Think Humpty Dumpty.
The Big Bounce
The Big Bounce is probably the most interesting, but at this point, data doesn’t seem to support it. It’s like a Big Crunch, only with the potential of expanding outward again in another inflationary period similar to the Big Bang. The problem is that it requires dark energy to halt its repulsive effects on matter and gravity to take effect (like the Big Crunch). It goes one step further in that when the Big Crunch occurs, spacetime will warp and become chaotic near the singularity, causing an “explosion” and a creation of a new universe. Of all the theories proposed, I think it’s the closest thing to Ragnarok, but science doesn’t currently support the theory that well.
So, Where Does that Leave Us?
So, where does that leave us with Ragnarok? Fuck if I know. Seriously. I only have Tyr’s word that Ragnarok is real, but what it is, I haven’t a clue. I don’t doubt that he’s telling me the truth, but I don’t know what that truth means necessarily. Maybe it’s about the fate of the Universe. Maybe it’s the fate of the Earth. Maybe it’s not about any of it. Maybe I’m delusional and only think it might happen. Or maybe we don’t know enough through science yet.
Science, as I’ve said in earlier posts, isn’t a belief system. It deals with explaining the Universe around us. It is not dogmatic like religion. It changes as we learn new information. Religion, on the other hand, deals with faith and belief. You either think it’s right or you don’t. There aren’t any wishy-washy maybes in explanation, but explanations are often metaphorical. I’m sure you have your own beliefs about the end of the universe.
What I believe in terms of Ragnarok doesn’t change anything. If it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t believe anything I can do will change that. And 22 billion years is an exceedingly long time to wait to find out if I’m right or wrong. Besides, the sun will consume the Earth in about 7 billion years, but we realistically only have a couple billion years to get off this rock before the sun cooks the planet. That’s assuming we don’t wipe ourselves out, an asteroid doesn’t create a mass extinction event similar to the dinosaurs, we get a lovely blast of gamma rays from a dying star, or the earth decides to shake us off with massive volcanic eruptions similar to the Siberian Traps. To quote Q from Star Trek:
“It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.”
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.