Browsed by
Category: Wyrd

Why Bad Things Happen — a Heathen’s Perspective

Why Bad Things Happen — a Heathen’s Perspective

If you’ve followed my blog for more than a couple of years, you know I’ve written about why bad things happen before. But sometimes pieces need updating, and quite honestly, there’s enough turnover in readership to warrant another look at why bad things happen.

The Year of Hell

This year, 2020, will officially be known at my house as the Year of Hell. It started with a close relative dying and went down from there. You already know about the pandemic and economic down turn, as well as the civil unrest.

If there’s any consolation with this pandemic, I may have already gotten COVID-19 and the proverbial Angel of Death has passed by my door. This time. Another positive side, I don’t live in an area with lots of protests. We have also (so far) escaped having a really awful fire season around here, even though we’ve had to deal with unhealthy air from the Washington/Oregon/California fires. I’m not getting as many work assignments, which cuts the money back, but my spouse hasn’t been laid off, and I’m still capable of writing. So, that’s what I’m doing. But, I’ve been watching the news in total disbelief at people’s behavior.

I want to slap everyone’s face and shout, “What is wrong with you people?”

Obviously, that isn’t going to happen, so I am holed up in my little home, hoping the moron who sneezed nearby me at a grocery store didn’t have COVID-19.

Yeah, it’s that kind of year.

No, the Gods Are Not Punishing Us

Bad things happen all the time. Because we’re raised in a Christian society, we’re tempted to draw the conclusion that the gods are punishing us. After all, the Judaeo-Christian god is great at punishing mortals, if you believe the Old Testament. And our Heathen gods and goddesses can be vengeful, but this isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to humans. Unless you really piss off Old One Eye, (Hi, Odin!), chances are you’re just a victim of random events. I mean, seriously, what can one mortal do to garner the wrath of a god or goddess? Certainly not enough to warrant a pandemic, race riots, violent protests and responses, epic wildfires, a global depression, and a very contentious presidential election.

Let me put this in perspective: humans are nothing compared to the universe. The gods take interest in us because we are their children. But they don’t take interest in everyday affairs unless they want to. When the forests become kindling because of a shift in the weather patterns, it’s unlikely Loki threw a match in to start the fires. Rather, he might enjoy the chaos of the outcome, but that is his darker nature. But the wildfire that ensues is either because of lightning, or it is manmade in some way.

Bad Things Happen Randomly

It’s more likely that bad things occur randomly, or may have been set in motion due to poor choices people made. The gods didn’t cause COVID-19 to jump from a bat to a human by way of pangolin or some other animal; viruses are quite handy at doing it by themselves. Chances are, it was the folly of a vendor who trafficked the infected animal, the person who ate the infected animal, or (if you believe the story about the Wuhan laboratory) the lab that isolated the virus. In other words, we have no one to blame–or at least no one to blame but ourselves, as humans.

Why We Look to the Gods when Bad Things Happen

As humans, we often look to higher beings when bad things happen. It’s part of feeling helpless. We ask the gods to help us, or we blame the gods for something that happened to us. But the gods are not our bitches. They don’t run when we call; they often don’t cause calamities either. The tornado that touches down does not know or care that people are in its way. It simply behaves according to its nature as defined by physics.

Likewise, viruses don’t care if you’re the president of the United States or if you’re a child in a third world country. It will infect you if you don’t take precautions against it, and the random luck of your genome and your health may be the only thing that might protect you if you somehow contract the disease.

It’s human nature to look to a higher power when something bad happens. Questions run through our minds such as “Why didn’t Eir stop this?” “Why is Odin punishing me?” “Will Thor protect me?” Our gods generally don’t take sides when it comes to our lives, although we may try to please them with offerings and ask for help, but there are no guarantees. Even Frigg and Odin couldn’t stop the death of their son, Baldr.

Our Wyrd is our Wyrd. It’s how we respond to it that can change it. Not our prayers or offerings.

Why Bad Things Happen

Bad things happen. Good things happen. Sometimes things happen for no reason. Sometimes things happen because humans set things in motion without knowledge of the consequences. And sometimes there are bad people who do bad things. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes Murphy is in control.

I can look at this year and wish it were gone already. It doesn’t mean that next year will be better, but there is always hope that things will improve.

What Can We Do When Bad Things Happen?

Believe it or not, you aren’t totally at the mercy of fate. There are things you can do to prevent further calamity—at least to yourself.  Just like people who wear seatbelts in a rollover crash and somehow survive, you can make everyday choices that will put the odds in your favor if something bad does happen. I mean, some of it is a no-brainer, like wearing seatbelts, wearing a mask when you’re in public, washing your hands, and getting your flu shot. Some things take a little more planning, like when you go on vacation, or choose to live in an area where natural disasters occur.  We evolved with a pretty big brain and enough foresight to conceive of possibilities. Use your brain and think it through. Maybe driving while intoxicated isn’t safe, and you should get a cab instead? Maybe driving with your headlamps off at night isn’t clever?

Occasionally, you’re going to have bad shit happen that you can’t work around. Trust me, I know. I’ve lost people to bad things that I had no control over, although, in retrospect, they did when it came to matters regarding their health. Still, there are things you can’t always account for, and with the exception of Odin and the Norns, we pretty much don’t have a clear picture of everything in our future.  But just remember, the gods aren’t out to get you, unless they’ve told you they are.

And even then, don’t believe everything you hear. Seriously. We can’t control everything, so control what you can and move on.

Do You Have Free Will? Probably Not.

Do You Have Free Will? Probably Not.

This late post is due to me getting a summer cold. I’ve been dealing with this crap for the past two days which means that taking care of myself supersedes a blog. (Hard to believe, eh?)  My latest post which is bound to rile some people is about fate and free will.  Rather than tell you my overall opinion on the subject (but I will give you my thoughts on it), I’m going to go over what Norse mythos/legends and science has to say about it.  You can then come to your own conclusions.

The Heathen Concept of Fate

Those who follow Norse paganism are no doubt familiar with the Wyrd/Fate and the Norns who weave our Wyrd strands. Their names are Urdr, Verdandi, and Skuld and they water Yggdrasil and use mud to prevent the World Tree from rotting.  (I don’t exactly understand how, since rot often occurs with wetting things down, but I digress.) They also weave the strands of each god’s and human’s life. How much is predestined versus how much we can choose is the great debate. The fact that they set our fate upon its path suggests that our destiny may be predetermined already. As always, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) on this interpretation.

To me, the Norns are akin to the Greek Moerae, the Roman Parcae, and the Slavic Sudice, which is highly suggestive of an older Indo-European pagan religion whence these beliefs sprang from.  I talk about this a bit in my earlier posts, so it should come as no surprise to my readers. I’m not going to talk about the validity of predestination versus free will when it comes to the Norns.  I’m going to talk about what science has to say about it, because I find the implications far more interesting.

Is it a Conscious Decision, or are We Trying to Explain Our Behavior?

We think that we make choices all the time.  But 20 years ago, psychologists proposed that we somehow convince ourselves that our behavior was caused by our own thoughts and actual intentions after the behavior, itself. In other words, the fact that you’re getting up from your desk to get a cup of coffee isn’t ruled by thought, but by behavior and your mind plays a great game to convince you that you thought this up all along.

As farfetched as this seems, a recent study takes this to the next step. Subjects were presented with five white circles and asked to think which one they thought would light up red. Whichever one was lit up was done randomly and without a predictable pattern. The subject could give an answer that they selected the one that was lit up, selected one that was not lit up, or tell the examiners that they didn’t have enough time. What happened was interesting.  When the time was too short more that 30 percent claimed they picked the right circle (when the number should have been around 20 percent).  When the examiners slowed the time between when they were to choose before the circle lit up, the number that claimed to pick to right one fell to about 20 percent.

At some point, the scientists determined, the people were mixing up what happened with their actual intention. In other words, stuff happens and we make up a good story why it happened and how we intended it to happen that way.


That mouthful of a word describes a readiness state our brain goes into before we are conscious of our own decision.  This state can occur up to 1.5 seconds before the mind is conscious of it. In fact, Sam Harris makes a case against the whole concept in his book entitled, (what else?), Free Will. This was proven in tests using MRIs back in 2008, which allowed the researchers to predict the person’s action up to 90 percent even before the person knew what he or she was going to do.

The Block Universe and Time Theory: Or How to Make Your Head Hurt

Okay, you say, that’s works for people, but how about a person’s fate? Well, now I’m going to dive right into the Block Universe theory on time, which will probably make your head hurt about as much as mine is hurting right now with this cold. Time in the Theory of Relativity and other equations is changeable backwards and forwards, so our thought that time is linear isn’t right.  The Block Universe theory states that the past, present, and future exist simultaneously in space-time and that we perceive time’s passage as if a spotlight is being shined on the moment events seem to occur.  Events happen, but the past and the future are already there too.  We live in a temporally scattered existence.  We’re scattered throughout a certain segment of time.

Well, this puts our lives in another perspective.  We exist simultaneously with ourselves when we’re born and when we die.  Our entire lives have already existed and the point where we are at is just the spotlight shining on it. So, while we can make choices that create events, those future events already exist with the past and the present. 


Then Again, This Might Be a Computer Simulation

Nowadays scientists are at least considering the possibility that the whole universe is some gigantic computer simulation program and we have no idea what purpose it might have. Elon Musk of Tesla is convinced we’re a simulation. Neil deGrasse Tyson believes it’s about a 50 percent chance.  In which case, all our speculation may be moot and our gods are just terrific programmers.

What The Rational Heathen Thinks

 There are certainly other views of the Universe I haven’t covered, but it’s getting late and I’m tired and still have some work to do. At some point, I look at the question as possibly meaningless — if I don’t have free will, and if my fate is plotted for me, it won’t change my actions one way or another.  I still have pieces I have to write, I still have chores to do around home, and I still have plenty of things I must do.  If I am the master of my fate, then the outcome and plan is still the same.  I’m not going to say “it was fated,” because I understand that the one thing physics does recognize well is cause and effect. So my work to fix something that breaks or try to improve things is what may cause positive outcomes.

Then again, it might be fated that I do these things.  Who knows?