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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.

5 Great Things to Heathens Can Do to Celebrate Eostre Anytime (and While Under Quarantine)

5 Great Things to Heathens Can Do to Celebrate Eostre Anytime (and While Under Quarantine)

Okay, by now you’re all probably sick and tired of the quarantines and stay-at-home directives. It’s no big thing for me because I’m a writer, and more importantly, an introvert. (Gosh, a writer with a scientific degree? An introvert? Unheard of!) Anyhow, while the Christians are bemoaning they can’t go to mass for Easter, we Heathens can still celebrate the month of Eostre. Even if you’re the sole Heathen among people of other faiths in your household, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy yourself during this time. Here are five ways you can celebrate the Feast of Eostre (whether or not you believe she is a goddess):

1. Dye Eostre Eggs with Your Own Natural Dyes

This one takes a little bit of work and some ingredients, but the colors are spectacular and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it at least once. Most of the ingredients are probably already in your refrigerator or pantry. Here are some links to recipes for dyeing your eggs with natural ingredients that are completely safe (unless you have an allergy to particular food ingredients):

  • Kitchn has some eggcellent recipes for dyeing your eggs colors such as blue, pink, lavender, yellow, and orange. They tell you what your eggs will look like if you use white eggs or brown eggs. (Hint: use both and have a host of cool colors!)
  • Good Housekeeping has similar recipes, but includes a way to make your eggs dark blue. I like their suggestions.

Dyeing eggs with your own colors is more fun than using tablets out of a package. And you’ll probably like the results better.

2. Eostre Egg Hunts for the Kids (and Pets)

This one doesn’t have to be for kids only, but if you’re alone or staying home with your significant other and no one else, this isn’t probably as fun as it could be. Naturally if you have a yard, hiding eggs becomes easier, but you can also hide eggs in a specific room. If you hide eggs inside, be sure to have an egg count, otherwise you may be in for a nasty surprise (and smell) in a couple of weeks. And while you’re at it, if you have a pet, you might want to hide some treats for them and show them the first few treats, so they might get the idea of searching for treats. Dogs can usually figure this out, but I’m not discounting cats.

3. Have a Feast in Honor of the Gods and Goddesses of Spring

Whether or not you believe that Eostre was the Anglo Saxon goddess (or Ostara, a Germanic goddess) of spring and fertility, we can always hold a feast in honor of the gods and goddesses of spring. Roast a pig or ham in honor of Freyr, and dedicate the feast in honor of him, Freyja, Thor, Gerdr, Sif, and Idunn, among any other gods and goddesses you’d like to include. Even if you’re a solitary Heathen, you can make yourself some pork and make an offering or blot to the gods.

4. Get Your Garden Planted

Whether you live on a farm, in the suburbs, or in the city, you can have your own garden, even if it is only a container garden. In most parts of America, it’s warm enough to start seedlings outdoors, and for those of us who live in the colder climates, we can start them indoors. Not sure what to plant? Start with herbs. Most are easy enough to grow, and you can dry them and use them in a number of recipes and in rituals. Container gardens are great for apartment dwellers because they take up very little room and they are portable.

5. Meditate Outdoors

It’s springtime, which means that you should probably enjoy the outdoors. But with the quarantine, you may be pressed to find a spot where you can enjoy yourself. With meditation, you don’t need a big place to get away: your balcony or backyard will do. Or, if you’re not under a strict stay-at-home order, find a quiet place in a park or forest where you can be away from people and simply meditate. Never meditated before? Check out Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. Meditate on the season and the world around you. It will help ground you as a Heathen plus put you more in touch with the gods and goddesses of Heathenry.

Okay, so now you have some things to do for celebrating the Feast of Eostre. Go, and have fun. And stuff yourself with chocolate bunnies, because I said so. Next post, I’ll give you ideas for keeping yourself and the kids busy while indoors.

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Celebrating Spring with the Gods Despite the Coronavirus

Celebrating Spring with the Gods Despite the Coronavirus

It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere (finally), even though in many parts of the world, we still have winter weather. During this time, our thoughts normally turn to the more pleasant weather and outdoor activities. This year may be a bit different, though. I’ve promised myself to not make every post about the 800-pound gorilla in the room (Coronavirus/ COVID-19), but talking about celebrating spring is going to be tempered with what we’re dealing with. So, if you’re looking for great things to do while still being mindful of the pandemic, I’ve got your ideas right here.

Enjoy the Weather

Just because everyone is distancing doesn’t mean you can’t do things. Just don’t plan on crowd activities or activities with anyone other than those who live with you. Instead, try getting out to wild places like National Forests and Wilderness areas. Try to go places where you know you won’t have to deal with other people. Can’t get away or too far to avoid other people? Have a picnic in your backyard or on your balcony.

Get Out and Hunt or Fish

If you hunt or fish, check out what season it is for hunting certain game, or fishing. You might want to try your hand at other types of hunting that you haven’t done in the past, largely because of other commitments. Who knows? You might find a new type of hunting you enjoy?

While you’re at it, offer blots to Skadi and Ullr, because they are the goddess and god of hunting. And if you’re into fishing, a blot to Ran and Njord might work well.

Offer Blots to the Gods and the Local Wights

Eir is the goddess of healing, and a Valkyrie. Making offerings for healing both humans and the world is not a bad idea at this time. Give offerings to the gods and goddesses of spring. Include Freyja, Freyr, Eostre, Sif, Gerdr, and Thor in your blots for a prosperous and healthy spring. Be sure to include animals and new plantings so that there are good harvests in the fall. I talk about making an outdoor altar HERE.

Don’t forget the local wights. Although I am agnostic when it comes to them, I admit that I offer the local landvaettir something to ensure they are happy. They can make a difference between positive experiences and negative ones.

Get Your (Container) Garden Planted

I’ve talked a lot about getting closer to your Heathen roots by planting gardens, even if it’s a container garden. Now is the time to do it, if you have good weather. Even apartment dwellers can plant container gardens and enjoy them. I recommend planting seeds for vegetables and herbs because they’re useful and you can use them in cooking, but you can choose whatever you’d like. Maybe some flowers that will make your place look beautiful?

Read Those Books You’ve Been Meaning To

If you’re like me, you have a gazillion books on the shelves that you haven’t read. Time to dust them off and start reading them. Or if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber like I am, you can read as many books as you care to for $9.99 a month with Kindle Unlimited.

Do Some Spring Cleaning

Frigga and Frau Holle will be delighted if you decide to do some spring cleaning. Anyway, you should be disinfecting things because of the virus, but this gives you an excuse to finally get all those dirty dishes out of your sink.

 

Just Have a of Coffee or Tea, and Enjoy the Weather

Okay, if you can’t get to your favorite coffee shop, brew up some coffee or tea and sit on the porch or on the balcony and just enjoy the weather. Don’t get too enamored with the Internet, because yes, it will rot your brain. Okay, I don’t have any proof of that, but seriously staying online all the time isn’t good for you. Sit and enjoy the weather and the coffee (or tea). Meditate. Thank the gods you’re not sick, or if you are, do what you can for a speedy recovery.

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What Should a Heathen Do About the Coronavirus Pandemic?

What Should a Heathen Do About the Coronavirus Pandemic?

If you’re like me, you’re probably concerned about the novel coronavirus pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, or the disease it causes, 2019-nCoV. Now with it rampaging throughout the world, and in 33 states in the US, it’s not a matter of if, but when. As a Heathen, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it to ensure you and your family’s safety. What should you do about the possibility of quarantines and restricted travel? Naturally, the Rational Heathen has her own thoughts on this matter.

Panic Bad; Preparedness Good

As one of the…mumble, mumble people…in the age demographic that is more at risk, I’ve been cursing that I don’t have a way to grow younger. But the first thing I understand is that in any situation, panicking doesn’t do a damn thing. If anything, it only makes the situation worse. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared for any possibility, such as quarantines, restricted travel, and possible shortages of supplies when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s unlikely we’ll see the same Draconian methods we’ve seen in China and elsewhere in the world, but there is a possibility, depending how bad the coronavirus pandemic  might get.

My husband woke me up this morning to ask me a simple question. He asked me if I thought it was too early to start planting seedlings when the National Weather Service forecasted temperatures to drop into the 20s. I have a tiny greenhouse, but it’s not heated, so I told him yes, it was too early. I figure when we stay at least in the 30s, I can start planting.

Now, he never has been concerned enough about the garden to ask me about it. I had volunteered the other day that I had seeds that I could plant that would give us fresh vegetables, if there were shortages. But, of course, I’d have to actually plant them ahead of time. Not that I’m a huge prepper or anything. Even so, we have game meat and can hunt small game. I have livestock. I can and dry food. It’s convenient to do so. My basic Heathen habits of keeping and preserving food has already gotten us far ahead of the curve.

What Should You Do About the Coronavirus Pandemic?

At this point, you’re probably wondering what you can do. Maybe you don’t have a small ranch and live in the city or suburbs. I get that.  My soil is too rocky for a garden and the only things I’ve gotten to grow in it is mint, oregano, and thyme. So, I do container gardens. And you can, too, no matter where you are. Check out the Homeland Security’s preparedness pages and prepare a disaster kit for yourself and your family. Planning ahead ensures that you won’t be in panic mode should there be something serious happening.

For the gods’ sake, don’t overbuy stuff. Get what you think you might need should there be an event that quarantines you and your family at home. Remember there are other people in your community who could use the items, too. And while you might be tempted to go Viking with a credit card, that’s just a form of panic. Get what you need, and you won’t fall over dead when the credit card bill shows up in the mail.

Now that the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, the only thing we can do is reduce our contact with sick people, wash our hands a lot, use hand sanitizers, avoid shaking hands, don’t touch our faces, and by the gods, if you’re sick, stay the fuck home.

What About the Gods and the Wights?

If you’re new to Heathenry, chances are you think that praying to the gods for safety or a cure would be the way to go. I am not discouraging you from doing that, but be aware that the gods are not your bitches. In other words, unlike the white Christ, our gods aren’t vending machines. We can perform blots, that is, give them offerings for safety, but they’ll do whatever the Hel they want. And BTW, I don’t believe in Christ for various and sundry reasons, mainly because the stories are blatant rip offs of pagan myths, and no obvious historian who lived during Christ’s time mentions him. It is only some 70 years after Christ do we have anything written about him.

That being said, our gods expect us to handle our own problems. Whether or not you agree with me, humans to a large degree have brought this virus on themselves due to the failure to control our own numbers through birth control until the carrying capacity of the land starts getting stressed and a pandemic hits. And yeah, eating bizarre wild animals that carry coronaviruses isn’t too smart either. Especially endangered species like the pangolin.

Is this a way the Wights are striking at humanity? As a semi-agnostic Wight believer, I can say with all certainty, I don’t know. But you have to admit that when humans are crowded on top of each other, biologically it never ends well. Larger pandemics have occurred with fewer people. Only our technology and medicine have prevented something like the Black Death from happening again. We never learn from history.

The Rational Heathen’s Conclusions

I feel for all the innocents caught up in what is obviously failings on the part of various countries to prepare for an event such as this. If the corona pandemic subsides during the summer, we can expect it to come back with a vengeance in the fall when the cooler weather stimulates its growth and transmission. We just may be lucky that this virus is comparatively mild to what we could get. Stay safe, practice good hygiene, and above all, stay well.