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Pareidolia, or Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Pareidolia, or Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Many people have asked me about “knowing” when a god sends signs to them. Some of the signs are real, but most of the signs are simply pareidolia, which is obviously a holdover from our evolution. Let me explain.

What is Pareidolia?

A face in a house — a type of pareidolia

Pareidolia is seeing patterns in random things or events. Our genetics are hardwired to see patterns where there really aren’t. Our minds are structured to look for patterns in the world around us; to see order in chaos. Good examples of pareidolia are seeing a face in the moon or hearing a secret message when a record is played backwards. Maybe hearing “words” coming from a noisy brook or seeing faces in the trees. Pareidolia is responsible for people finding patterns in random numbers or discovering “secret messages” by using numbers and parts of the bible.

Why We Evolved with Pareidolia

Pareidolia is a useful feature in ancient, and even modern day, humans. It gives us the ability to see possible threats in the form of predators. It allows us to look at someone’s face and interpret whether they are friendly or dangerous by their expression. If we didn’t have pareidolia, chances are we wouldn’t have survived as a species. For example, it gives us the ability to recognize game when we hunt. Anyone who hunts knows to look not just for the whole animal, given that many game animals live in dense forest. Hunters look for images that come together as parts of an animal, such as a leg, torso, or even the head amid the chaos of branches, rocks, and trees.

Examples of Pareidolia

Descent of the Snake at Chichen Itza

I’ve already covered the face in a tree and the man in the moon, but there’s more to pareidolia than that. It’s finding patterns in randomness. The constellations are a great example of pareidolia. Ancient peoples looked at how the stars appeared to them in the night’s sky and “saw” creatures, heroes, and gods in them. No matter whether you think Ursa Major looks like a bear or a plow, the stars align themselves in the sky according to the Earth’s position in the cosmos. If the Earth revolved around a different sun, or in a different part of our galaxy, or in a different galaxy, our constellations would look very strange to us. And no doubt we would come up with new constellations.

We use pareidolia in emoticons. Even though this is just a bunch of symbols, we recognize the faces: a wink ; -) a smiley face  : -) or a startled face =:0 Chances are, you probably have used one of those at one time or another. Every time we “see” a face in something, even when there isn’t a face, that is pareidolia.

Some architects have used pareidolia in their designs to cast shadows in certain ways. Like Kukulkan in Chichen Itza on the equinox, known as the “descent of the snake,” or certain architectural features that make shadows that appear to be a person.

What Does Pareidolia Have to do with the Gods?

Sometimes a raven is just a raven

Now that you understand what pareidolia is, you can see how easy it is to try to recognize and organize patterns in a random number of things or events. So, sometimes you might see things that are random and attribute it as a message from a particular god. For example, let’s say I walk down the street and see a guy with an eye patch. Then, later that day, I do a search on the web for something and the name “Odin” crops up on a website.  And then, as I’m taking a walk, I see a raven. Is this a sign from Odin that he wants to talk to me?

Probably not. There is such a thing as coincidence. But, being a good Heathen, I might think that Odin is trying to tell me something. Only, there’s really no message. Think about all the cases of pareidolia we see on the news. How someone thinks they see Jesus and the Virgin Mary on toast or in a stump. Or how someone claims they see things that suggests its a sign from otherworldly beings. Like having one’s entire neighborhood flattened by a tornado only to have their house spared. It’s in our nature to want to find meaning in things, even when there is none. Just because you got spared when everyone around you died doesn’t mean the gods were looking out for you, it means you were lucky. Now, if you tell me that Thor appeared, warned you a tornado was going to hit, and you escaped, that’s different. I’m then more inclined to believe the gods watched out for you.

Is it a Sign, or is it a God?

Let’s say that you do end up seeing “signs” everywhere, and at certain times. Does that mean it’s just coincidence? Or is it a sign from a god? My first inclination is to go with pareidolia, BUT gods have been known to be subtle. Maybe too subtle. It took Tyr practically bashing me over the head to get my attention. Yeah, I can be pretty clueless. But seriously, if you start seeing patterns, you can ask the god or goddess for something more obvious. If they’re truly interested in you, they’ll oblige. Make an offering to them and ask for guidance. It won’t hurt anything and might cement the relationship. If nothing comes of it, so what?

My thoughts are if the god or goddess wants your attention, they’ll get it. After all they’re gods. They have a way of getting what they want.



You’re Not a Racist — You’re Just a Fucking Idiot

You’re Not a Racist — You’re Just a Fucking Idiot

Welcome to the Rational Heathen’s hour of Racist or Not-a-Racist!  Here you can win snarky comments backed by science and logic, plus either an overwhelming urge to agree, change your point of view, or fly into an uncontrollable rage and smash your computer all to Hel.  Wanna play along?

You’re Not a Racist, Unless You Hate Vulcans

Let me start out with the fact that race is a construct. Unless you’re hating a wight or extraterrestrial sentient species, you’re hating a member of your own race.  You see, you’re homo sapiens and the person whom you think is another race is also homo sapiens.  The differences between you and that person is just ethnic variation. Some tens of thousands of years and multiple generations cause adaptations for a particular climate. Humans had dark skin when they came out of Africa and their skin became lighter when it became advantageous to have less melanin so they could absorb more sunlight and produce more Vitamin D.  This was important in northern climates where the amount of sunlight is less due to the tilt of the earth’s axis.

So, there’s no way you could be a racist, if you hate someone who has a different skin color than you.  You are, however, a bigot, and a fucking idiot to boot.

Your Ancestors Were Black Even If You’re White

For those bigots who think their ancestors were lily white from the moment they existed, I’ve got news for you.  Your ancestors were dark skinned at one time.  You want proof?  Check out the Cheddar Man (not named that because he liked cheese, although he could have) who had blue eyes and brown or black skin.  And his tribe is responsible for 10 percent of those Brits who live in England today.  And yes, those modern day Brits are white even though their ancestors had dark skin 10,000 years ago.  This is not a particular aberration either.  Archaeologists found the skeletons of two men who lived some 6000 years ago in northwest Spain.  Genetic testing proved that they had blue eyes and dark skin.  These men are most closely related to Scandinavians and Finns, thus proving that the white skin became an adaptation to the environment and not something that humans had at the moment of their inception.

Cheddar Man

It’s kind of funny too, because at one time our ancestor hominids most likely all had white skin. Of course, that’s when our ancestors were as hairy as chimpanzees.  (Chimps, who are some of our closest relatives have white skin, due to the fur covering.)  When our ancestors started losing their fur, the skin had to make up for the protection against the African sun and our ancestors’ skin darkened.

Genetically, We’re All the Same with Some Minor Differences

Humans nearly went extinct not once, but three times.  Each time, we were tenacious enough to hang on, but it seriously narrowed our gene pool.  Then, we had the stupidity to reduce our gene pool further by having only certain males and their dominant lines mate with women some 7000 years ago when humans switched from hunter-gatherers to agrarian cultures. So, we’re a bunch of hormone-driven, inbred hominids who push the feeder bars to get our shots of dopamine.  Yeah, it’s amazing we haven’t gone extinct.

We already know that there is only one women ancestor whom everyone now living has her mitochondrial genetics.  Unfortunately, she has been nicknamed Mitochondrial Eve, which has unhappily been associated by Bible thumpers to be the “real” Eve of the Bible.  Likewise, there is a male counterpart, which has been nicknamed Y-Chromosomal Adam. (Like we don’t have enough issues with the Bible thumpers already?)

This shows you just how screwed up we are as a species.  Sure, we have differences genetically, but we all have the same ancestor somewhere at some point.   That makes every single human on this planet related to each other.  Talk about banjos.

So, What About Those Who Can’t Figure This Out?

At this stage, if you’re really set on believing your lily-white ass is better than some other ethnic group because of your skin color, you’re a fucking idiot.  You’re not even hating someone of a different race.  Instead, you’re hating someone who is your not-so-distant cousin just because they look a little different. So, if you’re intent on hating people based on what they look like, you’re what’s wrong with our society.



Take Control of Your Evolution (Why You’re Already a Cyborg)

Take Control of Your Evolution (Why You’re Already a Cyborg)

It sounds like something out of science fiction, but I think I’ve got a case for saying that we humans have gone beyond simply using our technology and now becoming — dare I say it? — cyborgs. I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and people. We know that humans aren’t the only species in the world that use tools.  We know chimps and crows have used tools sequentially, thus making the usage of tools as what defines us as human suspect.  So, some researchers are suggesting that what makes us human is offloading tasks onto machines.  It’s an interesting concept, to be certain.  I would take it one step further: we are human because we can change our own evolutionary path.  Let me explain…[Read More and all the other premium posts for just $1 at my Patreon feed!]

Inbred Monkeys, Kindreds, and Lone Wolves. Are Kindreds Antiquated?

Inbred Monkeys, Kindreds, and Lone Wolves. Are Kindreds Antiquated?

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ”— Aristotle

One of the many solitary heathens who follows this blog asked me to say something about solitary heathens, and I thought it’d be a good idea.  Whether you belong to a kindred, or whether you are solitary, chances are you’ve had thoughts about whether you can be a heathen with a kindred or not. Seeing as I do not claim a kindred, by Aristotle’s view I am a god or a beast.   I know what my detractors would claim I am.  But seriously, I have my thoughts about kindreds and about solitary heathens, so you can take this as a mixture of science, history, and opinion.

What Science has to Say

TL;DR: Scientists believe groups are a natural order because it helps defend against predators.

If we look at other primates, we can note that they too require some sort of social group.  This isn’t exclusive to primates, per se, it appears to be a natural order among many different species all the way down to insects such as bees and ants. In the higher order lifeforms, we note that most animals are in social orders for protection, mating, and territory.

Jaguar & Panther Graphics
Thanks to

Science has determined that the primates’ social order didn’t begin as a couple and increase. Rather, it’s likely that there were many related females and several unrelated males in the social order. (Of course, there are variations to this.)  This social structure occurs not only for diversifying the genetics and avoiding inbreeding, but also for protection.  Solitary hunters are generally nocturnal, and nocturnal animals are often solitary.  They use the night to hunt and to conceal them from larger and more dangerous predators. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, that’s basically how it works.  Animals that are mostly diurnal tend to run in groups because solitary animals can be seen and picked off easier by predators in the daytime. Numbers provide a certain amount of safety.

When our ancestors went from nocturnal to diurnal, we stuck with groups for safety. This required a high degree of sociability, because we probably would’ve killed ourselves of with antisocial behavior.

Our Brains are Naturally Programmed for Groups

 TL; DR: The biochemicals in our bodies makes us want to be social.

One interesting paper I read was the affect of certain neurotransmitters in our bodies to our behavior to become more social or antisocial. People who had increased serotonin levels tended to behave more social.  Heightened levels of oxytocin cause people to form bonds between mates, and between parents and offspring.  This also causes a heightened need to protect families.

We as humans have evolved to be social animals, which is why when people have lower doses of serotonin, we can assume that they may have problems such as depression and other conditions that may cause us to become more isolated.

Nature as the Basis for Kindreds

TL; DR: If we look at the history of humans, it’s obvious that in earlier times people arranged themselves in kindreds similar to other primates for protection.

When we look at kindreds, we can kind of see how the older kindreds were arranged, potentially in the fashion I mentioned above with related females and unrelated males. This is a natural construct to protect diurnal primates which humans have inherited. A “lone wolf” human was unlikely to survive without some sort of group. The world was a pretty scary place back then, and people had to band together in order to survive.  As hunter/gatherers, and later, as farmers, we needed a group structure to live in.  This structure offered us protection from the natural predators, and from other groups of humans.

At this point, I can see the recon heathens applauding my statements.  Ah hah!  They think I’ve agreed with them.  Lone wolves have no place in heathenry, or so they think.  Guess what?  They do have a place in heathenry.  Let me continue.

Thanks to

Times Change; People Change

TL;DR: The rule of law has reduced the need for protection a kindred affords.

At this point, it’s easy to see why there was an inner-gard/utan-gard.  The people within the inner-gard were those family and allies that needed to be cared for or defended. The utan-gard were those who did not belong.  Even so, heathenry insists on courtesy to strangers because the world was a difficult place.  The ethics of reciprocity is very much part of the heathen belief.

As the rule of law (thanks, Tyr!) took over, the need for kindreds dwindled. Unless you live in a country under complete chaos, the need for having warriors ready to defend the homestead is happily rare. The 20th Century saw the rise of the nuclear family — where a family consisted of parents and children. Sure, there were grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., but seldom did they live in the same town, let alone the same home as you did.

Nowadays, the family has morphed to whatever the person needs. There are single parent households, there are households with same-sex parents, there are couples without kids, there are children being raised by grandparents, there are temporary marriages, etc. Whether or not you think this is right, that is irrelevant because it is how our society has changed. There are certainly extended families and kindred-like arrangements, but I’d argue that as long as the rule of law continues, there is less need for people to have kindreds for safety sake.


Wolf Graphics & Comments
Thanks to

Inbred Monkeys and Lone Wolves

TL;DR: Your kindred are the people whom you associate with and have relationships with, whether or not they believe in our gods. Joining a heathen kindred may be helpful but not mandatory.

We know from science that human beings have nearly gone extinct twice, thus making us a little more than inbred monkeys. I suspect (and this is my conjecture) that it makes us hang onto certain traits a little longer than we really need to. The need to be social may be one of those traits that has been ingrained for a long time, although whether we need it or not can be debated.  I would argue that there are some things you still need from society, even if you manage to become mostly self sufficient. No man is an island, as a teacher of mine once quoted John Donne.

When we look at following the gods and goddesses of our ancestors, do we really need to be in a group to do so?  I would argue no, although you may get more out of being with others. There is a certain amount of comfort belonging to a kindred.  I would also argue that you have a kindred already.  You family and friends are your kindred, even if they are not followers of your path.  These are the people you go to when you need help; these are the people whom you help.

What’s more, we have bigger distances than even the Vikings traveled when it comes to finding folks who believe in our religion.  And even if we find people who are heathens, there’s no guarantee we’re going to get along.  We know that our ancestors didn’t just get along because they believed in the same gods.

The other side of the coin is that technology has made it so that we can have virtual kindreds.  I mean, let’s face it, we can meet via chat rooms and even attend conferences real time. So, even if you are a “lone wolf” heathen practitioner, you can still get some of the benefits being in a group.

To Recap

Our social behavior came about as an evolutionary adaptation to protect ourselves from predators. We have found it useful behavior as we cannot do everything we need to survive in most situations.  (Self sufficient people still rely on tools purchased or obtained from others.)  Nowadays, kindreds are less needed for protection, and are by their nature, a social construct. Your kindred are the people whom you associate with and have relationships with, whether or not they believe in our gods. Joining an Asatru or Heathen kindred is useful in many respects, but not mandatory, especially with the advent of the Internet.

So, solitary practitioners, despair not.  Adaptation is one of the great things about us and our ancestors.  You don’t need to belong to a heathen kindred to follow our gods. They are helpful, but not necessary to be a heathen.