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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.

 

A Heathen’s View of the Afterlife

A Heathen’s View of the Afterlife

The end of the year/beginning of this year saw the death of an in-law and got me thinking about the afterlife. The in-law in question was very Catholic and requested that they have a funeral and burial in the Catholic tradition. That meant a vigil (aka a wake), funeral mass, and then a ceremonial burial. It was odd to go through the entire process because I ended looking at it from a Heathen perspective.

Churches and Whatnot

First, the church. A Roman Catholic church which was heavily modernized. If you took away the crucifix on the stand and the portrait of Jesus, it looked like something you’d see as a pagan temple with trees and even a walk-in fountain. There were only chairs and no pews. In other words, it wasn’t what I experienced while growing up.

The sermons and eulogy had the typical “they’re with Jesus” bullshit. I expected that. But I saw the camaraderie among the church goers that made me think of how the church was looked at during Medieval times. You see, the Catholic church was not just a place of worship, but it was also a way for people to socialize the way they do now. They heard the latest church music, they saw the latest fashions, and yes, it gave them a way to connect with their neighbors. I saw that at the funeral and the luncheon that followed afterward where people brought what they made to share with us. So, I get why the Christian churches are popular. They provide a sense of community as well as a promise of an eternal life.

What About the Heathen Afterlife?

First, Heathens generally don’t (or shouldn’t) worry too much about the afterlife more than this life. In other words, our current life is what we’ve got to make our lives better or worse. It’s not that we don’t have an afterlife (we do), but it’s not really a big concern. Most of us will go to Helheim, which isn’t the traditional Christian Hell that is a place of eternal torment. No, it is a place of rest, basically. To the living, it might seem a dreary place of quietness, but to those spirits who have lived a tumultuous life, it is a place of rest. People do the same things they did in their life as in their death. In other words, it’s not really something to worry about.
Náströnd by Frølich

There is one exception to Helheim that is worth mentioning: Nástrǫnd (Corpse Shore). Nástrǫnd is a place near the river where the snake or dragon, Níðhöggr, chews on corpses of those who murdered, broke oaths, or committed adultery during their previous life. This is the punishment for those who are truly evil. The rest of us don’t have to worry about being a dragon’s dinner anytime soon, so unless you fall under those three evil behaviors, you’re pretty much safe.

But What About Valhalla?

People who die in battle are taken to either Freyja’s land, Fólkvangr, or Odin’s Hall, Valhalla. Freyja gets first pick of half the dead, and Odin gets what’s left. There is much conjecture on what actually happens in Fólkvangr, but we really don’t know if that’s a place where soldiers rest or whether they train for Ragnarok. Everyone has heard stories about the partying and reliving one’s battles in Valhalla. Some Heathens dispute this because of various writings about it, so I’m not going to go into that right now.

Other Places the Dead May Go

In Norse mythos, there are plenty of places where the dead may go in an afterlife. Here are a few.

Rán’s Hall

Those who died and are lost at sea go to the goddess Rán (goddess of the sea) and stay in her hall. I have no idea what goes on there, but for some reason, I have the whole Pirates of the Caribbean images of sailors that have been turned into half-fishes and whatnot.  Now, this may just be my imagination, but you’ve got to wonder what it would be like living your life under the waves.

Helgafjell

This is a holy mountain where the dead reside. Those who have special abilities could look on the mountain and see the dead that inhabited it. Apparently it is a place for resting, a warm hearth, and good food and drink. People live the same way we do among the living, and appear to be very happy.

Asgard, Andlàngr, and Vídbláin

These three places within the Nine Worlds are three heavenly realms that reside in the world that Asgard sits. There are Nine Heavenly Realms within the world where Asgard sits where the spirits of the dead reside during and after Ragnarok.

Halls of Particular Gods

Lately, there’s been a lot of UPGs (Unverified Personal Gnosis) that certain people will go to different halls of the gods. There appears to be some precedence for this as Thor takes on two mortal children, Thialfi and Roskva, as bondservants after Thialfi lamed one of Thor’s goats. (I am certain there are other stories with humans serving the gods in their halls, but I digress.) There’s also the matter of the dead residing in Valhalla and Fólkvangr. I believe these UPGs are true, for the most part.  I’ve had a UPG with this as well. Certain people who serve certain gods are destined to dwell in their halls after death.

Also, there seems to be link between Alfar and the dead. Could Alfar (Elves) be the souls of humans who had died? In which case, Freyjr is lord of the dead as well.

Reincarnation

In Germanic Heathenism, we have stories of those who have been reincarnated after death. Usually this occurs in family lines, rather than outside one’s lines.

The Soul in a Heathen Context

Heathens don’t look on the soul or spirit as a single entity, but rather a multiple entities. I’m not going to go over them at this point because this piece is long enough, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll write about the different parts of the soul later and were each piece actually goes.

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When You’re Stumbling Around in the Dark

When You’re Stumbling Around in the Dark

Where the fuck did April go? I swear, it was just the first week when I promised myself to sit down and write.  Only there were plenty of distractions, most of them from working as a professional writer and a small-time rancher. Like predators entering the horse pen.  Or trying to avoid the bear coming around to investigate things. Or my computer of five years taking a crap.

To make matters worse, I’ve been wracking my brains trying to come up with a better writing strategy. To be blatantly honest, very little of what I write makes lots of money, whereas before as a professional writer I did okay and made a reasonable living.  Since that time, a lot of things in my life changed and I seriously need to do damage control after so many bad things occurred. I won’t get into the issues involved, but let me say that although some were self caused, many were just a run of bad luck.  So, like a good Heathen, I decided to take stock of what I could do.

When the Gods Offer Advice

For several months I felt like I was alone. Tyr and Skadi were there, but they felt aloof. I suspect it was more me than them. The gods talk to those of us who listen, but sometimes when your life is a shitstorm, it’s hard to feel them. And yet, during this time, I’ve had conversations with Tyr. Which suggests I’m really not alone in all this. Around the Spring Equinox, Freyr stepped into my life. Not in a big way, per se, but as a counselor of sorts.  He directed me toward an avenue of novel writing that I had been capable of doing before the bunch of ugly things happened. Namely writing a book every few months. A writing friend of mine accidentally pointed me in that direction and we had a very frank conversation about what they were doing in terms of writing books.

Freyr told me to take this route because it had worked for me in the past. Never mind that I hadn’t been able to sit and write every day (sometimes I don’t practice what I preach) and I certainly hadn’t been able to write 1000 words a day on a novel, let alone the 2000 words I used to crank out.

Consulting the Runes

After feeling particularly depressed after a hard day of writing, I sat down and consulted the runes. I do this often to center myself, but I hadn’t been centering myself lately.  I tried to put myself in a meditative state and tried to remember the Teiwas Shoat pattern. That didn’t happen and I didn’t feel like searching for a runes book or going online. Instead, I ended up doing two three rune readings with an overarching rune that tied the two readings together. The runes told me I would embark successfully on this new writing journey, but there would be ups and downs. No surprise there. And the over-arching rune? Why, Fehu, of course.

I then pulled out four runes, asking who was advising me. Of course.  It was Freyr and Tyr. The other two runes were a bit more murky, but I suspect one was Skadi and the other was Loki.

What We Can Learn from this

Our northern gods tend to be hands-off when it comes to our lives. Frustrating for those of us who were raised with the Christian god who never seemed to be personal even when that’s what he promised in his religion. Our gods can be very personal in our lives, but they’re not interested in controlling your life the way the Christian god does. This can be somewhat frightening when we’ve been treated like children most of our lives by one religion and then told to step up and put on the adult pants when we change to Heathenry. Yes. it can even be terrifying when you realize that prayer isn’t going to pay the rent, put food on the table, or better your life. Our gods are a resource of inspiration and yes, knowledge, we can tap into. They can comfort us or urge us to action, but they seldom get involved directly.

Our Gods Aren’t Vending Machines

One thing I’ve learned talking to Tyr is that he often gives me the space to reason out the problem. He may drop subtle or not-so-subtle hints as to how I should do something. (Now, Skadi has dropped animals in my lap while I’m hunting, so I can’t say she doesn’t take a keen interest in my success, but I feel that is her prerogative.) Freyr has been offering me advice too.  He has even pointed where I need to go to do what I need to do. That being said, our gods aren’t vending machines. Saying X number of prayers to them doesn’t give you a prize at the end. Giving gifts to them works up to a point. The god or goddess may do whatever the Hel he or she wants to do, whether or not it is in your interest and whether or not they accept your offering.

Have a Conversation with Your Gods

The gift for a gift is a nice thought, but I think it’s more important to have a conversation with our deities. When you have familiarity with the gods you ask help from, you’re more likely to get it than if you just approach a god out of the blue. For example, it’d be foolish for me to solicit Heimdallr for help even though he’s part of our pantheon. Why?  Because I don’t have a rapport with Heimdallr. I have more of a rapport with Loki than with him, oddly enough. But even though I do have a rapport with Loki, when I ask for help, it’s usually advice. I know his advice can be good or bad, and it’s up to me to determine what the trickster is actually saying. For advice, I trust Tyr, Thor, Freyr, Freyja, and Skadi. They’re pretty my go-to gods, but if it’s not in an area they have domain over, they will refer me to others to speak with. In that case, I know they’ve already at least introduced me to the god or goddess I need to talk with.

What to Do if You Don’t Hear the Gods

What if you don’t hear the gods like I do?  It’s a simple matter, really. Talk to the god you’ve had the most rapport and see if you get any feelings from them. The feelings may be your own, or they may be the god’s to let you know which way you need to go to solve the particular problem. Many times, it’s nonverbal cues. You might have someone show up who may have an answer to the problem, or you may get a sudden flash of insight. The main thing is to keep your mind open and look for opportunities, even when you feel there are none.

Anyway, I will write more here. I promise. Have you missed me?

5 Ways to Honor the Lesser Known Gods

5 Ways to Honor the Lesser Known Gods

One of the frustrating aspects of our religion is that, when it comes down to it, we only have a smattering of tales about our gods. Sure, we have the Poetic and Prose Eddas that tell us stories about the main gods and goddesses, but there are so many gods and goddesses we know next to nothing about. Sure, we have names and stations in our myths and legends, but unless it’s one of the big gods or goddesses, we hear little about them. But what do you do when one of the lesser know deities call you? Or the lesser known gods attracts you? How do you go about honoring them?

Research  the  Lesser  Known  Gods / Goddesses

If one of the lesser known gods / goddesses calls to you, chances are you’re probably researching them.  After all, if someone is knocking on your door, you probably want to know who they are before you let them in. No, not all gods, wights, and ancestors are good and beneficial to you.  Some are downright harmful, which means you really don’t want them in your life. Some are beneficial and some are neutral. Entering into any relationship with a god requires due diligence on your part. Just because Odin shows up at your door doesn’t mean you should open your arms wide without some reservations. Odin can be fickle and dangerous to those he chooses.  And this is a god we know quite a bit about by comparison to other gods in our pantheon; imagine knowing nothing about a god who shows up on your doorstep, literally or figuratively.

Start researching the god or goddess. You may have nothing more than a name, but you may be able to find out if they were worshiped or honored in a particular geographic area.  That may be able to give you more insight into the god or goddess.  Researching the god/goddess is an excellent way of honoring the deity.  You are showing interest in them now that they’ve caught your attention.

Create a Shrine to Them on Your Altar

Once you know something about the god or goddess whom you wish to honor, the next step is to create a shrine on your altar, if you have one, or someplace in your home, if you don’t.  It doesn’t have to be huge or ostentatious; something heartfelt that reminds you of the god or goddess works.  For example, on my own altar, I have pine cones and images of dogs to Zisa. (Many think she is Tyr’s/Ziu’s consort.) By having something that honors the god or goddess on your altar, you can be reminded that this deity has a special place in your heart.

Include the Deity in your Offerings and Blots

Naturally, if you are honoring a lesser known god/goddess, you’ll want to include them in your offerings and blots. This is just good practice, in general, but also to establish a rapport with the deity.  After all, if you’ve considered venerating them, it helps to offer them something they might like. Choose something within that god’s/goddess’s elements or something that is meaningful to you.  Either way, I think it’s a good way to establish a rapport with a deity.

Pay Attention to UPGs

There I go talking about Unverified Personal Gnosis again.  Unverified Personal Gnosis or UPGs, the bane of most recons, can give you insight into the god or goddess that you can’t get anywhere else. While you can’t claim UPGs as being the absolute truth, they can give you a foundation for worshiping the god or goddess and provide the backbone of a relationship. Because they’re personal, you can’t expect your UPGs to be considered fact, but they are ideal for your relationship with a god.

Do Works in their Name

Are there good causes your god or goddess would want you to work in? One of the ways you can offer something to them is to donate your time and effort towards something that would further their causes. For a nature god, try offering work to clean up forests or natural areas near you. A battle deity?  Try helping out veterans of the armed forces. A home or house deity? Donate goods or help cook meals for the poor.  The gods and goddesses will appreciate your efforts.

These are just some ideas I’ve had. Chances are you have a few as well.

Are the Norse Gods the Only Gods?

Are the Norse Gods the Only Gods?

On one of the myriad groups I occasionally hang out on, I noticed someone was asking if the Norse gods were the only gods.  In this world of monotheistic gods, it’s not as strange of a question as pagans would like to think.  Are the Northern deities the only gods out there?  And if they aren’t, what makes them better than any other gods?

Polytheistic Beliefs

First, let’s look at polytheism, as a whole.  There are basically two types of polytheistic beliefs: hard and soft.  If you’re a hard polytheistic believer, you believe our gods are individual and physical beings.  That Thor really rides a chariot pulled by two goats and Sunna drives the chariot of the sun, being chased by a wolf. You believe that Odin is really in human form and there are little demigods wandering around this Earth.

Soft polytheistic believers tend to believe the gods as archetypes.  They may believe the different pantheons are simply manifestations of a core pantheon.  Or they may believe that the gods are aspects to a single god.

What I Believe as a Polytheist

Before we get much further in my arguments, let me state my own position, so that there isn’t any confusion.  I tend toward a soft polytheistic belief of archetypes, BUT given that I have dealt with the gods directly, I believe that the gods can take forms we humans can see and interact with.  (They are, after all, gods.)  I also believe that at least in this Universe, our gods go by many names and manifestations, but they are the same gods wherever you go.

Now, that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about whether our gods are the only gods out there.

The Only Gods?

It’s common today to think that our way is the only way.  That our gods are the only gods.  In some ways, I’m sometimes tempted to think that route, but that’s wrong. That thought is a holdover from monotheistic beliefs. The history of Norse polytheism suggests that our ancestors didn’t consider the Norse gods to be the only ones.  We know that our Northern ancestors borrowed beliefs and gods from other pantheons and affected other pantheons, in kind. For example, the Kievan Rus worshiped the Slavic gods, which bear an uncanny resemblance in many ways to the Norse pantheon.  That’s not surprising, given that the Varangians, known as the Rus, came from the Norse lands and settled in Russia and other Slavic lands.

Not the Only Gods

We know that the Icelandic peoples worshiped Jesus alongside the Norse gods, given the Icelandic Cross/Thor’s Hammer.  It’s also suspected that the Vanir are a group of gods that got assimilated into the Northern pantheon sometime in the past, thus making the Aesir and Vanir to be two groups of gods that merged to give us our current pantheon.

So, given that the Norse weren’t picky about who they worshiped, if it fit their world view, they would have a tough time with the concept that the Norse gods were the only gods out there. I suspect the attitude changed with the appearance of monotheistic religions and their insistence on their god being the “one true god.” When someone tells you that your belief is all wrong and tries to persecute you, you can bet that push back is going to be that Odin is better.

Let’s Dig Deeper

But, let’s consider the evolution of religion to begin with.  Religions, whether polytheistic or monotheistic stem from the ancient roots of animism and then shamanism.  If you go back through the evolutionary time period for religion, you’ll see that we’re looking at a type of pantheism which eventually split out into a Proto-Indo-European main religion.  This religion eventually split off and morphed into the polytheistic religions of Europe.  The similarity between our god and other gods caused the Romans to refer to Germanic gods by Roman god names. I don’t think this  was an egotistical classification by the Romans, either.  The Romans certainly weren’t fond of Celtic and Germanic tribes.  For Romans to ascribe their own gods to ours would’ve suggested that the belief was similar.

So, if our religion is derived from an older religion, and our religion is closely related to other polytheistic religions, what does that mean for being the only true religion?  Since religion is derived from the same roots, our gods are similar to the other gods within the European pantheons.  Granted, we have cultural differences. If our gods are the same gods as those in the Celtic pantheon, the Roman pantheon, and the Slavic pantheon, then how can we hold up our gods and say they are the only gods?

What if They’re Not the Same?

Even if you don’t believe that the Norse gods aren’t other gods in other belief systems, the fact remains that most northern polytheists would readily accept a god or two from another pantheon. And if tribes met peacefully, if one god was similar enough to another, I could easily see our ancestors adding those stories to the legends. A good story, after all, is a good story.

The problem I have with separating out the gods from other pantheons is the roles they take on in nature.  Thor is the thunder god.  Does that mean that we must worship the Thunderbird because we’re in America and that is the creature of thunder here?  Does that mean that in Ireland there is only Taranis and not Thor?  Of course not.  Thunder and lightning are the same everywhere on Earth.  In fact, it behaves according to the laws of physics everywhere in this Universe, so one could potentially argue that Thor is a Universal god. Gerd is an Earth fertility goddess.  So is Demeter, Gaia, and a host of other goddesses. Again, the Earth is the Earth, despite its variations. What causes the crops to grow one area is the same as another. Again, physics.

If you’re a hard polytheist–which is getting pretty difficult to do in the face of science–you may decide that I’m full of shit and there really is only one Thor, one Tyr, and one Odin. But then, again, I think most of you who read this blog are tending toward soft polytheism anyway, with occasional forays into believing that the gods can take any form they choose. If it happens that Odin takes on Zeus’s form, so what?  If Thor is Perun to the Slavs, who cares?  In the end, they are our gods, and that is really all that matters.

 

 

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Celebrating Yule with Non-Heathen Family Members

Hunting season has drawn to a close, which means Yule is around the corner.  Suddenly, I’m going from Hunting to Yule once we celebrate Thanksgiving next week.  (Yeah, Thanksgiving gets preempted by hunting season.)  So, we celebrate Thanksgiving the week after.  After that, we’re in the few weeks before Yule, which means a busy time.

This year I told my non-Heathen, agnostic, mostly atheist, husband I wanted to celebrate Yule, too.  We were both raised in Catholic families (yeah, crazy) and we were both raised in the Christian tradition of Christmas. So, Yule will be somewhat new to him, and the prayers and offerings will be private.

Why I’m Keeping the Prayer and Offerings Private

Prayer and offerings are part of our beliefs, and yet, it can look strange to those outside of our religion. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my beliefs, it’s just that my husband doesn’t understand or believe in them.  Looking at it from an atheist perspective, I get it. It looks like a bunch of woo-woo to him and it can look like I’ve lost my marbles.  (Maybe I have?)  But I do get it.   Not everyone is going to look on our religion positively, which is why I’m presenting a more secular Yule to my family and not pushing my religion on those who aren’t interested in it.

Having grown up Catholic, the whole religious thing comes off as a way to either guilt someone or as a way to try to recruit them.  I don’t push my beliefs on someone who does not have them.

How I’m Planning to Celebrate Yule

One book I’ve found helpful in celebrating Yule is A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule.  It’s worth the four bucks on Amazon to buy the eBook, if you’re really looking for ideas.  It offered some good ideas for me, so it might come in handy to you too.  I’m also blending other celebrations we’ve had in the past.

December 20th — Mother’s Night

I’ve never really celebrated Mother’s Night, except perhaps by baking stuff.  Yes, I’ll be baking cookies and desserts to prepare for the upcoming Yule. I’ll also be offering my female ancestors gifts on my altar.  When cooking, I often go into meditation and focus on my ancestors.  Sometimes, I’ll hear the ones who were closest to me in my mind.  It is a day to honor them, so I do things that they would appreciate.  Usually involves holiday preparations.

The Christmas/Yule Tree will already be up because I think it’s too much to try to get it put up during this time.  Apparently people who put up their Yule trees during Yule don’t have time issues.

December 21st — Solstice/Yule

This is a big day for me.  I will designate a Yule log to burn in my woodstove.  If I can find good twine, I may make it prettier with pine boughs and pine cones. I will put together a venison roast for dinner and we will crack open a mead to celebrate.  I may try my hand at making a yule log cake.  In the late evening, I will hold a blot outside for the gods.  I will also leave gifts to Sunna, Mani, Baldr, Loki, Tyr, and Skadi on my altar.  I may gather the ashes from the Yule log later to smudge the corners of the house for protection.  I will read the runes for the Solstice to get a feel as to what is to come for the new year.

December 24th — Christmas Eve

My family celebrates Christmas Eve and Christmas as a secular holiday rather than a religious one.  Given that we’ll already have the Christmas Tree up, we have another big meal (usually a venison or antelope roast) and more mead.  We exchange presents and open them up.  Again, another blot for the gods and the wights.

I like the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve for reading.  This is something I’d love to incorporate in my Yule plans.

December 25th — Christmas

We visit relatives in town and deliver presents.  We then come home and have a feast (again).  This time, it will be roast goose.  Usually, I plan on a pork roast in honor of Freyr, but this year, we have a couple of geese in the freezer, so we’ll have a traditional Dickens type of dinner.

December 31st — New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve has never been a big thing with me.  Even so, I’ll probably wait for the New Year and offer a blot to the gods as a thank you for the good things that happened this year and a prayer for a better upcoming year.  I will then read the runes for the upcoming year again.  Often the runes’ message coincides with what I learned earlier.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day may see me perform a salt ritual to protect the home and farmstead.

My Yule is Low Key (but not Loki)

Yule will be low key, and I prefer it that way.  It’s 12 days of festivities and of those 12 days, I celebrate at least three with special meals. The blots I choose to do in private.  The offerings will go on my altar and will be either left there, if not perishable, or left outside, if perishable, once I am done with them.  Plenty of critters outside will partake of the scraps.

My prayers are more spontaneous, than anything.  They come from the heart, and I do not write them down.  The salt ritual too isn’t written down, but I call upon the wights to protect the dwelling and barn, and to discourage those wights intent on harm.  It does seem to make a difference.

Celebrating with Non-Heathen Family Members

Obviously all my family members are non-Heathen, so I adjust my Yule celebrations toward the secular as well. The offerings and prayers are done when they are asleep (easy for me to do), and with those family members whom I visit at Christmastime, I focus more on seeing them and making them happy, not the religious side.  After all, Yule is a family holiday, whether celebrating the ancestors, like on Mother’s Night, or simply getting together with family and friends on Christmas. I’ve learned to take everything in stride on holidays because getting worked up about them is too much stress for me.

Let me know what you do for Yule in the comments and let me know if there are any traditions you do that are special.

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How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

If you’re like me, chances are you have Christian relatives who celebrate some form of the Christian holiday of Easter. If you’re the only Heathen in your family, you may get an earful about what is considered the most holy time that Christians celebrate.  Still, unless you’re looking to cut ties with your family–and I don’t recommend that–you may be looking for ways to enjoy the Easter celebrations.  If you’re a Heathen who loves to get into fights with family members over Christian holidays, or at least not willing to put aside your differences for one or two days, this post isn’t for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get involved with minimal headaches.

Put Your Pride on the Back Burner (or Don’t be an Asshole)

Unless you have an extremely open-minded family/extended family, most of them are going to take a dim view of you not being Christian.  I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. They’ve been indoctrinated into the Christian belief system, and it’s unlikely you’re going to change their minds. You’re going to the Christian hell, and that’s all there is to it, (unless they can persuade you into the fold/back into the fold), and they really don’t get why you would worship pagan gods.  At this point, all you can do is grit your teeth and hope to get through the Christian talk without losing your cool.

That being said, understand that this is a Christian holiday, even if they took on the pagan trappings surrounding it.  Easter is considered to be more important to the Christian religions than Christmas, so realize that you are the outside here. It is you who is extended the olive branch, not them.  So, don’t expect for them to understand/accept you being Heathen in their most holy time.

Because this is their most holy time, mentioning the appropriation of Eostre’s holiday at the Easter dinner is probably not going to do you any favors. Yes, they eat ham, which honors Freyr, but let it slide. Yes, they decorate eggs.  Yes, they associate chicks and bunnies with Christ’s death and resurrection, but pointing out the incongruity of it all won’t cut it. If we want to maintain the peace in our celebrations, it is better to sit and listen rather than fight a foolish battle. This is their Easter–not ours, so let’s respect their religion, just like we’d want them to respect ours.

So, What Can You Enjoy?

At this point, you’re wondering what you can enjoy out of Easter.  There are a lot of cool things you can do and still be part of the Easter celebration.  Here are some of the things I recommend.

Egg Coloring

We color eggs for springtime, so there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy coloring eggs with your Christian family. Talking about spring and its renewal, as well as the cycle of life, is fairly safe.

Easter Egg Hunt

Why not hold an Easter egg hunt? Put together some of those plastic eggs and fill them with goodies. Hide them and watch as your family searches for them. You’ll all enjoy it.

Chicks and Bunnies

Whether live, toy, or simply drawings, the images of chicks and bunnies are pretty much safe territory.  You may want to talk about the Oschter Haws which was brought into Pennsylvania by German settlers. Avoiding the Urglaawe references, your Christian family may be delighted to learn that that’s where the Easter bunny who laid colorful eggs came from.

Easter Candy

Easter candy originates from clever marketing by candy makers in the 19th century to capitalize on an untapped market. There’s no reason for you to mention this, nor is there any reason why you can’t have some yummy candy in pagan symbols such as rabbits, chicks, and eggs.

Easter Brunch or Dinner

Never turn down a good feast, even if it’s in honor of a god you don’t follow.  All the trappings are Heathen, or at least, pagan, so enjoy spending time with family and friends. You may want to even bring some mead so your family may enjoy something a little different than the traditional grape wines. Toast to your family and to those family members who are no longer with you. You’ll be honoring the ancestors and still not offend your family.

Talk about Family, both Present and Past

Speaking of family, strike up a conversation about your family and your ancestors. Talk positively about them, or if someone in the family knows a particularly good story about an ancestor or a relative who is alive, encourage them to relay that story.  As the good Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

Listen to Your Family, Even if You Disagree with Them

If your family starts talking about Christianity, listen to them. You don’t have to agree with them, but when they tell you about their faith, they tell you about themselves. Ask questions. Ask why they believe what they believe, and don’t argue with them over their beliefs. You may discover that your mom believes in the Christian god because she finds comfort in a god who promises to care for her. Or your dad might actually not believe in the god but goes to church because the family does it. Or maybe your cousin is an atheist at heart.  You can learn a lot about your family just by listening.

Go to Church with them

This suggestion is somewhat dangerous when it comes to family, not because you’re likely to change your faith, but more likely because you may offend or get into an argument with a family member. Some Christians, most notably Catholics, have rules against participating in sacraments such as the Eucharist (the bread and wine) because they believe you must be of their denomination to participate. (It has to do with transmogrification, but that’s another long post.)

Why go to church with your family?  Well, first it puts you on the same page as your family members so if they discuss the sermon, you know what was said. Secondly, you can see Christianity with all its pagan influences.  Third, churches often have amazing artwork that is worth seeing.

Just sit and watch as they go through sitting, kneeling, and standing routines. Listen.  It may seem worthless, but in a way you are gathering intelligence about this religion. That way, you understand your family’s behavior a bit better.

Take Time Out for Our Gods, Wights, and Ancestors

I’ve given you ideas for keeping the peace with your Christian relatives.  But this isn’t about Heathenry, it’s about keeping the peace in your extended family. Before you join in the Easter festivities, make an offering to the gods, especially Frigga and Frau Holle, the wights, and your ancestors for a peaceful gathering. And thank them after the day for their help, especially if things went successfully.

Hopefully, I’ve given you ideas for staying sane around Christians during their holiday.  If, in the end, you do decide to try out some of these ideas, I’d be interested to learn how they worked out.

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The Dreaded Unverified Personal Gnosis

The Dreaded Unverified Personal Gnosis

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!

“Unverified personal gnosis” are code words for interacting with the divine. It can be something as simple as idea that we get that we think is “divinely inspired,” or it can be a full-on visit by a deity.  It’s “unverified” because nobody else experienced it, or we can’t hold it up to the light of science and measure it as “real.”  In fact, you could take the whole lot of UPG experience and claim we’re just a bunch of crackpots who are off our meds (or smoking way too much shit), and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with you.   It could be that, but some of the UPG I’ve experience was when I was stone-cold sober, and talking with gythias seem to confirm what I experienced.  So, I have one of two choices to consider: I’m crazy and this is all in my head, or this could have happened and I’m mostly sane.

The problem is how do you know?

Am I Crazy, or was that Thor?

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

A few months after Tyr approached me, I nearly died in an accident.  I’ll spare you the gruesome details but suffice to say I woke up in the hospital not remembering much except a bunch of convoluted dreams.  These dreams were actually reality–they happened. But they were unlike any reality that I experienced. For one thing, it took awhile for me to remember them or what may have happened.  To this day, I can’t say with any certainty what did happen precisely.  On the flip side, I remember some dreams better than reality — and that left me totally unnerved.  It still does, and that brought into sharp focus what reality exactly is: reality is how we perceive it. Our senses and our mind can be tricked at any time, and even at the quantum level, things can get weird and be perceived one way when we observe it and another way when we do not.

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.

Enter Loki, Stage Right.

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…

At one time, our religion had to have some sort of  UPG or it would’ve never existed. Humans did have to communicate with our gods somehow (or made up good stories about communicating with our gods) or we wouldn’t have Heathenry or Asatru today.  If we truly believe that our gods are living, then perhaps this is the way they communicate with us.

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.