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The Ukraine Invasion, or the 800-Pound Bear in the Room

The Ukraine Invasion, or the 800-Pound Bear in the Room

By the time you see this post, it’s likely the whole Ukraine invasion will have resolved itself one way or another. While I am staunchly in Ukraine’s corner, I have a terrible feeling that without the US putting boots on the ground, (or at least providing air support), that Russia will have a huge smoldering hole where the country of Ukraine was. Call me pessimistic, but I’ve been amazed the Ukrainians have held out as long as they have. They are one tough people.

A Madman with Nukes

The reason the US hasn’t gotten involved to a level greater than we already have with the Ukraine invasion is because we’re dealing with a madman with his finger on a very large arsenal of nuclear weapons. Putin’s saber rattling has to be taken seriously because we really don’t know how unstable he is.

At least when we were dealing with the USSR, we knew that the Soviets didn’t want to use their nukes as much as we didn’t.

History is Repeating Itself with the Ukraine Invasion

“Nazis. I hate Illinois Nazis.”

The Ukraine invasion feels like another invasion that happened about 83 years ago. At that time, another totalitarian regime attacked a smaller country while the world stood by and watched. Emboldened by the West’s response, that totalitarian asshole attacked and conquered other nations because nobody was willing to stand up to him.

You probably know that I’m drawing parallels between Hitler and Putin, and Poland and the Ukraine. This isn’t that big of a stretch. Whether they’re Nazis or Vlad’s Russians, the situations are striking similar. Sure, the Nazis were more motivated, but honestly, do you really expect Putin to stop with Ukraine? He sure as shit didn’t with the Crimea.

War Gods and War

If you look at our gods, you see quite a few war gods and goddesses. Odin, Freyja, Thor, and Tyr were all considered gods of war at one point or another. Cases could be made for other gods and goddesses as well. Because Northern peoples–in particularly Vikings–seldom lived past fifty years old. Dying from old age was rare. More likely you would die from disease, accidents, or war. Since war was likely due to the migration from Scandinavian countries, it makes perfect sense that the promise of going to Valhalla that much more desirable. Our gods were not only gods of nature, but gods of war. They had to be because war ruled our ancestors’ lives.

Why We Need to Dial Back the Russian War Machine

Nowadays, we live longer lives. Most of the time, those of us in the first world aren’t dealing first hand with the horrors of war. Sure, we sent soldiers to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and other wars, but since WWII, Western nations have been at relatively, if not uneasy, peace. These wars didn’t affect our countries like they do with an actual invasion. Sure, there have been invasions and wars throughout Europe, mostly due to the Soviet Union and later, Russia, but the death toll and suffering has not been the same since WWII.

I’m not marginalizing the seriousness of other invasions and war across the globe. Syria, Georgia, Gaza, Lebanon, Somalia…the list of human suffering just within the 21st Century is staggering. But, Ukraine is different in one crucial way: it is the beginning of Putin’s attempt at bringing the borders of the USSR back to its pre-Berlin wall days. That means if Ukraine falls, it opens the Russian dictator towards other countries. And I doubt seriously that Putin will stop at the USSR borders.

The Cold War and Nuclear Threats

Sure, I lived under the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War. Yeah, I remember the whole bullshit “duck and cover” thing, as well as air raid drills. Honestly, I was too young to understand fully the ramifications of the drills; just like I had no idea that those drills wouldn’t have saved my life if we were hit with a nuclear bomb.

My first job out of college was working on nuclear missiles. The Cold War still existed and the threat was always there, but neither the US nor Russia really wanted to start armaggedon. After Reagan survived his assassination attempt, he was convinced he should work toward fewer nukes. The nukes I worked on had more warheads, but fewer missiles. Semantics, really.

But I understood the nuclear missiles were a deterrent. It was unlikely the US or the USSR would launched at each other. There were enough sane people in both camps to decide the risks of destroying both countries, let alone the planet, were too great.

Dealing with a Madman Sending Troops into Ukraine

I knew Putin was a thug and an asshole, but I hadn’t thought of him as a madman. But I should’ve known with the poisoning of Alexander Livinenko, Putin had no decency. Other high profile poisonings include Ukrainian presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko; Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny; and double agent, Sergei Skripal.  This is a man who will stop at nothing to harm his enemies and critics.

It should surprise no one that Putin has had his people violate their ceasefire and attack civilians without remorse. Attacking children’s and maternity hospitals won’t even register with him because he is clearly a sociopath, and quite possibly a psychopath.

To be quite frank with you, the end game has me scared. The thought of another world war–probably with nukes–should terrify any sane person. But if we fail to stand up to Putin now, we will have a bigger problem in the not-so-distant future.

If you wish to send sunflower seeds to the Russian Embassy in solidarity with the Ukrainians, their address in Washington DC is: Embassy of Russian Federation, 2650 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007.

If you want to help the Ukrainians, consider donating to one of the charities mentioned here.

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Shit! The Runes DO Work

Shit! The Runes DO Work

Fucking freaky. Occasionally the Runes remind me I’m not just screwing around. Like the time when I asked them who was guiding me with the runes and they spelled out Thor’s name and gave me Tyr’s rune.

The Beginning…or Why I Consulted the Runes

The gods know I could use help. My pagan series has been going along just fine, but money is always something I need. This is how they decided to help me, and the rune reading associated with it.

Some Background

As you may know, I read a lot of pagan and nontheist blogs. After reading another pagan’s blog, I was reminded I need to provide more consistent offerings. So, I chose the thing that is near and dear to my heart: tea. The gods gets the first cup in the morning, or when I refresh the tea leaves, once weekly. Preferably on Tuesday, because Tyr.

Weekly Offerings

I’m still new at this regular offering thing, but with the exception of providing the offering a day late, and the little matter of my spouse using the offering bowl for salsa (ahem), it seems to be going okay. I pretty much just offer the tea. No pleas for the winning lotto ticket, or anything like that. Oh, maybe a thank you for keeping us relatively healthy, and a generic, “please keep us safe” kind of thing. I don’t do ceremonies or make lofty speeches. I figure they know what I need probably better than I do.

Email Out of the Ether

So, a few days ago, I got an email from a publisher. That makes me sound much more important than I am, so don’t be too impressed. Anyway, a publisher wanted me to work on a project provided that their Powers-That-Be approved the proposal. It’s an update of some work I did more than fifteen years ago.

Where’s the Work?

So, I panicked because I had no idea where the original work ran off to after so many years and computer deaths. All I can say is thank the gods for PC Mover. Despite me not wanting to move everything to my new computer, that’s what it did. Again. And again. And again. The original documents were on my hard drive, passed along from computer generation to computer generation. Which means I have copies on at least four hard drives. And now, Dropbox.

Consulting the Runes

At this stage, I was somewhat ambivalent about what I should do. My pagan urban fantasy series is going well, and even my spouse thinks it’s time for me to focus on it. But…the amount I could bring in for four months of Hel might be worth it. I suspect that the work offer had to do with my offerings, but I wasn’t sure. I needed to consult the runes. Big time.

My Reading — I Shit You Not

First Rune: Matter Under Consideration: Ansuz

Ansuz means message, writing, and language. Sometimes from the gods.

Second Rune: What will affect the matter. Either positive or negative: Gebo

Gebo means gift and partnership. Something given in exchange for a partnership. Business or personal.

Third Rune: Upcoming elements. Outcome: Eihwaz

Eihwaz is a rune of defense, protection. Can be associated with good outcomes. I stared at the first two runes and wondered about Eihwaz. It suggests that I need to go carefully into this. But it is likely to be positive.

I asked for clarification and pulled the rune Uruz.

Uruz is strength, but it can also mean upheaval in some ways. Yeah, taking this project on will definitely change things. But again Uruz is usually a good sign for me.

Why I Got Freaked Out

When it comes to the first two runes, the reading was spot on. I mean it’s about a writing project and a partnership. The Eihwaz simply tells me to be careful, which I know, dealing with publishers. For someone who reads the runes, having the runes spell out what was going on was freaky. It’s almost as if the gods said, “look you skeptic, we’re going to make this ridiculously clear so even you can understand.” In other words, every time I try going agnostic, a god hits me over the head with reality. Sheesh. You think I’d learn.

Then, Eihwaz

I was about to leave this on a positive note, but then the publisher decided to lowball me. Well, Eihwaz is once again spot on. So, I don’t know. But I do know the runes work, when asking questions that are important. I’ve occasionally got a garbled mess when I’m unfocused, but often it has to do with another matter that is more pressing in my life. So, I wait and see. Maybe they come back with a sane offer, maybe not. Maybe the gods just wanted to remind me not to be agnostic.

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An Insult to Tyr: the Attempted Coup

An Insult to Tyr: the Attempted Coup

Like many of you,  I watched in horror as the Trumpets broke into the Capitol building,  violating laws, and making an attempted coup to keep the Don as dictator.  I saw white supremacists, people wearing anti-Semitic messages including an Auschwitz t-shirt,  and a guy sporting Heathen tats who got a lot of press. I was so angry and frustrated I could do nothing to stop these morons from desecrating the very symbol of the US democracy.

Where I Stand, So You Know

I’ve been accused of being liberal and conservative. The truth is, I’m closer to being Centrist. That means, I have both liberal and conservative tendencies. I hated both candidates, to make it known. In fact, I voted for neither. There are reasons why I didn’t like Biden, and why I didn’t like Trump. In fact, I find them both too extreme for my taste. So, understand what I’m about to say comes primarily from the viewpoint of why I believe the march on the Capitol building was no less then an act of sedition.

Why this was an Insult to Tyr

The Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, considered itself the champion of the rule of law. Now, you can argue about that all you want, but the march clearly showed otherwise. Tyr, as you know, is the god of law. That means he is the champion of the rule of law. No question.

This was a total insult to the god of laws. Tyr would have found those bearing the Valknut, Yggdrasil, and Mjolnir on their skin at the rally to be an insult. These people were nothing more than armed insurrectionists, looking to overthrow the legal results of an election using fear and intimidation.

Anything but Lawful

What happened during that march and subsequent riot was anything but lawful. Lots of Trump’s followers seem to have drank the Kool-Aid when it comes to the explanation the far-right is giving. That it was a peaceful march. That the problem occurred with law enforcement and the Capitol Police.

The reality is that what happened wasn’t legal. It was a fucking attempted coup. According to credible news reports, the rioters were looking for Vice President Pence and members of Congress to lynch. They had a working gallows in front of the Capitol, for fuck’s sake. Five people died and many more injured. All whipped up by none other than Donald Trump. None of this would have happened if Trump had not encouraged these people to march on the capitol. Seriously, did anyone really think that this would go well?

These people damaged the Capitol building. They desecrated what should be considered a sacred area for democracy. They also have harmed the United States, possibly irreparably, in the world opinion. We went from being a world leader to a Banana Republic in the matter of one day. And yeah, Trump is to blame for this.

Why We as Heathens Need to Speak Up Now

Whether you voted for Trump, Biden, or Obi-Wan Kenobi (He’s our only hope), the election process was not rigged. Each state has their own people handling the voting process, and many, many people work hard on the Republican, Democrat, and other parties’ sides to ensure a safe and secure election. Every time I voted in the past, I saw volunteers who worked hard in the past to ensure my vote was counted.

The same thing happens all over the United States. It’s part of representative democracy in action. Trump’s allegations of voter fraud were unfounded by people in his own party. These are people who he put into place who swore a duty to uphold the Constitution. Not pander to Trump or only uphold the Constitution when it was in Trump’s favor.

Not once did Trump or his legal counsel offer proof that there was widespread voter fraud. Instead, we heard allegations, lies, and half-truths. Only after his own aids begged him to make a statement to try to calm the crowd hours after the attempted coup started did he offer a lukewarm statement—neither condemning the actions nor stating he was wrong.

It’s Too Late to Hope this All Goes Away

Hope is not a plan. Whether you like it or not, we Heathens just got a black eye for tolerating this Nazi and white supremacist bullshit shit far too long. Don’t think so? Check out the Rolling Stone article. Quibble all you want about “how they got this wrong,” or “they got that wrong,” the truth doesn’t matter a flying fuck in the face of popular perceptions. (Yeah, a follower of Tyr just said that—deal with it.)

What now matters is that those of us who aren’t white supremacists and Nazis need clean house. That means ZERO TOLERANCE for morons who speak like white people are superior to everyone else and who supported this attempted coup.  Kick them out of your hof; end their membership in your organization. As a follower of Tyr, I found the whole attempted coup insulting, especially when paired with the images of the Valnut, Yggdrasil, and Mjolnir. These people failed to follow the rule of law. This is not what Heathenry stands for. And we as Heathens should decry their behavior.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. I’m Human. I’ll sling mud at other religious beliefs with the best of them, but by the gods, I look at everyone of different ethnicities as human, no matter what their skin color is. And I don’t believe that anyone who believes differently should be physically harmed for their ideals, provided that they’re not harming others. Their (and my) rights to swing their fists ends where someone’s body begins. Murder is not an option.

I’m sorry this is a late post, but I really had to think about what I was going to say in response to this failed coup. If you’re a Heathen, Norse pagan, or whatever, now is the time to stand up for democracy and freedom, not totalitarianism and anarchy. Add your voice to those of us who already believe in equality under the law, in the rule of law, and in keeping the peace along with our elected representatives. Don’t stay quiet, or the assholes have won. Let the world know what Heathenry really is about. It’s about laws, justice, and speaking up when we see a wrong. Violence is not what we are.

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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