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The Magic of Everyday Things

The Magic of Everyday Things

I was reading a post by John Beckett how Neil deGrasse Tyson told people that the lunar eclipses are unspectacular and he should just let people enjoy them. I happen to like listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast, and I like watching him on TV. While I haven’t verified Dr. Tyson’s comments, on first blush, I’d agree with John Beckett. Lunar eclipses, while fairly common, are indeed beautiful, and are part of the magic of everyday things.

The Magic of Everyday Things

But the post got me thinking about all the special things that happen day-to-day that we take for granted. Most of the time, we tend to use the words, “magical” to describe something special. Whether it’s a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a natural place, or some place out of the ordinary, we are quick to state there’s something “magical” about it. And while I’m not fond of the m-word, as many of my readers can tell you, I think it might be correct to use the term “magical” to describe that.

What is Magical?

At this point, you may ask what is magical? Do we simply swap the word “special” for “magical”? I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not, but I think it might be the case. While you and I can argue over the existence of magic, in the long run, it may be semantics. What I consider nature, you might find magic in it.

We can, however, agree that some things are indeed magical in appearence. A sunrise or sunset. A special place within nature. Or maybe a lunar eclipse. Does it matter if we understand the underlying cause for what we find beautiful or awesome? I still get amazed by the rainbow or by the night’s sky, nevermind that I know how a rainbow is formed and what makes up the night’s sky. Knowing that the sun’s particles hitting the Earth’s magnetic field doesn’t make me want to see an aurora any less. There is  beauty even when we know about the thing.

The Wonder of Our World

When I look at our world, it brings me all sorts of wonder. We’re special when it comes to our universe. Our universe had to have just the right laws for stars, galaxies, and life to form. A little too much gravity, or changes to the mathematical constants, and we wouldn’t exist. It’s kind of like our planet. We know life came about because certain factors came together to produce it.

Scientists can only speculate why things happened the way they did. As pagans, we accept that the gods have had a hand in things, because we essentially won the lottery when it came to existence. Of course, if we didn’t exist, we wouldn’t know we lost, so the point is moot.

But the world wasn’t created for us to enjoy–we benefit from the gods’ desires to create. We know that we aren’t the only lifeforms in this world–that we share with other creatures, both sentient and nonsentient. We understand that what we do affects our world in some way. And as we continue to grow and become greater in our mastery over our world, we recognize that we can improve or damage nature and our world–a world we did not create.

Do I Believe in Intelligent Design?

The word “intelligent design” is a concept that the Christians use for belief in their creation stories. While I believe that the gods may have had a hand here and there tweaking our world, I believe that we evolved from lower forms of life. I don’t for a second believe that the gods came from the ice rime licked by a cow, unless somehow this is a metaphor for what actually happened. I don’t think Odin and his brothers fashioned humans from fallen logs, unless you think of it as some metaphor for evolution. We have so much garbage in our genetic code and many serious genetic issues that it certainly doesn’t suggest that anyone intelligent actually designed us.

So no, I don’t believe in intelligent design, even if our gods set forth the laws and the mechanism  behind evolution. Call my cynical.

But Life, Itself, is Magic

As creatures of this world, we can’t help but look around us in wonder. Whether you see the glorious mountains, a stormy sea, a brilliant blue sky, or a meadow full of wildflowers, each are a gift for us to marvel at. Have you ever been somewhere that was so perfect in your mind that you couldn’t help but stand back in wonder? Maybe it was the feel of the breeze on your skin, the melody of the birds, the scent of wildflowers, or the stillness of the forest. That moment when you felt it: wasn’t it perfect? Yes, if you’ve felt it, you know what I’m talking about.

So, enjoy the lunar or solar eclipses. Welcome Mani at night and Sunna during the day. Wonder at the rainbow. Watch the stars and pay attention to the meteor showers. Connect with the other denizens on earth — the plants, animals, and everything else. Because there is magic in that. Magic in living.

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Technology and Magic

Technology and Magic

I finally acquiesced to being old. Okay, maybe not that far, but I realize I need help. I can’t write as fast as I used to. That’s probably because of accidents I’ve had in my misspent youth, which means that I can’t really type that fast.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve always been a slow typist.

The Dead Type Faster Than I Do

This guy types faster than I do.

I had a coworker once claim that the only people who can type slower than I can, is the dead. And since I’m not a necromancer, nor do I know any necromancers around, I can truly say that that has never been tested. So, I constantly say that the dead type faster than I do. It elicits chuckles, but it is a definite problem when you’re a writer.

Being a Slow Typer and a Prolific Writer

You would think that being a slow typer and a prolific writer would be mutually exclusive. Au contraire. The truth is I never had a typing course. Of course, my mom wanted me to take typing in school, but I decided that taking a typing course in high school was the equivalent of acquiescing to a secretarial job. That was something I had no desire to do.

But, I didn’t really think about how much I would type as a software engineer, which was originally my chosen profession. If I had been thinking straight — and who think straight when their 15 to 18 years old? — I would’ve realized that taking Typing I would have been useful for writing programs.

Sending Typewriters to the Graveyard

Welp, my typewriters were never this bad.

Furthermore, as a budding author, I had already burned up at least two home typewriters. It got so bad that my dad ended up getting an old style IBM Selectric. (Not the cool IBM Selectrics that we still see occasionally in offices. Oh no, this was one with a movable carriage return. If I had thought it wasn’t cool at the time, it still managed to outlast my budding attempts at authorship. It managed to survive at least one poorly written novel, and maybe another one. I don’t remember, because it was that long ago.

Word Processors and Computers

The goddess of obsolescence and all the computers my coworkers bought for thousands of dollars.

You would think once I was out in the real workforce, I would buy a computer. Ah, you’re assuming that I actually lived during a time when computers were relatively inexpensive. Ha!

As a software engineer, I was making $27,000 a year, which was average for a new hire. IBM ATs, and eventually XTs, ran in the thousands of dollars. Like four or $5000. If you compare what I made to how much a brand-new IBM would cost, which didn’t have any of the nifty apps that we have nowadays, and had to be programmed in Basic for the most part, you can see my reticence for purchasing one.

I think you could also program them in assembly language, which wasn’t particularly fun to do. Plus quite honestly, why the fuck would I program at home, when that was what I was doing at work?

So, when Brother word processors became a thing, I wrote several articles and even a couple of books on one.

Why I’m Telling You All This

Dragon explaining how I’m doing it wrong.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I’m taking you on a boring trip down memory lane. It’s because after several times of using Dragon NaturallySpeaking on various computers, I’ve ended up with a subscription on an app on a tablet.

And it seems like fucking magic. Except when you try to have it say the word, “Fuck.” Dragon NaturallySpeaking seems to have an aversion to swear words. Which is bucking cool. Buck buck buck. — See what I mean?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking used to be meh when it came to figuring out words. Now, it’s positively brilliant.

And this is when technology has bridged the gap to magic.

When Technology can be Mistaken for Magic

Just me taking my Orcs out for a walk.

At this point, you’re saying that magic is magic and technology is technology. I’d agree with you, except throughout history, humans have always depicted their gods with the same technology they use. Case in point: armor, weapons, clothing, and household goods. Our gods’ abilities seem to coincide with ours, with the exception of “magic.”

Could it be, we depict our gods’ the way we can only understand at that time given the current level of technology, and not really how are gods are? It’s an interesting thought.

When we depict our gods, we depict them as creatures from a thousand years ago. And yet, are we to say that we as humans are more technologically advanced than the Nordic gods? That are gods don’t have access to technology that we do? Do we depict Thor with Viking weapons and armor, or maybe it would be better to depict him with full battle-rattle and an AR-15? Mjolnir as a rifle? OMGs.

To take this further — are Idun’s apples are actually some type of longevity medicine? Do the gods ride in cars instead of chariots? Freyja in a Jaguar; Thor in a GTO? Hugin and Mugin are drones for Odin? I mean, I can go on and on with this.

And if I’ve made your brain hurt, that’s okay. Because what the flock? Uh, I mean…buck. I mean FUCK!!

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When the Rational Heathen Opens a Book on Witchcraft

When the Rational Heathen Opens a Book on Witchcraft

Okay, those of you who have read my stuff know I’m a skeptic when it comes to witchcraft and Magick. (‘Magick’, of course, is the fancy-smancy word for ‘magic,’ because apparently Aleister Crowley thoughts magic had too few letters.

That being said, I’m open-minded when some people tell me I can make myself rich with some spells. Or maybe attract deer during hunting season. Or maybe give my evil neighbor the idea that he really should run off and join the circus, selling his home to some nice people instead.

Heathen Magic

We Heathens are pretty low on the magic and witchcraft meter. Sure, we do divination with runes, but I’ve pretty much decided that it’s not magic, but tapping into the gods and our subconscious minds. We have seidr–and I’m not entirely sure about that. But we also have cool stories of shapeshifters and people performing magic. Not to mention all the curses, spells, ward runes, bindrunes, witchcraft, and other cool shit.

But I can’t help but check out witchcraft books. After all, maybe they’ve got something that could help. At least have money rain down on me. That, my friends, is a worthy spell that I could believe in.

So, I checked out a book under Kindle Unlimited, because yes, I’m cheap and I honestly have already thrown my money at Amazon. It’s called The Spell Book for New Witches: Essential Spells to Change Your Life by Ambrosia Hawthorn.

Which Witch?

Billie Burke and Judy Garland The Wizard of Oz (1939)So, apparently in this book I “borrowed” using my Kindle Unlimited subscription, there’s more than one type of witch. I sort of knew that there were necromancers, Brujas, Voodun, and hedge witches (as well as witches that practice certain forms such as Gardnerian) from my research as a fantasy/science fiction writer, but this book actually broke it down for me.

Apparently there are the following:

  • Elemental Witch
  • Secular Witch
  • Hedge Witch
  • Eclectic Witch
  • Traditional Witch (which has many other subgroups)

And I’ve heard of others, so I think that this book gives a general idea of the types of witches.

So, How Does Magic Work?

Being mostly allergic to the thought that magic actually exists, I try to keep an open mind on this stuff. The explanation I got was that magic comes from things like persons, moonlight, sunlight, crystals and rocks, and nature. Your intent manipulates this stuff. So, you just have to focus your intent to make things happen.

Hmm…

So, if I wish really, really hard, I can get a pony? <cough>

Or maybe I can wish my neighbor would sell his house and leave?

When You Need Extra Stuff to Get the Job Done

Apparently you need herbs, candles, crystals, and stuff to focus your energies to get shit done. I don’t understand why if the magic is built on intent, that someone could just cast a spell without all the extraneous stuff. But hey, I’m not a witch.

Maybe people who do this stuff aren’t as focused on shit as I am. Or maybe the sellers of witchy-type goods need to stay in business. Who knows?

If Wishes Were Horses

There’s an old saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Now, I’m not discounting will and intent when it comes to having power, but really, there are a lot of people in this world who wish they could have something that they don’t. Every time I was successful in my life, it wasn’t some sort of magic that brought me there. Instead, it was a plan and a lot of hard work.

That being said, sometimes you catch a lucky break. But I would argue that every time I had a lucky break, I had been “in the neighborhood” figuratively speaking, to get that lucky break. Some shit that has shown up “out of the blue” had seeds planted months, or even years, before. Lot of luck is being in the right place at the right time. Just ask any hunter. You seldom find deer in metro areas — or rather, deer you can shoot, other than with a camera.

So, I’ll let you know how this goes. Maybe I’ll just make several million dollars off of this.

Nah…

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Handwringing and Hecate

Handwringing and Hecate

Ah the joys of Samhain and the muddled mix of goddesses and pantheons that the Wiccans bring.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m a person who believes the Heathen gods and goddesses are the same as gods and goddesses with different names in other pantheons.  However, there are differences and I’m not into simply playing the mix-and-match game that many pagans do.

Is the Rational Heathen Against Following Other Gods?

Now here’s where my beliefs get tricky.  I get that sometimes we get a call from other gods and goddesses, and I am not one to tell you whether to follow them or not.  Chances are, if they’re helpful to you, you’re going to follow them.  And you may add them to the list of gods and goddesses you follow.  Our Northern ancestors were egalitarian in that way.  The god helped you out?  Well, follow him until he’s less than helpful.

No, what I object to is the blatant mishmash of religions and customs that integrate the gods willy nilly, without respect for each culture and pantheon.  That smush Zoroastrianism with Celtic beliefs and call it good.  Or that brings in Christian, Egyptian, and Norse gods and beliefs together in a type of melange that is quite unpalatable.

Look, I get that many religions are closely related. You want to borrow from them?  Fine.  But don’t tell me the Artemis/Hecate/Selene trio is Mani (who happens to be male).  Or that a ritual you mashed together from Greek and Roman practices for Hecate works for Freyja.  (It might; it might not.)  This is your UPG, and very few Heathens are likely to concur with your interpretation.  I am more open to Slavic and Germanic gods and goddesses crossing over than Middle Eastern deities combining with Nordic gods.

Why Halloween/Samhain?

Samhain was the Celtic/Gaelic new year which is a lot like our Yule (which, incidentally, the Wiccans also celebrate.)  Harvest was an important time for them, and Wiccans believe that the veil between the living and the dead thins during this time.  Yule, on the other hand, deals with the the darkest times of the year, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, which is more in turn with the concept of the “Veils.”

Incidentally, my mom died during Yule. I don’t necessarily feel her presence at that particular time, mainly because she manages to get inside my head a lot, but it is certainly a noteworthy occurrence.  The colder, darker days are deadlier toward animals, which suggests to me that we may have a closer handle on when the living and the dead have more contact.

I give you all my explanation for Halloween and Samhain in another post, so I’m not going to run through the entire litany here. Given that Halloween is a Christian celebration, it is something that simply doesn’t do much for me.  I’ll probably celebrate a harvest festival, using the days after hunting season to celebrate what I will call Hunting Harvest/Thanksgiving as a way to celebrate a good hunt.

Mixing Pantheons

I sort of look at Wiccans who follow the Northern gods as “Heathen Lite.”  They’re a type of Heathen, to be sure, but when you mix different systems, you can’t help but lose some of the authenticity.  If you’re a Wiccan, I mean no insult.  I like people who are Wiccans as much (and sometimes more) than some Heathens I know.  Even so, you’re in Wicca for the magic and witchcraft.  I get that.  We have our own (ahem) “magic,” but it isn’t necessarily the spell variety.  In fact, it’d be nice if Heathens did court the Wiccans to get some of their numbers in ours.  (I guess we won’t do that by calling them “Heathen Lite,” eh?)

If you’re a Wiccan and you’re interested in our gods, talk to a Universalist Heathen and you might just be surprised how much we do have in common, even if we’re not into mixing our gods that much.  You just might find our gods and goddesses are powerful and may help you more than others.

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Using the Magic in Nature and the Seasons

Using the Magic in Nature and the Seasons

Oh my god!  I said the “M” word!  Does that mean I’m going to talk about…GULP…Magic?  Well, yes, and no.  I want to talk about changes in the seasons and how you can recognize them long before most people do.  Which means maybe not magic, but more observation and perhaps a bit of empathy.

Let me explain.

Recognizing the Rhythms of Your Land


Regardless of whether you live in the country or the city, in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, or in the Americas or “across the pond,” the land you live in has its own rhythm, its own wights (and I use that term loosely), and its own timing.  Back when I lived further south in the Rocky Mountains, it took me forever to recognize this–mainly because I wasn’t a Heathen then and I had other concerns which took up a good deal of my attention.  Back when I was younger, the weather, the climate, and the land were simply distractions from day-to-day living.  Now, I realize that day-to-day living is a distraction from the weather, climate, and the land.

Look, you don’t need to become a tree hugger or run around naked in the forest to connect with nature.  (However, if that’s what you do to get your rocks off, that’s none of my business.)  It involves changing your viewpoint and paying more attention to the natural occurrences that surround you (even in the city.) Changing your viewpoint isn’t that hard, but it does require mindfulness.  This is why I often recommend mindfulness training to those who are getting started in Heathenry.

Mindfulness as Magic

If there’s a form of magic I do believe in, it has to do with mindfulness.  Seriously, it’s something everyone can do and it will help discipline your mind enough to deal with the stress of modern life.  I recommend a book called Mindfulness for Fidgety Skeptics if you’ve never done this before. I get a small stipend from Amazon if you buy it through the link. You support this website if you use the link, so I would appreciate it if you use it.  Even if I didn’t get some money through this, I’d still recommend the book.

What You’ll Discover Paying Attention to the Land

Being mindful and paying attention to the land opens a whole new world of experiences you never knew existed.  You start noticing not only the cooler temperatures of autumn setting in, but also the increase or decrease in humidity that follows the change.  Maybe you start seeing stratus clouds and high cirrus replace the fluffy cumulus.  Maybe you see a shift in the bird population, the increase or decrease of certain insects, or even the shift in the quality of light you get.  Instead of noticing the latest fall fashions creeping into people’s wardrobes, you notice how the squirrels are moving from tree to tree to gather food.  You may see different species of birds.  If you live in a place with deer, you may see a shift in their foraging.

At night, you may see a change in the constellations–if the light pollution isn’t too bad. If you live in wildfire country like I do, you can actually see if there are new wildfire starts nearby just by the color of the moon, often before the news picks it up.

How This Makes You a Better Heathen

At this point, you may be wondering how this makes you a better Heathen.  Let’s think about this a bit: our gods and the landvaettir are nature entities.  Even Odin, who is our creator god, deals with natural forces.  (How much more natural is the creation of life?)  So, we’re looking at gods who reside over nature.  By paying attention to things not human made, we gain a deeper understanding in the world around us.  You become a better Heathen, and you even open yourself up to the wights and gods.  It may or may not be a type of magic, but I know it works.

How to Communicate with the Gods

That’s one thing about being a Heathen a lot of Heathens miss.  You see, you can get close to the gods without all the mumbo-jumbo.  In fact, I suspect it’s the best way to get in touch with the gods.  You don’t get a conversation with the gods from mumbling prayers or sacrificing goats usually.  You get that from opening yourself to them and seeing who pops up.  That requires paying attention to them and listening to what they have to say.

If you’re not receptive to the gods unless Thor takes a hammer to you and smacks you silly, you’re unlikely to hear them.  That does happen to the most dense of us and it is quite unpleasant.  Trust me when I say you will really get shaken out of your reality when the gods do that.  It will make you question your overall sanity, unless you’re already bat-shit crazy.  Now, it’s a lot easier to deal with because I’m more in tuned with them, but for a while it was fucking nuts.

I hope I’ve given you some things to think about.  Let me know what you think.

 

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

11.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

12.
Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

13.
A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

14.
Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?

Rune Casting

Rune Casting

I’m a rune caster.  I’ve given some pretty amazing castings that were spot on, which is why I’m going to talk to you about them.  Everything within my scientific brain says they shouldn’t work.  And yet, everything I’ve experienced seems to point in the direction that the runes do work.  I once asked a friend who was getting his degree in Physics why it seemed to work.  He shrugged and told me that it was probably just the ambiguity of the runes.


He might be right.  What’s more, it’s likely that subconsciously my brain keeps track of the rune stones and how they feel.  So, when I do a reading, I’m actually tapping into my subconsciousness.

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