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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?

Prayer Only Goes So Far

Prayer Only Goes So Far

Prayer.  Its power is something a lot of people take for granted when something bad happens. People pray for their god or gods to make things better when something bad happens. Or they pray to whatever wights and spirits in the hopes that things will improve.   Prayer gives people a sense that they are doing something to change the situation.  But, they’re not.  Not really.

The Wild Hunt Article

I was reading a Wild Hunt article about Native Americans and pagans “healing” the waters of Lake Okeechobee.  Long story short, members of the Indigenous peoples and pagans there are walking around the entire length of the lake (the second largest freshwater lake in the contiguous US) and praying for the waters to heal, and hopefully forgive humans for causing the damage to the ecosystem.

Some Explanation Before I Continue

Now, before I get into my rant, let me first say that I have the utmost respect for the Native Americans.  These people have been treated horribly–and are still being treated horribly–by the United States government. These people have, in many cases, been stripped of their culture, language, and religion, not to mention their freedom and their lives. Even into the 1950s and 1960s, children were being stolen from their parents, put in orphanages, and then sold to white people for a mere donation.  I’ve known plenty of people with Native American ancestry and I respect them highly.  What was done to their people is unconscionable.

This post is not questioning whether their beliefs are “right” or “wrong,” but rather the methodology being used to “fix” the problem.  The problem is quite real and it affects people, both Indigenous and those from other ancestry.

Continuing onward…

Lake Okeechobee and its Problems

Okay, I get that there’s a problem with Lake Okeechobee and the issues that arise from humans trying to control the lake’s waters.  The lake, from what I understand, has a containment ring and its waters are only allowed out through canals into the sugarcane fields of the Everglades Agricultural Area.  As a result, the lake is prone to flooding and toxic algae blooms.  The water seeps into the ground, adding arsenic to the aquifers from agriculture.  Not good.

Naturally there is a lot of concern. Algae blooms kill wildlife and make the lake inhospitable to humans. The blooms, if they get out through flooding, cause havoc with the local ecosystem as well as life in the ocean, if it makes it there.  You can guess the issue with the arsenic. Basically, none of it is cool.

Prayers and Pleas

Now, I’m not going to say that people shouldn’t pray to the lake’s spirit.  But reading the article it suggests that humans are going to start healing the waters by praying to the spirit and asking forgiveness.

Seriously, people?

Okay, let me remind you all that the gods and wights are not your bitches and that prayer only goes so far.  If you want to spend a week walking along the lake and saying prayers, that’s nice, but you’re really not doing much. It’s human hubris to think that the wights there would listen without some type of established rapport. And even if they did listen, what exactly would they think about someone saying they’re sorry?

It’s like locking someone in a room and feeding them toxic bread and water occasionally.  And then, someone comes in who looks a lot like their captors and ask for forgiveness.  If you were the wight in that situation, would you respond positively?  I think not.

How a Wight Might Respond

Now, obviously I don’t know the wights or the spirits of that lake.  But knowing how wights react out West, and seeing the general reaction of the spirit of the lake (algae blooms, floods, etc), I can pretty much guess that the apology won’t go very far, if anywhere.  You see, the problem hasn’t changed for the lake, and the lake isn’t getting the help it needs.  Forty or so pagans and Native Americans praying aren’t going to make a difference to its problems.  The only thing that it will respond positively to is returning it to some semblance of a natural state.

Prayer Doesn’t Work, According to Science

Now, if you point out to me that the real intention is to call attention to the problem with their prayer walk, I’d agree with you.  It’s a good media promotion and one that will work given the nature of the situation.  (Pardon the pun.)  But prayer only goes so far, and if you believe the atheists, prayer really doesn’t do shit to improve anything. To a certain degree, they’re spot on.  A real, double-blind scientific study suggests that intercessory prayer doesn’t work and may actually make things worse.  (Talk about a twist.)

Now, we can argue that they were praying to a Christian god, but we really don’t know that for certain.  (Although it’s a pretty sure bet that they were.)  And we can argue that in that case, the people were asking a god for an outcome, and not just talking to the god.  Fair enough.  I concede that point.  But how is this different than thinking your prayers can heal the lake wight? If they are praying to the wight, wouldn’t the wight be able to heal itself, if it could?  If they’re praying for a deity to heal the wight, how is this different than the intercessory prayer?

What DOES Work

Prayer is nice, but it doesn’t do the heavy lifting here. Action, that is repairing the physical damage done to the lake, does work.  Look, I live in the West where there are tons of Superfund sites, caused by past damage to the environment by mining, logging, and yes, damming rivers and lakes. People deal with arsenic and heavy metals in their water, asbestos in the top soil, floods, radon gas in their homes, mudslides, erosion, and widespread wildfires because of past insults to the environment.  The environment responds in ways that it can only respond, given the rules set forth by the laws of physics. To expect anything different is foolhardy, at best.  And yet, people pray for divine intercession to problems that humans have caused.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.  I get that those who don’t have the power to get the clean up done feel powerless and use prayer as a way to assuage their guilt, hopeless feelings, or whatever.  But don’t tell me you’re going to heal the lake through prayer.  That sounds remarkably Christian, and it provides a band-aid when you’ve cut a femoral artery.