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Summer Solstice: A Time for Renewal

Summer Solstice: A Time for Renewal

Somehow each year, summer solstice sneaks up on me. Sure, the days get extraordinarily long here in the Northern Rockies, and sure everything is greening up fast. I have two goat kids who are now almost four weeks old, and yeah, the warmer weather is upon us. Still, I end up feeling unprepared for the solstice.

Shaking Off Skadi’s Powers

Skadi reigns much of the time here in the Northern Rockies. That being said, Thor, Freyr, Freyja, and Baldr take hold around now. I heard Thor’s voice this week, announcing his arrival. Freyr and Freyja show their might as new life appears. Animals’ offspring follow them out of thickets and dens; the forests take on a lush green. The time for renewal is at hand.

Warning: Science!

In a scientific sense, the summer solstice is simply the time when our planet’s tilt is closest to the sun. Imagine our planet is a toy top that has been set in motion. At some point in the spin, the top begins to tilt and wobble as it slows down. That is what our planet is doing right now.

We know that millions of years ago, our days were shorter because our planet was spinning faster. As our planet’s spin slows, our days grow longer by 1.8 milliseconds a century. Eventually that will add up to more noticeably longer days, but certainly not in our lifetime, nor in the lifetimes of our children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren.

It’s this small tilt that makes it possible for us to have four seasons. When our side of the hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, we have winter. When it is tilted toward the sun, we have summer. It is the furthest tilt that brings us the solstices.

If you don’t find it simply amazing that something so slight as a small wobble could affect life on our planet, there’s something wrong  with you.  That feels like magic, plain and simple, even if it is science.

Thanks to the Gods for the Solstices

I can’t help but think that these happy coincidences which brought life to flourish on our planet were part of the gods’ plans. I’m willing to accept the science, and yet, the coincidences are astonishing.

Think about it. We live on a planet that basically won the lottery when it came to supporting life. Even if you’re not a creationist-type person, you have to admit we lucked out. Our gods have set in motion an amazing world, and we are damn lucky to have it. We’re damn fortunate to be here, given all the times our species has nearly gone extinct.

Understanding the Solstices as a Threshold

The summer solstice is a threshold of sorts. I’ve heard the term “liminal” used to describe certain parts of the year. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, but at the same time, it heralds the loss of light until the winter solstice.

I think of the story about Baldr and Hodr. Baldr is made impervious to all things except the mistletoe. Loki gives Hodr a spear made from mistletoe and helps Hodr aim it. We think of Baldr as the sun on summer solstice. His blind brother, Hodr, is the oncoming darkness of winter. Each year, Hodr “slays” Baldr, but Baldr is eventually resurrected to shine once more.

The solstices mark when the days are the longest, and when they are the shortest. After the summer solstice, we begin our march towards winter. The sunlight retreats until the winter solstice, when it returns again.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

As Heathens, the solstices are our holy days. During the summer solstice, we thank the gods for the light and for our growing season. We ask for health and good harvests, even if we no longer have anything to do with farming. We celebrate our families and friends.

I find there is plenty to celebrate when it comes to the solstice. We may have dealt with some pretty shitty things in our lives, but we have to be among the living to still be here. The wonder that is our life is still amazing, and there is still plenty to learn and experience in this world.

Our Renewal with the Summer Solstice

Nowadays, people are pretty jaded when it comes to our seasons. Sure, people enjoy the warm weather, but there isn’t a lot of joy in the seasons, themselves. There certainly isn’t a lot of wonder in them–we know what causes the seasons. At some point, people only look forward to the seasons as times for doing human activities, and not just marveling at the season, itself.

Think about it. I doubt seriously most people sit and just meditate on summer when the summer solstice passes. You might, and maybe your heathen and pagan friends do, but most people just don’t. And yet, the summer solstice is a time for renewal. That includes renewing yourself as a heathen.

No matter how old you are, you can take part in that renewal. It can be as short as a few minutes, or as long as you feel is necessary. And yeah, it’s a type of magic, I suppose. You’re going to get in touch with the landvaetr, the gods, and the ancestors.

How to Renew Yourself During the Summer Solstice, and Beyond…

Summer solstice is a time to thank the gods, the landvaetr, and the ancestors for everything. You may wish to have some mead or other offering to leave at your outdoor altar. If you don’t have an outdoor altar, you can choose a favorite tree outside. Whatever your offering is, be sure it is biodegradable and not poisonous to wildlife and pets.

  • Start by sitting comfortably outside, preferably in a forest, park, or other place within nature. You can sit in a chair, on a bench, on a rock or log, or even on the ground, if you so choose. Close your eyes, or keep your eyes open. Doesn’t matter.
  • Take deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Let your mind still as you breath in this fashion, and focus on relaxing each muscle group as you do.
  • As you relax, you may notice your environment. Is it hot and sunny, or is it cool? Is there a breeze? What does the air feel like? What about where you are sitting? Are you comfortable, or do you feel uncomfortable because the ground is wet, insects are buzzing around you, or something is poking you in the butt?
  • What do you smell on the breeze? Sure, you may get the smells of the city, but can you smell the flowers nearby? What do the trees smell like? Do you get an earthy scent from the moss and wet ground nearby? Does the air have a taste? Acrid from the city, or does it taste like the flowers nearby? Sharp like a pine tree? Woodsy like an oak tree?
  • What do you hear? Sure, you may hear traffic and people, but is there a bird singing nearby? What does the leaves sound like when the breeze rustles through it? Do you hear the snort of a deer, or maybe the barking of a dog? Maybe the chittering of a squirrel.
  • Open your eyes, if they aren’t already open. What do you see? Try to not take in everything, but focus on something natural: a flower, a tree, a river or stream, a mountain top, or maybe the ocean. Some may be too big or too small to focus on. That’s okay. Just move from one natural thing to another, if you’re not focusing.
  • Look up and Sunna and thank her for the warmth of the first day of summer. Thank Baldr for the beauty of the sun at summer solstice. Thank Mani for the solstice moon.
  • Thank Freyr and Freyja for the new life around you, whether it’s animals, plants, or even human babies.
  • Thank Thor and Sif for the rains and the harvest that is to come. Ask for our farmers’ prosperity and a bountiful harvest.
  • Thank whichever gods you wish to honor at this time.
  • Thank the landvaetr for their tireless care over the land you sit on.
  • Thank your ancestors, for without them, there would be no you to enjoy the moment.
  • Pour an offering (or leave an offering) on your outdoor altar, or at the place you designated.
  • Spend as much time as you’d like (or as much time as you’re permitted) enjoying the solstice.

Other Fun Ways to Celebrate the Solstice

I have another post on Five Ways Heathens can Celebrate the Summer Solstice. Check it out.

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Looking for Answers from the Gods About the Pandemic

Looking for Answers from the Gods About the Pandemic

As I sit and work day-to-day, I remember when I first heard about COVID-19 pandemic, Tyr told me that my job was now to stay safe and alive. So far, I’ve managed to do so. But it got me thinking about others who do not hear the gods, and I’d imagine they wonder the gods have to say when it comes to this already brutal year.

We Now Continue Our Year From Hell…

I intentionally used the Christian Hell, because I doubt strongly Lady Hel would treat humans this badly. 2021 is shaping up to be as awful as 2020 in a lot of respects. Sure it’s a new year, and we have the vaccine, but it’s going to take a shitload of inoculations before we can truly think this pandemic nightmare is finally over. Assuming the vaccine does what it’s supposed to do.

Our ancestors dealt with diseases all the time, and unfortunately they did not live long. You had a one in three chance of dying before you turned 21. If you were a woman back then, the chance of dying in childbirth was huge. Most people didn’t make it to 50. True. If you did, you were very old. It took courage and strength to survive in the Viking Era. Despite all the hardship, people did live their lives and lived as Heathens.

What the Gods Might Say to Us About the Pandemic

When it suits the gods, I sometimes hear from them. Despite my connection to them, I try very hard not to put words in their mouths. Different gods have different agendas. Even so, I do get impressions and feeling from them. And the message I get is to survive. Yes. Survive. You, me, …everyone. Use our brains to understand what is happening and listen to those who know more about it than we do. That means, listen to medical and health professionals who have more knowledge than your neighbor, your favorite politician, or your favorite conspiracy website. Even I don’t have the answers to everything, but I will tell you how I see it. Too many people are quick to go back to “normal” living when most of the population isn’t vaccinated, and we really don’t know how long the vaccine is effective.

As Heathens, we need to understand that the gods are not our bitches. They don’t run to us when we call. They don’t coddle us. They expect us to behave like the adults we are and face our problems head on. That may mean to show enough courage to wear a mask to protect the more susceptible people. To give up our parties and socializing for a while. And even to act like an adult when others aren’t.

Not Our First Pandemic: Our Ancestors had it Rough

I get it. It’s been a tough year sheltering in place. But guys, we have it easy comparatively speaking, to our ancestors. Our medical professionals tell us to wear masks, stay at home when not doing anything that is vitally essential, and social distance when we’re in places with other people. Yeah, the virus has screwed with our jobs and our livelihoods; I get that. Kids can’t socialize and play with others. Yeah, I get that too. Suddenly parents have had to become parents again and deal with their family on the full-time basis. Not always easy.

I look at how our ancestors had to cope with disease and hardship, and look at us today. Despite almost a half million dead in the United States alone—and yeah, I do know people who have had this terrible disease, or who work with patients who have it—we humans are better prepared than we have ever been to combat this disease. And what’s more, simple measures such as wearing a mask, handwashing, and maintaining a distance from others who are not in your immediate household can help prevent you from getting the virus and spreading it to others. When compared to what our ancestors had to deal with, our sacrifices for not spreading the disease seem minor.

Humanity hasn’t Changed, Much to My Chagrin

All that being said, I’ve been horrified that our behavior as a species hasn’t changed since the last pandemic. And how we haven’t changed that much since diseases such as the plague have ravaged our populations. Different accounts have shown that people’s behavior is still pretty much the same in a crisis. Despite all the progress in science we’ve made, people are still quick to trust in their god or gods that they will be spared despite our knowledge and education. Or they go about blaming conspiracies by certain mistrusted groups. Or they make shit up and try that to protect themselves.

In short, most people have never learned critical thinking. And honestly, that will be the downfall of humanity. Our own stupidity and ignorance will kill us faster than anything else because most are unwilling to understand the logic behind health professionals’ recommendations. You know, the guys with the fifty-pound heads who study diseases for a living? Who make recommendations from the current data they have? No, they’re not infallible. And no, they may change their recommendations as new data comes to light, but honestly, would you rather trust your neighbor who believes in chemtrails, or a seasoned medical professional with enough training and degrees, who has studied this disease, and has the latest information?

The Gods are Not Your Bitches

Look, if you’re looking for Odin, Thor, or whomever to keep yourself and your family safe from this pandemic, I’ve got news for you. The gods are not your bitches. They don’t come when we call them like some well-trained dog looking for a biscuit. Look, I’m on good relations with about a half-dozen gods and goddesses, and they don’t pop in most of the time when I talk to them. Sure, they listen. But whether they decide to talk with me is their decision; not mine. I get that.

Asking a god or goddess to protect you from COVID-19 while you’re still going to bars, not wearing masks, and not social distancing is insulting to our gods. They expect for us to use our brains and show foresight. They expect us to take the measures we can to protect ourselves from a pandemic. To expect them to keep you safe is ludicrous.

So, yeah, trust in the gods, but prepare yourselves. And don’t treat our gods like the Christians treat theirs.

5 Ways Heathens Can Celebrate the Summer Solstice

5 Ways Heathens Can Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Ah, it’s already June again, which means we’re almost at Summer Solstice.  Saturday, June 20th is the solstice, which marks the longest day of the year. This is the time when we celebrate the spring and summer gods and goddesses such as Freyr, Freyja, Baldr, Thor, and Sif, as well as Sunna. Here are five ways you can enjoy the solstice, even though you may still have to be careful with COVID-19.

Get Up and Greet the Sunrise

Okay, this is for those early birds who can get up and greet the new day. Or, for those of us who are night owls, who stay up long enough to see dawn break.  The rest of you mere mortals will probably be a bit bleary-eyed for this. Even so, prepare a blot and offer it to Sunna, the wights, the ancestors, and to the gods and goddesses of summer.

Leave Summer Solstice Offerings to the Gods and Wights at Your Outdoor Altar

Thank the gods and goddesses for another year, and leave them offerings for good harvests and health. Don’t forget the wights and the ancestors either, especially when it comes to good harvests on the summer solstice. The local wights are said to make the difference between a good harvest and a bad one. So, even if you’re agnostic about wights, like I am, err on the part of superstition and offer them something. Don’t have an outdoor altar? Use this day to make one now! Follow this link for how to create an easy-to-make outdoor altar.

Do Something Outdoorsy

The best way to celebrate the summer solstice is to get outdoors and do something that helps you enjoy the long daylight. This includes simple things like taking a walk, going hiking, going fishing, or doing some type of activity that involves getting outdoors. With COVID-19, remember to keep your distance from people who are not in your household, and to wear masks if you’re heading somewhere people are present.

Sorry to be a killjoy about it, but we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. So, go outside, but do so responsibly.

Hold a Pork Feast for Your Family

Plan on preparing pork for your dinner on the summer solstice, whether it is pork chops, a pork roast, or even a ham. Pigs are special to Freyr, so having pork is a good way to celebrate the god.  So, crack open that bottle of mead and offer a toast to the gods, along with those who live with you to Sunna, Baldr, Freyja, and Freyr.

Tend to Your Garden

You do have a garden, don’t you? Even if it’s only a few herb pots or flowers, give them extra care today. Summer solstice is the longest day of the year when photosynthesis is at its peak due to all that sun. Even if it’s cloudy, the daylight provides extra time for growth.

I hope I’ve given you some cool ideas for this solstice. Let me know what you’re planning on doing for the summer solstice in the comments.

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The Elder Futhark: Thurisaz

The Elder Futhark: Thurisaz

The next rune in the Elder Futhark is Thurisaz, the third rune in Freyr’s ætt. Like many runes, this rune has both positive and negative meanings, depending on where it ends up in the cast. Let’s look at Thurisaz and see why it’s an important rune.

Thurisaz’s Meaning

If you take the name at face value, the first thing you probably will think of is the day, Thursday, since it is very similar in spelling. It’s meaning is “thorn,” “giant,” “danger,” or in some cases, I’ve seen the word “threshold” associated with it. Given that Thor is half giant, we can easily see how Thor, Thursday, and Thurisaz fit together. Since it is associated with giants and thorns, we can assume that if you pull Thurisaz out of your rune bag, you (or the person you’re casting for) may be in for a rough time. Thurisaz is the “th” sound. In Anglo-Saxon, the word is “thorn” and in Old Norse, the word is “thurs.”

Divination with Thurisaz


If you cast Thurisaz, chances are you’re in for something powerful and dangerous, just like the Jotun. But not all Jotun are evil, so don’t immediately think you’re doomed if you pull this rune. A lot depends on where it ends up and what other runes surround it.

Thurisaz means danger, thorn, and giants. It is the rune of extreme change, sometimes violently. It also means conflict, which can be a source of frustration or anguish. When it means “threshold,” it says you’re standing on the cusp of something, just like the threshold to your house. Your home is usually associated with safety; past the threshold is largely the unknown, or “here there be monsters.” It takes a fair amount of courage to step into the unknown when there’s giants lurking outside the safety of your home.

At this point, when you get this rune, look at the other runes. When Thurisaz is in the obstacle position or the current situation position, you can bet the future rune will influence it. If the future rune is a positive rune or a beneficial rune, you can bet Thurisaz is there to warn you that you are either standing on a threshold of something big that will try you, or you are in for a rough ride, but things will improve. If it ends up as a future rune, you might prepare for some type of conflict ahead. When the obstacle rune is a positive rune with Thurisaz in the future rune, chances are you’re striving towards something, only you’re not seeing the whole picture and don’t see the pitfalls. Thurisaz can serve as a warning.

Some Final Thoughts on Thurisaz

At this point, you’re probably concerned if you pull this rune. And rightly so. But it doesn’t have to be bad.  In fact, if you cast Thurisaz, it may be a warning from the Wyrd that if you continue down the path you’ve chosen, you won’t like it. The Wyrd is giving you information that will hopefully help you steer clear of the problems. And that is always helpful.

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Another Flavor of Heathenry: When Perun Comes Calling

Another Flavor of Heathenry: When Perun Comes Calling

I think I have another god I need to consider.  Skadi, Tyr, Loki, Freyja, Freyr, Frau Holle, Odin, and yes, Thor, are all gods and goddesses have had my attention for some time.  But recently, there’s been a shift and I’m starting to learn more about Perun, the Slavic god of Thunder.  And oddly, he feels more familiar to me than Thor.

Who is Perun and Where was he Worshiped?

Perun is the Slavic god of thunder and lightning.  People who lived in Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and other places where the Slavic peoples settled worshiped Perun.  He is obviously a Northern god, who shares a lot of traits with Thor and Odin. He even shares traits with Tyr, being a sky god and a god of laws, thus making him an interesting god to me.

Unlike Thor, Perun is considered head of the Slavic pantheon.  He is a sky god and from what I can tell, he had been the main god for most of the Slavs and the Kievan Rus.

Is Perun Another Name for Thor?

On first blush, Perun is a lot like Thor.  He wields an axe or a hammer; a goat pulls his chariot.  His hammer or axe returns to him after he has thrown it.  He wields lightning and thunder.  His beard is copper and he is incredibly strong.  Like the Norse and Germanic gods, the Slavs look at the universe as a World Tree.  At the roots is a dragon or serpent which Perun will fight.

So, looking at Perun, I see a lot of Thor.  But Perun is also a wise god, like Odin.  So he has some differences. Perun’s ax is no surprise either, given the concept of thunderstones. People believed that Neolithic stone axes and flint arrowheads came from the sky and protect them from evil.  So much so that iron age burials often had stone age axes in them to protect the deceased.

Interesting Story About Perun and Veles

Perun’s enemy is a chaos and forest god (who is also the god of the underworld) named Veles.  Veles steals Perun’s cattle, children, or wife in an effort to provoke him. The story goes that Veles hides from Perun and when Perun sees Veles, he throws a thunderbolt.  Only Veles escapes.  Hence the reason lightning strikes seemingly harmless places.

Veles isn’t necessarily an evil god, but he is a chaotic god.  He often shape changes in the form of a bear or a wolf.  In many ways, he resembles Loki of the Norse pantheon. Perun defeats Veles, but since Veles is a god, he does not die (or is reborn) continues his trouble making for Perun.

Interestingly enough, Christians morphed story of the Perun and Veles battle into Michael the Archangel versus Satan to gain converts. They already had the story from the Bible, they just brought more elements of the Perun/Veles story over to make it more familiar.

Perun’s Existence in History

The earliest mention of Perun is in the 6th Century by the Byzantine historian Procopius in his work, De Bellum Gothicum.  We also know that in 998 CE (AD) the ruler, Vladimir the Great of Kiev converted to Christianity and had the entire population of Kiev baptized. Vladimir had the the very statue of Perun he commissioned earlier as a pagan torn down, dragged through the streets, and dumped in the river Dnieper. The statue was not allowed to return to shore until it went past the rapids.

Certainly there were Perun followers after this time, but it seems that with the conversion of Vladimir the Great, Perun’s days being worshiped widespread were numbered.

So, is Perun the Slavic Thor?

My take on Perun is that he and Thor have very much in common. Both are very mighty and strong gods.  Perun has similar symbology to Thor, but has elements of (the good side) of Odin.  Part of me thinks Perun is a form of Thor and Tyr combined.  In this case, it makes perfect sense why Thor and Tyr approached me.  Given that I have Slavic ancestry (as well as Norman, Germanic, and Rus), Perun may be another god I may call upon.

If Perun is Thor, then he is an accessible Thor to me. Seeing a Perun axe with Tyr’s rune clinched it for me.  I think I’m going to have to honor Perun as well as Thor, Tyr, and the Norse gods.

 

Pop Culture Heathens

Pop Culture Heathens

Quick, without Googling, name five Heathen gods or goddesses other than Odin, Thor, Freyja, Loki, or Hel.  Now, assuming you didn’t cheat, can you tell me whether they’re Aesir, Vanir, Alfar, or Jotunn? (Again without Googling.)

If the names came easily to you, chances are you’ve been in Heathenry awhile.  If you’ve equivocated on some of the races of the gods, chances are you’ve been in Heathenry for years.

However, if you really can’t name five, let alone understand why anyone would equivocate on what race some of the gods were, then you’re probably new at this.  You may have come to Heathenry through pop culture, either from watching one of the Thor movies or watching Vikings.  And that’s okay.

Neophyte Heathens and Asa-popes

The other day, I was talking to an agnostic on Facebook (yeah, you know who you are) who quizzed me about being a real Heathen.  I wasn’t really bothered by it, but it got me to thinking about the Neo-Heathens who have joined Heathenry from watching pop culture movies and TV shows about Vikings and the gods.  (Marvel springs to mind.)  I also started thinking about the tendency for certain people in our religion to declare themselves gatekeepers or Asa-popes.  Inevitably, there’s a clash between the Asa-popes and the neo-Heathens, because the Asa-popes and Gatekeepers are annoyed with the neophytes. They are annoyed that someone would show interest in our religion because of some pop culture reference.

Loki wives.  Not historical. Neo-pagans.  Neo-Heathens.  None of this is particularly new.  So, the Asa-popes discourage the newbies, and the newbies think all Heathens are asshats.

That’s Fine, Except…

That would all be well and good, except Heathens are pretty much a drop in the overall pagan pool.  We don’t have the numbers to turn anyone legitimately seeking knowledge away. (Except the neo Nazis, whom we really don’t want.)  Heathenry and all its forms (with the exception of the white supremacists) might equal 250,000 in the world.  If that.

The Good Old Days of Heathenry

Back in the good old days when Heathenry flourished and people were lucky to live to 50 years old, there weren’t any Asa-popes telling people what to believe.  Sure, there were gythias and gothis, but they weren’t connected by some universal Church. Some gods and goddesses were worshiped over others; some stories were told in some parts that weren’t told in others. When the Vikings went to new lands, they’d add gods and goddesses from those pantheons.  Or maybe they figured that the names of those gods matched the Heathen gods.  We have some artifacts that show the Christian god being worshiped alongside Thor for a time.

My point is that people back then didn’t have a single view of the gods.  Like now, they chose their own traditions and their own gods to believe in.  The concept of organized religion occurred with the growth of cities and with priesthoods looking to grab power and keep themselves within the power structure. Sure, you had shamans and whatnot doing the power thing if you were in a tribe, but I suspect most Heathens revered ancestors and tutelary spirits, with an occasional major god or goddess thrown in for good measure.

So, How Does This Work for Today?

Heathens weren’t a particular picky bunch when it came to revering gods and goddesses.  How you came to what kind of gods you worshiped was probably your own business and really not worried about, as long as you weren’t a dickhead about it.  You were pretty much considered a Heathen if you believed in the Heathen gods–as far as we know, you didn’t get singled out because you believed that Thor was better than Odin, or you worshiped Perun or Frau Holle.  Hel, our ancestors probably gave you a pass if you revered Loki as long as you were part of the kindred.  When you started identifying with Christian ideals that were aimed at destroying Heathenism, that’s when they got a bit tetchy about it.

So, when I look at where new Heathens are coming from, I shrug and think that they have to come from somewhere.  If not from pop culture, then where?  See, I think a lot of Heathens, especially recons, don’t give our gods enough credit.  Who is to say that Bragi didn’t inspire the original writers at Marvel to dip into Nordic mythology and bring Thor to life on comic book pages?  Who says that Odin couldn’t have given the mead of poetry to the writer of Vikings?  And who can say that the interest in our gods in pop culture isn’t fueled by the gods, themselves?

But It’s Not Right!

At this point, I can hear the recons screaming: It’s NOT right!  The stories are screwed up! You know, you’re right.  The stories aren’t the legend and myths, and they don’t portray the gods exactly according to our beliefs.  Doesn’t matter.  They have piqued an interest in our gods and the Heathen ways that cannot be denied.  Sure, some will become interested in the context of the movies, the shows, or the graphic novels and that’s all.  Some may blend the pop culture and the legends together.  But some will dig deeper and explore what it is like to be Heathen.  Those are the ones we need to foster.

What About Pop Culture Heathens?

So, what should we do about pop culture Heathens?  Nothing.  Let them have their fun.  Do you actually think that all Heathens were serious followers of our gods?  If they were, then why was it so damn easy for Christianity to take hold?  Christianity took hold because the powers that be declared it their religion.  The masses joined up because that’s what kept them in good graces.

So, that’s my take on the neo-Heathens from pop culture.  As usual, your mileage may vary.

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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?

Hail the Goddesses and Gods of Spring

Hail the Goddesses and Gods of Spring

As we approach the vernal equinox, winter starts to lose her icy grasp and  spring slowly slips in. Spring for me means mud season, which isn’t  something I or my livestock particularly enjoy. One of my goats gave  birth on the Ides of March to a lovely buckling.  I had to come up with  makeshift quarters for them and bring the kids inside at night due to  the cold and predators.  I’m now on kid watch for the last pregnant doe  of the season, which means checking on her every couple of hours.  Yay  me.  Hence the lateness of the blogs.

Here up  north, we’re still in Skadi’s grasp, although the winter goddess is  slowly relenting to the gentle hands of the spring goddesses and gods.   These goddesses and gods are powerful in their own right, and while we  may not know everything about them, I think we can make some good  assumptions about them.  Let’s look at them.

Courtesy of Magickal Graphics

Eostre or Ostara

If you want to start up an argument between  Heathens or between Heathens and Christians, mention Eostre, the Anglo  Saxon goddess of spring and rebirth. (In German, it’s believed to be  Ostara.)  A goodly portion of recons think that Eostre was simply the  name of April and St. Bede suggested it was the name of a goddess when  it wasn’t.  Christians will accuse you of trying to undermine Easter if  you mention it.  Nevertheless, if you wish to enjoy a feast day to  Eostre, do it. I have a whole post dedicated to Eostre and why I think she was probably a real goddess.

In Urglaawe, practitioners believe in the goddess  Oschdra (Ostara?) who  gives the Oschter Haws (Easter Rabbit) the  ability to spread color throughout the world in the spring. The Oschter Haws was brought into Pennsylvania by German settlers where the Easter rabbit laid colorful eggs.

That  being said, if you’re an Eostre believer,  celebrate with candy,  colored eggs, bunny rabbits, and chicks. (The candy, incidentally, is a  later addition of more modern times.)  Have fun and enjoy yourself.   Make an offering to Eostre for the spring.

Idunn

Idunn, of the golden apples fame, is the goddess of spring,  renewal, and immortality, is certainly a terrific goddess to honor in  the springtime. She’s interesting not only because she’s a powerful  goddess, who keeps the gods young, but she wasn’t born into the Aesir or  Vanir (though you can make a case for her being Vanir, being a goddess  of fertility.)  She hails from alfar blood, making her one of the Elves.

She’s  particularly important because without her, the gods would grow old and  die.  Her apples bring youth to those gods who do age.

Freyja

When talking about spring, I feel that you simply must  include Freyja.  Freyja is a Vanir and a fertility goddess.  Without  Freyja we would have no beginnings when it comes to new life. She is  literally the conception of life, and my own UPG suggests spring is  indeed her time. As such a powerful goddess, she has many roles: goddess  of war, love, beauty, seidr, and death.

Freyr

If Freyja one of the quintessential goddesses of spring,  Freyr is one of the gods of spring. One could make the argument  (successfully, I might add), that he is a summer god.  But Freyr also  has the duty of gestation and growth.  He is the male god of fertility,  but he is often associated with germination. It just makes sense he is a  fitting god for spring.

If you think about Easter  celebrations, you’ll note that a traditional Easter meal is a ham.  No  surprise there.  I’ve read that Christianity was happy enough to  incorporate the pagan traditions of eating ham at Easter when ham was  originally eaten in honor of Freyr. As Heathens, having a traditional  ham dinner is certainly a great way to celebrate spring and Freyr.

Thor

On first blush, Thor seems out of place in the list of  deities having to do with spring. But the thunderer is certainly  considered a god who brings the rains which helps the fields to grow.   Little wonder that he is married to Sif, who is a spring/summer goddess  in her own right. Thor presides over the wind, rain, and even the  crops.  It makes sense that he is considered a major god and one who  presides over spring and summer.

Sif

If Thor brings about  rain to the crops, it is Sif, his wife, who receives the rain. She’s  definitely a fertility goddess and an earth goddess.  The story about  how Loki cuts her golden hair and must find a substitute for her is a  suggestion that her hair is the wheat crops. (Incidentally, cutting a  woman’s hair was a sign that she was unfaithful — something to think  about when reading that Loki found his way into her bedroom and cut her  hair while she was sleeping.)  But, I digress here.  Sif is certainly an  earth goddess and spring and summer is her time.

Honoring the Gods and Goddesses of Spring

Springtime  is a transition time. As modern day Heathens, we acknowledge that the  equinox is the first day of spring.  However, in ancient times, our  ancestors looked at spring differently.  Spring was believed to maybe start with Grundsaudaag or Groundhog’s Day in Urglaawe tradition.  The groundhog replaced the badger or bear in German tradition.  While,  we’re well past Groundhog’s Day, we can hold a feast in honor of spring  and our spring gods and goddesses.

Sigrblot usually comes in April and is celebrated with offerings to Freyr and Freyja.  Most pagans consider May 1st as a celebration time of spring which  includes Walpugisnach.  While it may be a more modern interpretation of  the Heathen calendar, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it. Unless  you’re a member of the recon rabble, there’s no reason why you can’t  adopt Heathen and pagan traditions your own holidays as you see fit.

I  mentioned coloring eggs and rabbits as part of the Eostre celebrations.  Even if there wasn’t an Eostre, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take our  older Heathen traditions that survived and changed, and make them in  honor of the spring goddesses and gods you do wish to venerate.  I think they will be pleased.

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Is Thor Stupid?

Is Thor Stupid?

It seems to me that there are two camps when it comes to Thor: those who think he’s at least average intelligence (for a god, whatever that is), and those who think he’s maybe not as dumb as a post, but would be challenged by one occasionally.  Since I picked on Thor last week, I’m going to test his good graces again and tackle his intellect.

All Brawn and No Brains

I suspect that thinking Thor is stupid is a relatively recent phenomena which has to do with our current stereotypes.  Although the stereotypes are changing, the common stereotype of the muscle man is the stupid jock. I think, rightly or wrongly, that stereotype has been crafted over the years.  Although science disagrees that people who are athletic are stupid, it’s still a stereotype that is perpetuated.  I did a quick look on the Internet in the quest for the search of why muscular people, particularly men, are considered stupid. I found a reference on that oh-so-accurate Wikipedia (that was sarcasm, for those not paying attention), and even a blog which mentions a study on it.

My Own Experience with Jocks

Growing up, I had the joy of dealing with bullies, and dealing with kids who were naturally better at sports. I had undiagnosed asthma which precluded me from doing well in physical activities when I was younger.  This was during a time when people thought asthma was “all in your head.”  It took years for me to admit I have it, and now that I do, life is much, much easier. But I digress.  Most of those kids were, well — not the brainiest — and those who were smart, tended to hide it for fear of being bullied.  To add to the stereotype, I grew up when nerdy guys in lab coats got people to the moon.

In college, I saw kids who got scholarships and were treated like gold because they were good in sports.  While not all the jocks were stupid, many were not the sharpest knives in the drawer, because they often were given a pass.  I went into the sciences, geek girl that I am.  So, the stupid jock was commonplace.

My junior and senior year, I worked out and trained in martial arts.  So, I got to know the weightlifters.  Many had been the kids everyone picked on when they were small; a good portion of them were introverts. So, they did the best thing they could think of: not become a target. Many of the people I knew in martial arts were smart.  Yes, there were the average and idiots in the group as well, but most I would categorize as being clever enough.

So, why the dichotomy?

When We Moved from Agrarian to Industrial

I think that the shift in emphasis started in the 18th century, but really didn’t take hold until the 19th century and early 20th century where people started separating themselves into white collar and blue collar (note: this is not a rich versus poor argument).  My parents looked down on those who didn’t have office jobs as being unable to be smart enough to attain those positions.  Never mind that many of the blue collar jobs paid better than white collar jobs.  I suspect that this attitude was fostered though the colleges and through those who were able to work pushing paper for a living.  I suspect that the GI Bill after WWII and emphasis into getting higher degrees also pushed more people into thinking that manual labor means you can’t hack an office job.

I’ve already mentioned the moonshots, which were a result of the cold war. In fact, I suspect that the emphasis going into science and other intellectual activities caused a bigger split, suggesting that you couldn’t be both strong and smart.  Sure, we had our Hollywood heroes, but they emphasized not  strength, per se, but beauty. Professional athletes were always admired, but they were never considered brilliant, except when it pertained to their performance

When Physical Prowess was Admired

It used to not be that way.  Prowess in sports suggested you were good on the battlefield. Being physically fit has paramount before firearms became prevalent. After all, whether you lived or died, whether your family would survive, and whether you had enough food was largely dependent on your fitness and skill as a hunter, warrior, and farmer.  Firearms replaced swords, pikes, maces, and knives, and armor went away.  No longer did you have to carry some 50 to 70 pounds of armor and weaponry.  While there were wars, most problems were resolved in torte.

Brains and brawn weren’t considered mutually exclusive.  Many warriors were considered clever and intelligent.

So, What About Thor?

I feel that Thor has gotten a bad rap, not because he’s stupid, but because he has likable characteristics that make him more…well, human. Somehow he loses Mjolnir, and has to go in drag to get it back.  He journeys with Loki to Jotunheim and yes, he is tricked by the Jotun’s magic, but then so is Loki.  Then, there’s the story how Thor tricks a dwarf who is about to marry his daughter in the Alvissmal where the gods promised Thor’s daughter while he was away. Tricking a dwarf to stay above ground after sunrise (and thus turned to stone) doesn’t suggest a stupid god.

My UPG Take on Thor

I am not an expert when it comes to Thor, but what little dealings I’ve had with him shows me a strong and compassionate champion.  Yes, he has a temper; yes, he is not beyond using his strength. But I have noticed that he is more likely to forgive if someone makes an error like Thjálfi did in breaking the bone of his goat and sucking out the marrow. As one of the gods who favors humanity, I can think of no better champion.

I don’t think Thor is stupid.  I think that because his strength is so great, we sometimes don’t take into account that Thor is smart too.  After all, he’s the son of Odin and Jord.  Would Odin have a stupid kid?  I don’t think so.