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Elves and Other Races–Do We Remember The Others?

Elves and Other Races–Do We Remember The Others?

Historians used to look at folk tales and fairy tales as cute stories to tell children, but in light of current evidence, maybe they were true.  I’m talking about other races like the Elves and Wights whom we show our respect. Maybe there is a collective unconscious like Jung proposed.  Perhaps we’re remembering other races through the passage of time?  Stick with me on this, and maybe I can offer a scientific and rational explanation for our stories.

Elves, Wights, and Hidden People

If you’ve been a Heathen for any amount of time, you know that we honor both the Light Elves and Dark Elves. We tell stories about trolls under bridges and we respect the Wights, the spirits of the land (even if we have a hard time believing in them).  So much so that we honor these creatures and tell stories about them.  In Iceland, they even route roads around rocks and move construction projects around areas purported to be homes of the Huldu or Hidden People.

We think and talk about people of an elder race. But what elder races?  Because science confirms that there were “elder races” living during the time Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into other lands.  Could our myths and legends correspond to these hominids?

What Races Coexisted with Homo Sapiens?

The first question to ask is what other hominid races coexisted with Homo sapiens.  Although an older article, this New York Times article mentions that Homo erectus may have lived among Homo sapiens as late as 27,000 years ago.  We know that Neanderthals lived among humans up until about 40,000 years ago.  And then, there’s the mysterious Denisovans that we know very little about but know we have some of their genome as as well as Neanderthal. Then, there is Homo floresiensis, those “Hobbit” people, who lived in Indonesia up until about 50,000 years ago.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to primarily be talking about the Neanderthals, since we have the most information about them, but these arguments could work for any of the hominids that existed along with Homo sapiens.

Although Neanderthals were our cousins, DNA and archaeological evidence points to crossbreeding amongst the two species. Humans and Neanderthals common ancestors had separated about 400,000 years ago, which makes the interaction between the two species interesting. Unlike Homo sapiens, Neanderthals had been outside of Africa for nearly 200,000 before our ancestors stepped out. Their evolution continued in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.  Could these be the “other races” our collective unconscious seem to point to?

What Our Ancestors Must Have Thought of the Others

Our Homo sapiens ancestors no doubt had contact with Neanderthals and other races of hominids, but I wonder what our ancestors thought of them.  Neanderthals had bigger brains than our ancestors, had the ability to makes tools, and even had the ability to make art.  They probably had speech of some variety, but their voices were higher pitched than ours.  They buried their dead, or at least cared for the dead rather than leave them where they were or dump them in a garbage pit.

The Neanderthals were heavier set and tended to hunt close up against some pretty dangerous prey, like mammoths.  That meant that they suffered some pretty serious injuries.  Their heavier bodies, bigger chests, and large noses gave them the ability to live in colder climates.  They had adapted to their environment successfully, which probably put our Homo sapiens ancestors in awe.  Homo sapiens had evolved in hotter climates, making the colder climates our ancestors entered a real challenge in a lot of ways.

Did our ancestors emulate the Neanderthals?  Did we learn from them?  Were we at odds with them?  One can only guess what our ancestors thought, but given that there are very few artifacts, other than DNA of the contact, I suspect the contact was more or less peaceful.

What Happen to the Others?

What happened to the Neanderthals, if they were so well adapted to the colder places?  Why did a successful species go extinct after surviving some 350,000 years?  Scientists don’t have all the answers, but they do have clues into why our “elder cousins” may have disappeared.

First, Neanderthals were never in large numbers.  They lived in small familial groups and inbred quite a bit.  The didn’t have the genetic diversity of modern humans — even though we’re pretty much a group of inbred hominids, ourselves, nearly going extinct about three times.  They practiced cannibalism on more than one occasion.  While no doubt our ancestors did too at various times, the Neanderthals didn’t have a large group to choose from.

Lastly, as their numbers dwindled, they probably sought mates outside of their race.  We know modern humans bred with them and that people with ancestors from Europe and Asia have about 2 percent Neanderthal genetics.  This suggests our races did have interactions.  Apparently we could breed and produce viable offspring — at least, occasionally.  Neanderthals were already going extinct, probably from lack of numbers and genetic diversity.

Neanderthals didn’t go extinct all at once, either.  Pockets of them existed in various places until they simply died out or until they joined modern humans.

Are the Others the Basis for Elves, Wights, and Other Races?

Now comes my controversial conjectures. First, let me say that it is just the meanderings of some rather interesting thoughts — you can disagree with me all you want.  But, science has proof of Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denisovians, and other races that lived during the same time as modern humans, whereas we have no physical proof of Elves.  So, I’m simply connecting the dots between science and lore.  Our legends tell of races that existed before us.  Could the Elves, Dwarves, and other denizens be inspired by these older hominid races?  Could the Elders simply be Neanderthals, eventually dressed up over time so they are unrecognizable?  It’s a tantalizing thought.

In which case, our wights are ancestral spirits of former hominids.  That the Alfar and Disir are indeed ancestors of humans — just very much older. Were they magical?  Given I really don’t believe in the concept of magic, you can make your own inferences and not trust my beliefs, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Changelings

We know from fairy stories that Elves weren’t always benign.  We know that they may switch babies with their own progeny, hoping to fool humans. It’s believed that these changeling stories are in existence to explain birth defects and developmentally disabled children.  This makes a lot of sense on many levels, but I can’t help wonder if changelings may have occurred with other races.  What happened when a Neanderthal and modern human mated, in terms of progeny?  Were changelings a description of what could have occurred if Neanderthals tried to substitute their children for human children in the hopes of giving them a chance to survive?  I don’t know, but it is an interesting thought.

What Does The Rational Heathen Believe?

I really love the concept of Elves and Wights, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m largely agnostic about them.  I’m more inclined to accept that they are a collective memory of past interaction between hominid races rather than accept the lore at face value.  Still, whichever way you consider our stories, the ideas I’ve presented are intriguing.

A special thanks to my patron  James Sean Cudd for his amazing $20 patronage!  You too can be a patron to this blog for just $1.  Check it out.

 

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.

 

Shamans and Charlatans

Shamans and Charlatans

I ran across a person who is making money hand over fist with her “channeling” archangels.  Now, you might tell me that I’m just bitter because I don’t make tons of money like she does. Okay, you might be right there. But I think charging a lot of money for a “gift” from a supernatural entity smacks of charlatanism.  Here’s why I think that they might be a charlatan.

What are Angels?

Of all the Christian constructs, I’m more inclined to accept angels and archangels over other supernatural beings.  The concept of the angel, that is a messenger of the gods, goes back a fairly long ways in history. The concept isn’t linked just to the Abrahamic beliefs.  The word, “angel,” comes from the Greek word, angelos, meaning “messenger.”  The Sumerians were the first to have angels.  They even worshiped a type of personal angel, similar to our Fygia that were, in essence, guardian angels. The Babylonians continued with angels and demons, which no doubt influenced the Jewish belief system, and thereby Christianity.

A UPG warning ahead (so you know).  I believe that the so-called angels of Christianity are actually gods from earlier religions, and that our gods have occasionally taken their forms (as well as forms of the Christian god) to appear to people who eventually become Heathens.  This is my experience, and you can take that with a grain of salt.  I know, in my case, Tyr has done so, and I suspect Odin has as well.  I also suspect other spirits and supernatural entities have taken the guise of a Christian angel to get their message heard.

Charging for Communing

The concept of communing with angels and archangels doesn’t seem that farfetched to me, as I’ve noted.  But the concept of charging people a monthly fee for their insight sends off warning bells as being a charlatan.  They claim that people won’t believe their message if they don’t charge something, but getting rich off advice given by the minions of a poor Jewish carpenter seems a bit hypocritical.  Okay, a lot hypocritical.

I remember being in a panel at a SF convention and using runes on someone else, rather than myself.  I was stunned to find people all around me who charged for doing that sort of thing with their Tarot cards. Never mind that I ended up being more accurate than they were.  That’s really not a boast.  I felt so out of my league with those people, that I ended up being stunned at my own accuracy.

Occasionally I have charged for my rune draws, but it’s a nominal fee — like $5.  I am very cautious about it, because I really don’t know if it works well enough to change people’s lives.  And quite honestly, the gods are the gods.  The gods are not our bitches.  They don’t come running when we call to them, nor do they do things we ask of them, unless they think it’s a good idea.  I suspect angels–if they really do exist–have better things to do than counsel people on their day-to-day lives. Yeah, and if I recall archangels seem to have lots of things to do besides talk to our silly asses day-to-day.  The gods do, I know that.

Yes, the runes are the runes.  They may or may not tap into a god’s psyche.  And one could claim, I suppose, that you spent umpty umpty bucks becoming a channeler.  You know how much training I had with the runes? Zilch, other than books.  You know how much training I had contacting gods?  Yep, zilch, nada, none.  And yet, I’ve gotten some interesting contacts.

Communing with Angels

So, do I think the people actually commune with angels and archangels?  Probably not.  In most cases, as much as I hate to say it, they’re charlatans like those people who did toll-free Tarot readings and advise people of their love life.  Maybe a few of them were actually legit, but most were just trying to make a buck off of incredibly gullible people.

Of those who are actually legit, I don’t think they’re talking to whom they think they are talking to.  For one thing, I don’t believe in the Christian god, and if he does exist, he’s not the god the Christians think he is.  So, the angels and archangels could be damn near anyone or anything.  Hels bells, it might even be a malevolent spirit.  If I hazard a guess, I think they’re probably talking to a wight, if they’re talking to anything.

So, How Does this Relate to Heathenism?

For those getting into Heathenism, and for those who have been in Heathenism some time, it’s important to recognize when someone is blowing smoke up your ass.  (As an aside, this term actually comes from an attempted “cure” by blowing smoke up someone’s ass.  I know, TMI.)  Basically if someone is demanding lots of money for something that isn’t particularly well defined, such as prognostication, you may want to ask a lot of questions.  Questions include:

  • How do I know that you’re really talking to <name that entity or god> and not just ripping me off?
  • What do I get in return for my money?
  • Who made you the Asa-Pope and why should I believe you?

I know, I know.  I’m a wet blanket here.  Look, there are plenty of major religions out there begging for money who have amazingly gilded churches.  The Catholic Church is just one of them.

Where Does the Rational Heathen Fit in?

You HAD to expect a Doctor Who reference in here with angels. I’m just sayin…

At this point, if you haven’t read a lot by me, you’re probably wondering what the fuck am I doing and what am I selling?  Look, I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve had several conversations with our gods, but I give the information I think is pertinent freely.  Yeah, yeah, I do have a premium version of this site and a pay wall on some pieces, but I’m pretty up front when I’m telling you that what you’re paying for is to keep me writing about the stuff you like to hear about.

I’m not lying to you and saying that Tyr has a special message for you if you only pay me $29.99 a month.  (He doesn’t, by the way.)  I don’t tell you I’m taking the money and saving souls while lining my pockets with the cash. (You’re going to Hel, by the way, if a god doesn’t claim you or if you haven’t died in battle.) What I tell you is that I could use some help monetarily and if you like what you’re reading and want to support my endeavors, I’d appreciate if you could at least pitch in a buck or two to at least keep the blog and the Internet up.

Maybe I’m not thinking big enough on this whole archangel thing.  Maybe I need to channel those, charge people $25 a month, and have my own videos…

Nah.  I’d probably get Weeping Angels.  In which case, we’re all screwed.

4 Things to Consider in Heathenry

4 Things to Consider in Heathenry

It’s been about six years since Tyr and Thor first entered my life as Norse gods and I’ve entered Heathenry.  (Tyr has been in my life for years, only I didn’t recognize him.)  I’ve been thankful they’ve done so because they’ve offered a a new perspective on my life that I had not gotten any other way. I still deal with a number of really stupid issues due to Christianity that I brought with me, but I can feel a certain amount of healing going on that I just didn’t have with the other religions, and lack of religion.

This piece is a reflective piece, but it is also some advice I have for new Heathens and those who are still on the path after a number of years.  This is my perspective, as always, and as I often say, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) or, as a professor once tried to guess the acronym, Your Mouse Might Vomit.

Moving into Heathenry from Christianity

Heathenry, and in fact, Paganism, isn’t really about rebelling from Christianity (or another religion), though you may go through a period of comparison and outright hostility toward your previous religion.  I know I did.  It’s that part of your bruised ego when you finally realize that everything you were told as a child was a lie and there is no Christian god. (Even if you believe there might be a Christian god, you can’t possibly believe it is as powerful as the Christians claim.)

Now that you have your newfound beliefs, it may be tough to not stick them in other people’s faces. But what exactly are you hoping to accomplish?  Are you looking to alienate your friends and family, because you’re sure not going to convince them to convert?  It’s better to not say anything and keep the peace than it is to rile everyone up.  Of my family, only my husband knows I’m a Heathen, and as far as I can tell, he’s good with it.  Of course I don’t rub it in his face, either.  If he wants to remain an atheist agnostic, that’s his choice, and I respect that.

Heathenry isn’t Christianity with Many Gods

Heathenry isn’t Christianity with many gods instead of one god.  While Christianity had adopted many pagan beliefs into their doctrine, it still isn’t what a Heathen believes.  Christian states that man was given mastery over the world and all animals.  This is clearly hubris, in my not so humble opinion.  Heathens look at ourselves and our gods as being part of the natural world.  We are just one species in a realm of natural and supernatural creatures.  We recognize where we are in the world and how we need to be mindful of those creatures, both seen and unseen.

Whether you are agnostic on the supernatural critters like me, or whether you believe in them is irrelevant. It is part of our lore and deserves at least some attention, if not outright acknowledgment.  If anything, our ancestors’ beliefs and stories make for some fascinating reading.

No One Has the Right Answers

I’ll say it right up front that those who claim to “know” how Heathenry should be is full of shit.  Sure, we have some good ideas how some of our ancestors practiced Heathenry, but overall, we don’t have a perfect picture how to reconstruct it.  The problem is that Heathenry covers at least a thousand years, if not more, and the ways our ancestors practiced Heathenry varied from generation to generation and from region to region.

Although there were gothis and gythias, there were no Asa-popes telling people how to behave, and if there were one or two, they wouldn’t have affected all of Heathendom.  While there may have been a major temple in Uppsala, the archaeological evidence for it is scarce.  (Even if a Christian church were to be built on top of it, you would think there would be some evidence.)

Moving Forward Instead of Looking Back

Heathenry is an ancient religion with deep traditions.  I won’t argue with you there.  We don’t know all the traditions, and those that we do know about were written down by people of other religions, who may or may not have had their own agendas.  Ancient historians are not infallible.

Even if we somehow magically figured out everything about Heathenry in the ancient times, would we really want to mimic it?  If you say “yes” then apparently you want to bring back human sacrifice, and that makes you a total loony tune, crazy person that I want nothing to do with.  And yeah, that’s one of my rules: no human sacrifices.  There are other behaviors we should not mimic — not if we follow our own version of the ethics of reciprocity.

Heathens need to look forward, not back.  Our past can give us guidelines for our future, but they’re just that: guidelines.  The past was not only a different time, but humanity saw things differently.  We didn’t have the technological advancements, longevity, medical treatment, and overall knowledge about the world then that we do now.  It would be foolhardy to live in the past without accounting for the future.

Well, I’ve rambled enough.  Let me know what you think.