Pete Seeger 1919-2014

Monday night, a great man went to join the Ancestors.

Sing along, everyone!

A little something from his band, the Weavers.

Just as relevant today as when he wrote it.

This one might be my favorite song of his.

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Hello, Frigg?

Not a resolution per se, but one thing I’d like to attempt this year, which is different than anything I’ve done before, is to try to get the attention of the goddess Frigg. I’ve never done anything like this before. The only gods that I’ve had “show up” did so completely of their own volition. Or at least that’s the way it seemed. As you can see from my previous post on how I met Odin, I never planned on being an Odinswoman to begin with.

I’ve also had dealings with a handful of other gods, and all of them have little statues on my altar. Odin is in the middle, and to the right stands Thor, to the left, Freyr, and then on Freyr’s other side is his sister Freya. I would say of my other gods, Freyr comes second, followed by Thor, followed by Freya. I’m such a tomboy hanging out with the guys all the time! The Freya statue I have is actually the most expensive one I got, hoping that I could have more goddess influence in my life, but that didn’t seem to make much difference to her.

That was when I was in my 20’s, and now I’m turning 33 next week. I got married a year and a half ago, and at around the same time we bought a house, and now my husband and I are starting to seriously talk about having a child. I know this sounds a bit Wiccan, but I’m moving from being a Maiden into a Mother, and I really want to have more of Frigg’s influence in my life. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a couple of years, but this year I think I’m going to get serious about it.

To be honest, I find Frigg to be intimidating. You’d think that no deity could be scarier than her husband, but I’ve heard from other Odin’s people who agree with me that Frigg is the one you really don’t want to get on the bad side of. Even Odin gets in trouble when he crosses her! I hope that since I already have a good devotional relationship with her husband that she’ll at least hear me out.

There are some Heathens who say it’s a terrible idea to try to get the attention of a god on purpose. These are usually the same people who say ordinary people in pre-Christian times only worshiped the ancestors and nature spirits, and the gods only pay attention to really important people like kings. The latter is obviously not true, or at least not anymore, or else the gods would have nobody to pay attention to! As for the former, the reasoning seems to be that gods make your life complicated, so you don’t want to get involved with that.

Well, too late now, because Odin’s already done that. I just think that Frigg has certain expertise that would be very helpful to me right now.

Of course, I know she’ll want something in return. I can’t just go to her and say, “Hey Frigg, help me be a better wife to my husband and give me a child and make me a great mother!” and not have something for her in return. That’s just rude.

I already know some things she likes, just from reading what other Heathens have said. I’ve been told she likes plum wine as a libation (even the Asian brand I can find at the local store), and she likes people to keep a clean house. She likes fiber arts like spinning, weaving, knitting, and crocheting. That’s a start, anyway.

For Yule I asked my husband for a few Heathen things, and one of them was this Frigg doll from a shop on Etsy. I ran across this shop searching for a Valknut, actually. Now the shop is closed, and I think I might have gotten her last doll before she closed the shop! That’s a shame, because I thought these dolls were pretty neat. At first I thought it was kind of cheesy, because they’re so “cute”, but I also liked the amount of detail she put into them, like Ullr’s little bow, and Njord’s fishing net. I also appreciated that she made dolls for the lesser known deities like Sif, Ullr, and Njord and not just gods like Odin, Thor, and Freya.

Frigg doll

my Frigg doll

I decided that getting a crocheted doll might be especially appropriate for Frigg, and a nice change of pace from the Sacred Source statues I’ve bought from my other gods. So now she’s sitting on my altar, but I think later she might go on the mantle in the living room so she can look over the house.

OK, so I’ve got an altar piece for her, and a plan to give her libations every Friday, plus some housework in her honor. I hope that’s a good start, because if I’m going to end up actually being a mother myself, I am going to need all the help I can get.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s early January, and that means a bunch of people are making New Year’s Resolutions, while more people are making sure we all know that they don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because the whole tradition is stupid and nobody ever keeps their resolutions anyway.

I happen to be a person who thinks it’s a good tradition, and I always do some resolutions. Some I keep, some I don’t, but my first rule on How to Do New Year’s Resolutions is to only make resolutions you intend to keep. Should be obvious, right? But apparently not. Sure, we’re human and sometimes we fail, but making goals is always a good thing. Sure, you can make goals at any time in the year, but you can also give gifts to your loved ones at any time of year. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have a holiday especially for that (Christmas/Yule). So January is the season to make goals for the coming year. Why not?

It’s not an arbitrary calendar date either. It’s right after Yule, the winter solstice, so it makes perfect sense that as the days grow longer, this is the beginning of the new year, and a fresh start. This is why the tradition goes way back. It’s too cold to work out in the fields, so everyone’s huddled up inside and has plenty of time to plan out what they’re going to do once the weather warms up. Maybe I should plant barley instead of wheat this year, maybe I should start a new breeding project on the cattle herd, things like that. Even now when most people work indoors in climate-controlled buildings, most of us at least get some time off work this time of year to take a deep breath, sit down, and make a to-do list for the coming year.

Even the most common resolution, losing weight, has ancient roots. I think late winter and early spring is a perfect time for cutting back on things. Back in the old days, you had to. Last year’s harvest was getting used up after the Yuletide feasts, and now you had to ration your food carefully to make it last until the first spring and summer crops finally came in. For a long time there was a balance between feasting and fasting, but now life is one big feast for those of us privileged to have a middle class lifestyle in developed countries. We’re no longer forced to fast at certain times of year, and our waistlines show it. So now after the holiday feasting, I think it’s a great idea for people to cut back on some of the sweet treats and eat more kale. To me, that’s just part of living with the seasonal rhythms like a good pagan should. The time between Yule and Easter is a time for cleansing, both physically and spiritually. Cutting out the junk food is part of “spring cleaning” for the body.

As for the criticism that people don’t stick to their resolutions, well, there’s always next year. Yes, you shouldn’t make resolutions you don’t intend to keep, but if you fail, there is always next year. Maybe next year you’ll get it. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Along those lines, don’t overdo it . Another reason why I think a lot of people fail their resolutions is they’ll say something like, “This year I’m going to quit smoking and lose 50 pounds and become a vegetarian and go to the gym every day!” Of course you’re going to fail if you do that to yourself! People who are doing it that way have probably already failed now that 2014 is almost a week old. Especially since they also tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude about it: “Oops, I ate a cheeseburger. So much for my resolutions! It’s all over now.”

If you’re going to make major lifestyle changes, you should do one at a time or at most two (especially if they’re related). Prioritize. Quit smoking first, and then when you’re completely done with that, lose that weight. Take it one step at a time instead of trying to make a giant leap and then falling on your face. A few years ago the Old Farmer’s Almanac had an article proposing that people should make May Day resolutions instead of New Year’s resolutions. The idea was that spring is the best time to start new things, not the dead of winter. I can see the merit in that argument, but I think now is the time to plan for what you are going to do in spring. Everything doesn’t have to all happen right now, but right now you can say “in March I will do this, and then by May I should be ready to do this.” Just be sure to remember it once that day comes. Mark it on your new 2014 calendar.

With all that said, here are my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions, and since I’m not going to do all of them right away, it’s good to put them here where I can find them later as a reminder.

First off, like most Americans, I am overweight. However, I’m lucky that I’m not that bad. I just weighed myself, and according to the BMI scale, to get down into the very uppermost of the “normal weight” range I only need to lose 18 pounds. I’ve been in worse shape before, and that mostly seems to happen when I start eating too much fast food. In my mid-20’s I discovered I couldn’t eat fast food every day like I used to when I was a teenager and still stay in a healthy weight range. When I fell into that habit again, I got to about 30 pounds overweight, and that was when I started having problems like back pain. When I started bringing my lunch to work again, my weight went back down, and the back pain went away. Eating out in general is a big weakness of mine, even if it’s at a sit-down restaurant. When I cook at home, I cook pretty healthy food. When I eat out, that’s when I splurge on appetizers, big portions, dessert (I don’t keep a lot of sweets in the house when it’s not a holiday), and calorie-laden drinks (at home I drink water). I think eating out is fun, so when I’m there, I don’t want to feel deprived.

The problem is when I’m eating at a restaurant not because it’s a special occasion, but because I’ve been too busy or lazy or tired to cook for myself. If I didn’t bring my lunch to work, I go to the restaurant across the street. If I’m too tired to cook dinner tonight, I order a pizza. So when it comes down to it, it’s a problem of poor planning that hurts both my waistline and my budget.

So rather than concentrating on losing those stubborn 20 pounds, I think I’ll concentrate on meal planning better. I can try to keep the house stocked up with healthy, quick to prepare foods for breakfast and dinner, and I can go back to bringing healthy lunches to work. And that will probably result in me losing some weight, but even if it doesn’t, it will have other benefits like better nutrition and it will save money.

OK, eating better is an easy one, actually. I like to cook, and I know how to cook healthy food, so it’s just a matter of better planning. My next resolution is going to be a bit more difficult. I really need to exercise more. Again, losing weight would be a nice side-benefit, but I have other reasons as well. Strengthening my body would make working in my garden easier, would let me go on longer hikes in the woods before tiring, and would make hauling my heavy bag up the stairs at work easier. It would get some endorphins pumping, and I suffer from clinical depression, so that would help with my mental as well as physical health.

The problem is I’ve always been terrible at keeping up with exercise. I’m just not a very physical person. Even though I feel good after I exercise, a lot of times I’ll make excuses like I don’t have time, and I have other things I need to get done, most of which involve sitting at my butt in front of a screen. I need to make it more of a priority. Exercise first, butt-sitting later!

This is also a resolution that I’ve made several times and then quit. I’ll keep it up for four to six months. I’ll go to the gym three times a week, doing stretches and cardio and a circuit of weight training. Then one week I’ll have some excuse on why I can’t go this day. And then I don’t go a whole week. And then I just quit going all together.

So maybe this will be another one of those times, but when I mentioned this to my therapist, he said, “then at least you’ll be exercising for six months.”

My last resolution is probably a lot more relevant to you pagans who might be reading this, and that is I need to get a better spiritual routine. Now, it may appear that I’m breaking my own rule here about only doing one thing at a time, because here I am resolving to eat better, exercise, AND do more regular spiritual activity, but they all have the same underlying theme of better scheduling and planning in my life. Just like I need to schedule in regular exercise times, I also need to schedule in regular time for meditation and rituals.

I’ve actually laid out a plan for this, at least given my Spring 2014 teaching schedule. This semester they put all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which will save me a lot of gas, but will also mean on those two days I’m going to be gone from home for 12-14 hours. Those two days I should go easy on myself and just concentrate on teaching my classes, but that leaves five other days a week to figure out what I’ll do with myself.

Of course, in-class time is only half (or less) of the time an educator spends on her job, and so part of those days will have to be spent working at home: grading papers, answering emails, making lesson plans, and the like. Then I should also go to the gym at least three times a week, and have regular healthy meals, and work in some time for meditation and spiritual activity.

My therapist thinks I should meditate daily, for at least 10 minutes and preferably 20 minutes, to help with my depression. I’ve found that it does help to quiet my negative thoughts, but just like a lot of these other things, I often tell myself I don’t have time to do it. I’ve lumped this in with spiritual activity, because poor mental health makes everything in my life harder, including serving the gods.

By the way, going into therapy was one of last year’s New Year’s Resolutions! I kept it, see?

But the mediation he wants me to do is mainly an exercise to clear my mind, and not the kind to help get in touch with the gods, though usually when you do the latter type of mediation, you have to do the former first to even get into the kind of headspace where you are open to the gods. Years ago while I was in graduate school, I used to spend a little time at my altar every morning while I drank my coffee. I think it really helped keep me on track, and I think I should go back to doing something like that, but this time I’ll do my therapist’s mindfulness mediation first, then do something at the altar. Of course, this takes planning to make sure I’m not in too much of a rush in the morning to do all this, but I think it will really help me get each day off to a good start.

So here’s a weekly schedule I’m going to try. First, I’m going to try to meditate at least ten minutes every morning, maybe increasing it up to twenty eventually. I’ll probably do this after coffee so I won’t just fall back asleep. Then after that, when I’m in a good frame of mind, I’ll do some altar work, then get on with my day, either going to teach class, or working on stuff at home. I’ll also schedule a time to go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (not sure if that’s best to do in the morning or afternoon yet), and go for a walk around the block with my husband every evening when he gets home from work (another good thing we used to do that we need to get back into the habit of doing). I like the idea that some Heathens have of relating what they do on each day to the deity each day is named after, so here is how each specific day will go.

Monday is the Moon’s Day, and after my morning meditation, I’m going to honor my fylgja (guardian spirit), the Bear. This is mainly because I want to work with my fylgia more often, and I didn’t know what other day I could fit this in. What exactly I’ll do still needs to get figured out. Then after that it’s going to the gym, working on grading papers, and so on for the rest of the day. I have a feeling that Bear will especially like going to the gym. He likes physical activity much more than I do.

Tuesday is Tyr’s Day, and is one of the days where I’ll be gone all day. I don’t really have much of a relationship with Tyr, though. I’ll have to leave my house around 8 am and won’t be home again until around 10 pm at night, so this day I might just have a quick meditation in the morning and then off to work.

Wednesday is Odin’s Day, and Odin is my main god, so it’s important for me to honor him on this day. After my morning meditation, I’ll put on my new Valknut, spend some time with him (maybe give an offering, maybe pull some runes, I’m not sure yet), and then off to do the rest of my daily tasks like the gym and grading papers. This is probably an especially good day to work on my lesson plans, because I associate Odin a lot with my job being a college professor.

Thursday is Thor’s Day, and my other long day at work. I like Thor, so I want to be sure to honor him somehow before rushing off to class, and I’ll be sure to always wear my hammer on Thursdays at least.

Friday is Frigg’s Day, or maybe it’s Freya’s day. It depends on who you ask. In the past I’ve gone either way, but right now I’m going to honor Frigg on this day, because I’m actively trying to get in that goddess’s good graces (which deserves a post of its own). In addition to my usual tasks, this would also be a good day to get some housework done. Hopefully I’ll get enough grading done on Monday and Wednesday to give me time to do that.

Saturday is Saturn’s Day, the day they didn’t change to the name of a Germanic god, and kept the Roman god instead. I don’t know why. I’ve heard from more than one Heathen that they use Saturday to honor Freyr or the Vanir in general, because Saturn is also an agricultural deity. Freyr is my second-favorite god after Odin, so I will give him this day. I won’t go to the gym on the weekend, and instead Saturday will be my day to work in my garden, which I already usually do on that day anyway. I think Freyr will appreciate that. Freyr’s day would also be a good day to focus on spending time with my husband (if you know what I mean).

Sunday is the Sun’s Day, and my husband and I already have the routine of going on a hike Sunday mornings with a local group. It seems appropriate to keep spending Sunday outside under the Sun.

I think that looks good. Hopefully I can at least keep it up for this semester. I’ll have to change things when my schedule changes next semester. I do have bigger problems I need to tackle, but I think that doing these things first will help me accomplish the bigger things later, once I get these routines down. Doing these things should make me a healthier, more effective person, and will make the big problems seem less overwhelming. At least that’s the plan.

So I’m posting all this here for the whole internet to see! Hold me accountable!