What Heathens can (Indirectly) do About Climate Change

An estimated four million people participated in the climate strike. September 20th was the first day in months I didn’t get hit with eco-anxiety and I actually felt a certain amount of hope. Maybe Ragnarök won’t actually come yet, you know?

But there’s no getting around that even the very best case scenario is going to be rough. Beats the frighteningly likely alternative by a long shot. But where we are now is not great. And where we will be in ten years will not be an improvement.

I don’t know if there’s anything we, as common people, can concretely do for Jörð beyond giving her the love she’s entitled to, and continuing to raise the alarm on her behalf, but there’s plenty we can do for each other.

Heathenry is about the people as much as it is about the gods–if not more so. That was the idea behind the rituals we’ve been writing for trans empowerment. We identified the aspects of ritual that had psychological benefits (with some help from a trained professional who prefers to be anonymous in this whole thing), and then provided an avenue for them to help a vulnerable population.

Therapeutic ritual can honor Jörð (or Nerthus, or Erde–whatever name she has in your tradition) while providing space for humans to share their love and grief. We can hold vigils. We can collectively plant and consecrate trees. Publicly scold and raise scorn poles against oil execs.

These do not change the actual physics or economics of the situation. But those of us aware of the problem, desperate to solve it and not equipped to make massive change, are constantly carrying rage and grief and terror inside of us. It’s rendering us less able to do anything for ourselves and for each other.

Competently crafted ritual provides a safe setting in which to experience emotions that are frightening–because the situation is objectively terrifying. And the community aspect of Heathen ritual, in particular, allows us to seek and give support while we push through these feelings.

The benefit of outright feeling your feelings is that tolerance can only be built through exposure. And while adjusting is usually cautioned against, I think that’s unsound advice. This is a situation that we cannot opt out of, and constant distress means burnout. And burnout means fewer resources to improve the situation.

My therapist, when I came in asking how best to manage the anxiety, had to remind me that buying Oreos is not going to single-handedly end the world–nor is avoiding them going to save it. Even if there is a lot of non-recyclable plastic in the packaging.

Energy spent on trying to minimize impact entirely, rather than letting myself settle for informed compromises once in a while, is energy that can’t be spent on activism.

And there’s a lot of energy in a package of Oreos.

So you do what keeps you sane, you muster strength in numbers. You direct those numbers where it can work some magic.

Literally, in the case of scorn poles.

When we have this emotional need met, we’re more able to focus on one another. We can develop groups and systems of mutual material support, or get on board with existing ones. We really don’t need a specialized, purpose-built and specifically Heathen approach to this.

That second step isn’t about us, but rather about our values. It’s not about being seen as Heathens, not about the P.R., not about the reclaimed symbolism and the patching up of our reputations–all of which, frankly, I’m tired of and I think is overemphasized.

It is about half a loaf and a tipped cup. It’s about displaced people taking their chances and hoping for your hospitality. It’s about whether we believe in the things we say, or if we’re just a bunch of pretentious dicks who mistake drinking mead for a personality trait.

I am not going to tell you to find clever ways to reduce your consumption and resource footprint. These are things I do because they help me, the individual, feel better. They are legitimate choices as coping skills, because they provide both a healthy outlet and distracting challenge. As long as they’re approached sanely, they’ll keep you sane.

Rather, I will point you towards resources that cover what I’ve touched on here–how we can adapt emotionally and materially while we scramble to slow the world going headlong.


Coping With Climate Change: A walkthrough for managing the fear and uncertainty of humanity’s greatest crisis, by Ben Sayler

Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance from the American Psychological Association. (PDF)

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a national organization for providing direct aid to communities affected by disaster. See if an organization near you works with MADR.

Food Not Bombs is an obvious choice, when our goal is to assist vulnerable people and build partnerships that allow for survival. Not all chapters are known to the people maintaining this site, you may have to ask around locally. Check your local anarchist bookshops or community spaces, they’ll probably know.

The Troth’s Red Hammer program provides financial support to those affected by disaster, violence and hate crimes–direct aid is a future goal of Red Hammer. Currently, they’re fundraising for people affected by Hurricane Dorian.

The Utterly Ridiculous Tale of How I Became a Lokean

Picture it: the Delaware Valley, 2012…

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It was during the roaring Marvel Cineverse Zeitgeist. I didn’t really care for Tom Hiddleston’s face, but damn if an angry scapegoated child (ugh, the horns) didn’t eventually get to me on some profound level. I also had a bad habit of reading fanfiction involving…uh. Really specific tropes. That are mythologically canon.

I’m talking about How is Horse Babby Formed.

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Fight me, you greasy bitch.

Between really creepy fangirls and bad fic research, though, I decided I was going to write a well-researched but absurdist fic for the purposes of trolling the fandom. I had nearly boundless options, but, because I’m a one-trick pony, I apparently just had to go and choose How is Horse Babby Formed.

Thor fought an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Odin and Loki kinkshamed each other for a full page, as is the time-honored tradition. Beck–yes, that Beck–lived in Loki’s closet, because he liked the acoustics. Also, he had stitch-n-bitch sessions with Thor. They knitted Sleipnir a soccer jersey. Odin gave Loki a bit gag at the baby shower. It was glorious.

…and I never finished it.

In between brainstorming horrendous puns and dutifully checking the actual mythology, I had picked up an even worse habit of trolling Omegle, roleplaying as Sleipnir in the “Loki” tag and yelling “MOM IT’S ME” at every single match. This usually either made people extremely mad (mission accomplished!) or led to becoming Tumblr mutuals. (Awkward!)

I’d been aware that Ásatrú was a thing for a while, but had some serious baggage to unpack about it. I was also vaguely aware that Lokeans were a thing, but this was the week following Spongecakegate, so the Tumblr tag was…in a strange state at the time.

I definitely remember someone posting pictures of a horse penis in the tag, is what I’m saying.

Yeah.

So, in the process of Slippytrolling, on a day where my dad said out loud that he hoped I would drop my interest in Norse Mythology as soon as possible (HAH. HAHAHA.), I eventually stumbled on a real live Lokean! On the internet! I had a lot of questions. Specifically, “Why is everyone trying to bone Cosmic Hiddlesypiddles, and also, why is there horse dingus in your tag, you frickin’ weirdos?”

Turns out that had been a troll, and horse jokes were a subject of debate. Alright, so maybe these Lokeans weren’t so weird after all. I mean, as far as people who quarrel about pastry go. But foodies pick bizarre fights too, no big deal.

Omegle conversations led to me ending up on that Spongecake Chat, and after realizing this religion had a built in community where everyone was at least kind of odd, I got a boost of confidence. Kinda like what my ex said Rave culture was like when it was good, except nobody was thizzing (hopefully) or smearing Vicks on each other. I figured, fuck it, I’ll make my first offering. Loki likes sweets, right? It’s 3 am, but I’ve got some brownie mix.

This is also sort of the story of the time I almost fell into my oven in the wee hours of the morning.

Brownies were finally finished, and I suddenly realized I had no idea if this deity I was literally inviting into my kitchen was particular about them. Corner pieces? Edge pieces? Or the weird gooey middle part? I stuck out my hand, hoping some Weird Pagan Shit would happen. I got some vague vibe in favor of corner pieces, but I just plated a little bit of each and set them on the table by my laptop, since there was no altar set up yet. How do offerings even work? Do I just let the food…sit there? Someone recommend contemplatively eating them. Really, really slowly. So I did that.

I had never eaten a brownie slowly in my life. It was weird.

3AM rolled around, and upon realizing I had stayed up all night doing Weird Pagan Shit, I decided to go to bed. I stuck the remaining brownies in the fridge so other people could try them, packed up my laptop, and was in the process of stepping out of the kitchen when I heard a CD fall.

It was 2012 and I’m a bit of a Luddite. Stay with me.

The boom box was across the room from me and the CDs had been stable in their stack on top of it, I thought. But this seemed exactly like the kind of thing Loki would do, to my limited knowledge. It was one of my albums, so I picked it up to flip it over and make sure the case didn’t crack.

Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes.

Well that’s weird, considering I was thinking about Sigyn on my way out of the room. But it wasn’t damaged, so I put the CD back on the boombox, willing it to stay in place, and headed upstairs.

And then somehow, despite Astral Babygate, and the Mjölnir Panty Raid, Ruining Polytheism and a bunch of other overblown, weird controversies that escaped my attention, I somehow stuck around for 7 whole years other than the fugue that ended with a lot of–to me–proof that the gods were very much real. And then got nudged into a positive in-person community, and rapidly expanded my practice. And then swore a whole damn pledge. And I’m not seeing any signs of stopping. Not that I am allowed to, anyway. Because pledge. But I’m not planning to, either.

Happy Heath-a-versary to me.