They are so incredibly good to us in ways large and small! Sometimes it really does take my breath away, and it is so incredibly humbling to know how keenly we are held in Their sight. This was really driven home to me yesterday in the most prosaic of ways. Let me set the stage for my tale.
My husband injured his back not too long ago and I’m disabled (in part due to spinal damage accrued when I was dancing professionally. Ballet is brutal). Our housemate recently tore her rotator cuff gardening. (Nature is brutal too). We had close to eighteen inches of snow dumped on us very late Wednesday night, so when I woke on Thursday, there was a beautiful, glittering blanket of white all across our yard. Usually Sannion would shovel, but while he heals up, that’s not possible (not without the risk of reinjury). I’m not supposed to shovel (doctor’s orders, due to my own back issues) but I figured, well, someone has to do it, and I’m a tough bitch, so I thought I’d give it a shot. That was quickly a no go as I realized if I continued, I was going to seriously hurt myself. I know my body and I know when it’s sensible to push ahead and when I need to back the fuck off and sit down and at my age, I’m smart enough to listen.
So, I spent about an hour calling around town and posting on local groups to find someone who could shovel our drive, but that was a completely fruitless endeavor. In the meantime, we’d had groceries delivered quite early, or at least we were supposed to have had them delivered. The delivery woman hadn’t bothered to let us know she was at our door, though I provided my number, and rather than wear boots like a sensible person and bring the groceries to our door as we’d paid her to do, she shoved them under my car. Yes, you read that correctly. She put three bags of groceries in the snow *under* my car and left. (She told her supervisor that she put them on top of my white van. Mind you, I don’t have a white van). We thought that they’d not been delivered (even going out and looking around, we weren’t able to see them – she put them under the car on the street side of the car) so the part of my morning that wasn’t spent trying to find someone to shovel was spent on the computer with the delivery company getting a refund and filing a complaint about the delivery person. (If you take a delivery job the day after a blizzard and don’t have the sense to wear boots, I have zero sympathy for you). They were good about making restitution – more on that in a bit.
I had awakened in a good deal of pain (I’d pulled a muscle badly the day before) and none of this helped. It was shaping up to be a really awful day. We gave up, did a few informal prayers (I have started doing a brief morning ritual, but that didn’t happen yesterday), ending with an unspecified plea for help. Things immediately turned around. It was really kind of stunning.
Our lovely mailman, who is just an angel, came two hours earlier than usual, found the groceries and carried them up to the house for us. He didn’t have to do that, and the kindness almost made me cry. (I contacted the delivery service to cancel my refund since I had my groceries). We had pretty much given up getting our drive shoveled (and ok, it’s not like we are going anywhere, but I’d still like to be able to take my garbage down to the street and get to my mailbox, plus, if there’s any type of emergency, we need that mobility) when the doorbell rang. It was a young man whom I’d never seen before. He told us, a little dazedly, and he repeated this several times, that a voice told him to come to our house, and he asked if we’d like him to shovel. He did a marvelous job and we told him quite frankly that he was literally the answer to our prayers.
The rest of the day was quiet and uneventful. The bad energy and unpleasantness of the morning was completely gone.
All of this reminds me of something that happened to me seven or eight years ago. I had promised to make steak and offer to it Hermes. The day I owed the meal, we had another blizzard. I’m an uncertain driver in such weather (it was really bad), so I went to Hermes’ shrine and prayed and told him, “I’m sorry but I don’t think I can safely drive to get your steak.” (There were no grocery delivery services in our area then). “I’ll go out as soon as the weather clears up.” I made a liquid offering and went about my business and less than ten minutes later – no joke—a dude rings my bell. He’s a traveling salesman selling…steak. I’d never seen him before and haven’t seen him since. He wanted to get one more sale before calling it a day and heading home before the weather got worse. I bought a ton of steak and Hermes had His offering.
The moral of this story, my friends, is that the Gods do listen to our prayers, large and small, and sometimes the answer is no, but sometimes it’s a yes so loud and unsubtle that we can’t help but be knocked on our butts. Hail to Them all.
Those of you, like me, on the Northeast coast of the US, please stay inside, stay warm, stay safe. This blizzard is supposed to continue through Sunday. Some places farther south than I are potentially gearing up for forty inches and it already looks bad outside. Please stay off the roads, enjoy the downtime, and try not to eat your young.
Within Heathenry we have a whole family of ice and snow spirits, holy Powers, caretakers of the North. There is our God of the North wind, Kari (Brother to the ocean God Aegir and the God of fire Logi. He has numerous sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters like Father Frost, Jokul (ice), and Snaer (snow). I always take the opportunity of the first frost to pour out offerings to Father Frost, and the first big snowstorm to pour them out to the Others of His family.
I think it’s easy for those of us living in places that may get only one or two really big snowstorms a year to forget what a major role ice and snow and biting wind played in the lives of our northern ancestors, especially those really far north. It wasn’t just two or three months of cold weather and the occasional snowdrift but upwards of six months of darkness, cold, and isolation. I imagine that the experiences of our ancestors’ ancestors, those who, with the blessing of fire, carved out the first building blocks of civilization in the brutal landscape of the North must have stirred with uneasy grimness in the collective memories of those early Heathens when the dark cold of winter descended.
Ice and cold formed one of the primal elements, the first building blocks (along with heat and fire) of creation. It was through the grinding interplay of these oppositional forces that creation — materiality, the raw building blocks of being–came into existence. Ice and cold are deeply rooted in the spiritual worldview of our Heathen ancestors, the creeping dread of entropy, the knowledge that death waits just around the corner the moment one stops fighting.
A colleague of mine once got a powerful lesson from Angurboda wherein She told him: “don’t let life take you down until it takes you down” and i think that is a maxim deeply ingrained in the Heathen worldview. There is resolution in ice, lessons in self-mastery, vicious challenge and the expectation that we *will* endure and I think those are powerful lessons to apply not only to life but also to our spiritual work, especially when the fallow times, or periods of acedia occur.
It’s important in those times to remember that an icy, snow encased landscape looks silent and still but it isn’t. It is a covering blanket over the earth, protecting it, allowing it to rest, and allowing the synergetic processes of future creation to prepare themselves, the rhythms of decay and growth to dance in harmony with each other hidden away from our eyes. The land needs this period of respite and I think, in our busy, often overly-frenetic modern lives, sometimes we do too. A lot can be happening under the seeming impassivity of a white, cold landscape.
Now i’m going out to pour out some libations to the snow.