Warrior Gods and the Culture of Violence

March 16, 2018
Green Woodpeckers from Birds Through the Year by William Beach Thomas and Anthony Keeling Collet.

I saw an article this week, which I won’t link to, that described the Norse god Thor yet again as a warrior god. Thor does engage in warfare with the giants in the sagas, but I want to go beneath the patriarchal overlay and discuss what this god is really about and how he gets the hammer that he wields in legends of warfare.

Thor is a woodpecker deity. That’s how he got his red hair. His hammer came from drilling into trees. The sound of this drilling is his “thunder,” another of his attributes.

The Roman god Mars is another woodpecker deity who became a war god under patriarchy. I write in Divining with Animal Guides:

It makes sense that the woodpecker god would be associated with the spear, as Mars undoubtedly is, on account of his sharp beak. But spears are not exclusively instruments of war—more commonly, they have been used for hunting large animals. The affinity between Mars and battle speaks more of the high regard the Romans had for this deity combined with their positive view of warfare. Ever-increasing territorial expansion was the source of Roman opulence as well as, ultimately, the seeds of the Empire’s destruction. In the same vein, the Greeks, who saw war as an instrument of economic collapse, assigned warfare as the purview of a Thracian deity, Ares, whom they wished to malign. That Mars was not exclusively seen as a warrior deity even at the height of the Roman Empire is illustrated by the British and Continental Celtic gods who were syncretized with Mars, often more closely associated with grain or healing than with war.

I will add that the first planters did not use a plow but a sharpened stick like a spear. A tiny hole was dug with the stick and the seed was placed in the hole. This mimicked the motion of the Green Woodpecker, who often hunts for ants on the ground by digging his beak in the soil.

People tend to take their gods into battle with them. That’s why we have so many “warrior deities.” We need to look critically at the warrior god/goddess phenomenon and not accept it unthinkingly.

Radio Interview with Susun Weed

March 2, 2018

Susun Weed interviewed Hearth on Tuesday February 27 about animal divination.

First 90 minutes Susun answers questions about herbs, including herbs for fighting colds, always a popular topic. Interview with Hearth begins at 1:26:50.

Happy Chinese New Year!

February 16, 2018

It’s the Year of the Dog.

I decided a few years ago that I would observe this holiday every year, after learning that it’s ill advised to clean your house during the first three days of the Chinese New Year. You’re sweeping good luck out the door if you do. I can’t say I would necessarily be cleaning on these three days if I didn’t know better, but now for three days out of the year I don’t feel like I should be cleaning.

And that’s something to celebrate.

God of the Woodpeckers

February 9, 2018

In my forthcoming book, Divining with Animal Guides, I have a chapter on woodpeckers. I mention that woodpeckers are associated with rain, thunder, and the god Thor. The red cap on some woodpeckers is how Thor gets his red hair. I was looking at pendants representing Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and noticed that the bottom part of the hammer has a beak-like point. The pointy Mjolnir is not the only depiction, but it has been found in many graves. This replica from Sweden (Kurck collection, date and site unknown) has a particularly strong bird resemblance.

Happy Imbolc!

February 2, 2018
Photo: Bamyers99

Snow on the ground right now, but can’t show you one of these in the snow because they hibernate. Yes, groundhogs do climb trees. They also swim.