Uncle Thor's Lessons, Anecdotes and Humor


The Best Kind of Friend

A trick of self-deception is to mistake the messenger for the message. Many times, a person who is wrong wants to ignore or deny his mistake. This is all the more true if he wants to persist in this erroneous activity. When someone calls him to task, he will argue with great effort to discredit his accuser’s statement. Winning the argument does not change the fact that something is wrong. However, the trick is self-deception is that the wrongful one thinks that by discrediting his accuser, the problem does not exist.

All he has really accomplished is to fool himself and to perpetuate his mistake.

Dismissing the messenger does not dismiss the message. The above example is one where the individual mistakes one for the other. If an enemy army were coming with overwhelming force, the general does not end the threat by executing the messenger who informed him of it. The enemy is still coming and all the general is left with is a dead messenger and no battle plan.

This bring up the best kind of friend. A real friend will keep you from doing something incredibly stupid. For instance, suppose the road you want to use has a problem. The bridge is out. Your friend knows about it. If he is that best kind of friend, he will try to stop you from using that road. Should you insist, he will be even more insistent that you do not use it. No matter how angry you get, the friend will stand fast. In the end, he prevents you from doing yourself serious harm.

The worst kind of friend will want to please you, and will let you do whatever you want. That includes going down the road where the bridge is out. That is not a friend. That is a “yes man.” The sole purpose of a yes-man is to stroke a person’s ego. To that end, people of substance have the best kind of friends. People with easily-bruised egos have yes-men.

One of the things a friend can do is help you find flaws in your plans. A true friend well tell you if he thinks something you are planning is flawed. He will also tell you exactly why he feels that way. If there is a flaw you missed, well, you just “dodged a bullet.” If your friend was mistaken, no harm is done. At least you know he is paying attention. Many times, an astute friend will keep you from making mistakes and alert you to things that need to be addressed. You may be so focused on your project that it takes a second pair of eyes to make objective criticism.

One example is when writing an important letter to address an issue. My wife and I use a simple process. Before sending an important missive, we let the other read it over. Along with exposing any points that might need clarity, it helps assure that the message we intend to send is indeed the message the other party receives. Many a mis-communication is avoided and corrected in this simple exchange.

None of us is infallible. There are things each of us can do better. Sometimes it takes the best kind of friend to point that out.

In other words, “Without someone to “pull your chain”, you might run right over the precipice.”


The Wise and the Teachable

If you leave one path for another, make no effort to burn bridges behind you. Unless, of course, you leave on bad terms, because of a problem,or such. You may find, as most do, that every stage of your spiritual journey gave you something. It is nice to know that you still have friends there and can visit on good terms. My only regret in this is that many of the friends I made along the way have passed from this life. Many of them were wiser, more experienced individuals who generously shared their wisdom with me. Of course, they were also much older than me and so are no longer with us.

I have had the benefit of knowing many wise and wonderful people in my own spiritual journey. One trait they had in common was their willingness to share their insight, experience and wisdom with others. Their generosity of spirit was remarkable. It is a trait that I have found in people of several schools and traditions. These people did not try to act wise or spiritual. They were natural in everything they did. Genuine teachers are like that. Those who do not have it try to act as if they do. Those who have it are just naturally themselves and do not need to act the part.

Another interesting characteristic of truly wise people is that they are not full of rules and regulations. No “you have to” or “thou shalt not.” They offer guidance and suggestions, but do not burden others with rules and musts and have-tos. This is not to say they have an “anything goes” attitude. Quite the contrary. The wise will assure you that anything does NOT go! However, their guidance is unburdened by useless technicalities and annoying complexity. That is how they can give you more insight in a sentence or two than you would get from a lengthy diatribe. Many newcomers who seek are so convinced it must be complex that they miss the subtle beauty and simplicity of genuine wisdom.

I have learned from wise men and women of various traditions, various backgrounds, various races and ethnicities. I am thankful I had the good sense to listen. The fact that I am alive and sentient today is because of sage guidance long ago.

A wise, tough old man told me the value of being teachable. One day, he had opportunity to give me an example. A man who was so full of his own ideas and worries came to him. The man would not let go of these things and so was unteachable. The wise old fellow told him to come back when he was ready to be taught. After the man left, the old one said to me, “There you see why a person must choose to be teachable.” Indeed, the lessons I learned were because I was willing to learn.

If you choose to be teachable, those who can teach you will appear.

Here I am, aged 60 years plus. I have wisdom and experience of my own to share. Be that as it may, there are still things I can learn and people who have wisdom to share with me. I am ever thankful for the wise old-timers who came my way over the many long years. I find peace in the fact that I am still willing to learn. And so, my advice to you is to remain teachable and keep learning. Stay interested in life. He who is unwilling to learn any more is like a stagnant swamp receding into putrefaction. He who remains teachable is like an ever-renewing stream of spring water, ever fresh and clear. Even in old age, his spirit is fresh.


Northwest Nut-Hatches

The stand-off in Oregon is reaching comic proportions. There is a bunch of unshaven guys in cammies holed up in a wildlife refuge building in the middle of nowhere. They have been there a few days and the place is probably already stinking of unwashed morons, more so because the toiled paper has probably run out. (If they did not think to bring snacks, they would probably not think of toilet paper.)

Is that supposed to be a stand-off with the police? They do not even know how to make a viable threat.

When most people think of a stand-off with the cops, what do we think? Bonnie & Clyde. John Dillinger and Baby-face Nelson. Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and the Ma Barker gang. Machine-gun Kelly. Pretty Boy Floyd. All of the aforementioned were well-dressed individuals who gave the stand-off a bit of prestige. We certainly do not think of a bunch of hungry rednecks stinking up a small building in a wildlife refuge out in the middle of nowhere.

Some of those who participate claim to be veterans. What kind of veterans? Infantry veterans would have come prepared for a siege. That is part of their experience. Supply clerk veterans and transportation veterans could have been in harm’s way, but they are still not trained for a stand-off. An infantryman would not forget to pack along plenty of c-rations and toilet paper. A supply clerk might.

And yet again, it all renders down to a big bunch of smelly guys crowded into a little building, begging for snacks. I am certain they will be very morose when the lack of electricity means they won’t be able to watch Duck Dynasty and Last Man Standing.


There have been some prize crackpot schemes. This one takes the cake. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, the governor of NJ said, “If it sounds stupid, it probably is.” That certainly applies here. All the cops have to do is keep them surrounded and let nature handle the rest. Participating in a wackadoodle plot like this is like volunteering to go to jail.

As to the Bundys, they remind me of a jackass from many years ago. The man had a run-in with some people, including the owners of a bar. He decided he was going to go up there and have a brawl. What he did was go to a couple bars in his neighborhood and invite guys to have a few drinks with him. He did not tell them he needed extra muscle for a brawl. So here they were, at this bar, expecting a good time. Next thing, the owner locks the door and out comes his muscle: a biker gang. Making it worse, the guys that the fool invited were not brawly folks. They were people who only wanted to have fun, not people you would bring to a brawl with knives, bats and motorcycle chains. One of my friends nearly got killed that night all because of the jackass who suckered his friends into a fight. (I was not there. I ran with a different crew.)

The Bureau of Land Management probably needs to be fixed. However, an ill-conceived scheme is not the way to do it. Tactically, legally and otherwise, the whole thing is ridiculous. All those men did is put themselves in a precarious position. And all the police have to do is sit and wait.


Read It Yourself!

Almost 30 years ago, I was taking classes at a metaphysical organization. I liked their way of explaining esoteric things in plain American English. I had taken a short series of classes that were bright, informative and enjoyable. The practitioner’s course was being offered. I decided to try the first part. (I never saw it as conflicting with Heathen beliefs, and I still do not.)

The metaphysical school has its own basic textbook. It had been written originally in the late 1920s. For the practitioner course, the leader of that particular group opened the book and started reading two or three lines. He then added his interpretation of them. He repeated this throughout the lesson. The book itself was clear and plain. There was little doubt what it meant. So why did this teacher insist on interpreting it for us? Why not give us the benefit of his experience and insight? Obviously, I did not go beyond the first part. For the money they charged for the lessons, I could read the book for myself. In fact, I already had!

There is one place I have seen this before: Biblical exegesis. These exegetical works are where a clergyman goes through the Bible line-by-line, giving his interpretation. Frankly, it is the work of windbags who like to hear – or read – themselves talk.

Why do people think that we need to have them explain what we are reading?

Recently, someone posted a thing promoting some author’s new book on the Havamal. It was not a translation, but a re-interpretation of the Havamal “for our times”. In other words, the author purports to interpret the book for us and give it a timely spin. I looked at the author’s blog and saw an awful lot of writing just for making a few points.

The Havamal has been translated many times. I always liked the Hollander translation. It kept the poetic format and was written in pretty clear English. There are others I use. I have a few older translations online that can be used without infringing copyrights, for instance. The rest of the Eddas have been translated, as well as the Gaesta Danorum, Tacitus, and so on and so forth. There are many competent translations of these famous works. Aside from a few technical snags, they are all pretty clear. Read one, compare it with another, and you get the same story. Whatever the particular translation, it tells you its message and unless you are a complete moron, you understand it. Ancient Nordic, Greek and Roman writings were that way. They were for their people what plain English is for us. In fact, Norse, Germanic, Greek and Roman literature translates into modern Western languages rather easily.

Compare this with translations of the Bible. Hebrew does not translate as easily as the European languages. Hebrew is a Semitic language akin to Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic. The syntax is very different. Nonetheless, Bible translations are pretty consistent. Compare the King James (Anglican), Douay-Rheims (Catholic), Revised Version / AV, Good News Bible and even the translation from the Aramaic Bible. There are differences in the flow of the language, mostly due to the times they were translated. King James is in an older dialect; Good News is in the style of the 1960s. (The Hippy-Dippy Bible?) Despite minor differences, they are all very consistent. Some are translations, some are transliterations, but the story is the same. Which ever one you read, David still flattens Goliath with a slingstone and Jesus gets hoisted by Italian guys.

The clergy of the various sects and denominations of Christianity like to tell people what the Bible means. They assume that people are too stupid or too unenlightened or too ungodly to understand what they are reading. Yet pick up a translation of the Bible and you get the same message as some hoity-toity windbag preacher who is reading the same translation. Compare translations and it is all the same bunch of stories. So obviously, the clergyman who wants to interpret for you is either a condescending jackal or a pompous ass of the first order.

People do not need to have the Eddas and other lore explained for them. We do not need to have it re-interpreted for a new age. This is because with few exceptions, we are sentient and literate people who can read and understand. We can read and can figure things out for ourselves.

Besides, we are a non-scriptural religion. The old lore is a starting point, but we do not hinge on its every word. We do not quote the old lore to justify or excuse our actions and motives. The old lore is a finger pointing the way, not the way itself. And as each of us lives his or her own life on its own merits, each takes it as he or she sees fit. We certainly do not need someone to tell us what we are reading and how we should deal with it.

Read it for yourself or do not read it at all!

Rest assured, the Norwegian man in Bergen who reads the Norwegian version of the Eddas and the French fellow in Brittany reading the French translation is getting the same message as you and I reading in English. Translations may miss a few nuances, but the meat and heart of the story is there. We certainly do not need someone to be so arrogant as to want to tell us how to interpret what we are reading. We have been doing that for ourselves.


You are reading these things for yourself. Whether you like a poetically-structured version like Hollander or a translation that reads like a storybook, enjoy it. Read the ones that speak most comfortably and clearly to you. Heathenism has no “authorized version”. The important thing is that you get the message in a manner that you can appreciate. Whether you read of Thor defeating Hrungnir in verse or prose or a storybook with pictures, it is still the same story . Heathenism is not a dogmatic way and so we should not be dogmatic, especially since we are a non-scriptural religion. Read the works that you enjoy most. You will get more out of them.


On Finding Your Spiritual Home

Through the many adventures in spirituality, I chose to make the old Norse and German tradition my home. It felt right. It fit. It was natural. Know that I have not thrown out everything else I learned. For instance, I still read Tarot. One should not throw out the baby with the bath water. At the same time, a person eventually has to declare one tradition his home and work from there.

Did I choose it or did it choose me? I never really left it. It was with me all along. This is who I am.

When seeking your path, comfortability is essential. You want the one that is most natural to you. I have found that what often happens is a person will find a comfortable way of spirituality and spend time there. Then he may drift to an even more comfortable one. What happens is that he gets to one place and learns all he needs, and then it is time to move on. Often, these are like stops along the Spiritual Hiking Trail. You need to linger at one and get its benefits before you are prepared for the next one.

Then again, some folks find that one system or school that fits them for the rest of their lives.

If you do leave a friendly school or system to take your spiritual journey further, do so peaceably. Don’t burn bridges. Sometimes when we move on ,we think that which we left is somehow not good enough. We may even feel a bit derisive. That is just a natural way of psychologically making the break easier. Do not feed into it. Go in peace and friendship. In time, you will remember that place fondly for the time you spent there and the things you learned and the people with whom you learned them. In some cases, you may even go back there to stay after having learned all the other things along the way. At least, you can always go back for a visit with old friends.

Do the teachings agree with you? Do you like the people? Would you like them if the issue were something other than spirituality? For instance, would you like these people if you were all taking a cooking class together? Would they be acceptable company if you were joining a hobby club, forming a PTA committee or having a union meeting? If not, LEAVE.

Do they try to make you change the way you act, talk or dress? Do they try to tell you how to run your personal life? If so, LEAVE while you still have a chance

The same goes for teachers and leaders. Would you want to be around this person if the issue at hand were not spirituality? Would you feel comfortable inviting him for brunch with your friends? Would he be someone you could introduce to your spouse or other relatives? Would you feel safe if you were alone with him?

People are a good indicator of where a path will take you. Again, look at those who have been at it a while. Are they happy? Does their life show goods results? If they are not happy, LEAVE. Likewise, if they tend to be smug, spiteful or negative in their outlooks, LEAVE. The same goes for those systems where older members tend to look down on newer ones. You are doing this for your self-betterment, so why risk doing things that could make you as miserable, nasty , or otherwise unpleasant as some of the people you see.

The plain fact is that spirituality is unregulated and has no agreed-upon set of standards. There are unscrupulous individuals, narcissists and others who see this as an opportunity to satisfy themselves. They prey on the gullible and the socially needy. Some are nothing more than slugs seeking to have sex with people who might otherwise deny them. Others are social basket cases seeking to get recognition.

“Avoid Creeps in an occult shop.” More then once when looking for hard-to-find books in occult shops, I have had creepy individuals try to strike up a conversation. I tried to avoid getting into a discussion with them. They might be trying to make a friend, or get someone interested in what they are doing, or even put themselves up as teachers. You can tell they are creeps from the start. They are like everything I have said about the teachers and leader and groups to avoid. So when assessing schools and people regarding spirituality, think of that saying: “Avoid creeps in an occult shop.”

Remember always the old axiom: If it sounds too good, it probably is.

You are doing this for your own benefit. Why suffer? You should be enjoying it. If not, time to go elsewhere!


Spiritual Growth: On Gathering Insight

On Gathering Insight

Many people think that the way to gain spiritual insight is to read and learn and study. That has its merits, but is not the way, I find that part of gaining insight is not a gathering of more, but a letting go of outworn ideas. Insight is simplicity rather than complexity. It is a release of burdens and the dropping of impediments.

Among things that are dropped are unproductive attitudes and counterproductive habitual thinking. With maturity and spiritual growth comes conflict with bad mental habits. Some of these are faulty attitudes and habits of long duration. They have either persisted since childhood or seemed reasonable at the time they were adopted later in life. We hold on so hard we do not realize we are better off without them. The need to rid oneself of them should be apparent. They are held tightly until one matures to the point that they become unbearable. Once the process of releasing them has begun, however, the bad old habits and attitudes start dropping one after another.

Another thing that is released is a certain rigidness of spirit. One sees that the journey is not one that can be enhanced by rules and petty demands. He can be firm in his resolve, but is not rigid. There is flexibility and yet there is backbone. Think of the Yew that can bend when necessary, yet always returns to its true form.

Early on, the need to conform and seek the approval of others is released. The journey is taken for oneself, not others. Therefore, he need not justify himself on what others may say or do. Freedom from conformity with others and freedom from their opinions is among the most liberating things.

Perhaps the best is freedom from perfection. There is no longer a need to believe that everything in the Universe has to be perfect. Likewise, one need not be perfect. What we see as the imperfections of Life are just aspects of how Life works. Without the need to believe in an infallible creator or an infallible creation, one frees himself from an awful burden. Perfection is a human idea and it is not an absolute, but a relative thing. Perfection is not the same as precision. Perfection is a concept that only exists in the eye of the beholder.. Precision exists no matter who is looking. Precision does not set a moral standard and so does not burden our spirit. Precision is the joy of the scientist, engineer and craftsman.

As you learn, you realize that nothing has to be your way. Then you cede the need for things to conform to what you think they ought to be. Instead, you let them reveal what they really are. Everything is what it is. Trying to make it fit some pre-conceived notion will only distort it. Patience allows the time for understanding to unfold. Rigid definitions crumble with the growing of insight and understanding. Better it is to let it show you itself than for you to try to tell it what it should be.

Spiritual growth can be like letting fall a rucksack full of rocks.


In my six decades, I have encountered people who are rigid, severe and insistent on “perfection.” They are unyielding and demanding; as a result, they are bitter and resentful. One might say they are “tightly wound” like an over-stressed clockwork spring. Such tightness of spirit impedes the flow in oneself and in the Life around oneself. It backsup and causes stagnation of the spirit. You can see it in their faces when they get older. Such persons are an unhappy lot: implacable and unable to take joy in Life.

I am reminded of the analogy of trying to hold a handful of sand. If you try to grip the sand in your fist, you lost it. The tighter you grasp, the faster it goes. Let the sand rest in your cupped, open palm and it stays. The sand is an allegory for the joy of living.

The door to insight opens inward. If you force it, you push it away. If you ease into it, you draw it to you. I first heard this many, many years ago. All these years later, this lesson has been proven tiem and again.


Spirit versus Religion

There is no one single right way to be Heathen. There is no one single right way to connect with the Gods. There is no one single right way to express spirituality.

A religious journey is one were a group agrees to a shared set of beliefs, rules, practices and doctrines. They agree to a creed, a code of behavior and certain formalities. In effect, those on the religious journey are all doing the same thing.

A spiritual journey is where each individual finds his own way, makes his own connections and develops his own beliefs with time and experience.

Choose your path. You can go the religious route. At least you won’t be alone on your journey. Or you can go the spiritual route. You may be alone sometimes, but you will never be lonely.

I chose the spiritual route. This is definitely not a place for the weak-spirited. However, it is honest. There will be times of discovery and times of doubt. In the end, only truth will suffice.

Religion seems easy because everything is laid out for you. In fact, religion is a shared ride and you have no input into where it will take you. Spirituality is not easy because you have to gain insight for yourself. You have the freedom to take the direction which gets you where you wish to be. The religious journey is one where all are passengers. The spiritual journey is one where the individual is the driver. He is like the horse and rider, free to choose his own route as he sees fit.

You can be religious and treat the old lore as a scripture. You can be spiritual and use the old lore as a starting point. That which is written is that which has been done. That which will be done is not written. It will not be written until it, too, is in the past.

Today, like every day, you have a choice.


Respecting Religious Freedom

In view of the recent firebombing of a mosque in California, it is time to review the rules for dealing with other religions.

You may or may not respect the belief, but you must respect the right of others to hold those beliefs.

1) Never do harm to any house of worship or shrine.

2) Never disparage another because of his religious affiliation.

3) Never allow religious affiliation to serve as cause to deprive another of his rights and dignity.

4) Do not cause a disturbance at any religious event. Never interrupt a religious service, prayer circle or other religious activity.

5) Have special respect for wakes, funerals and burials.

6) Never deface, damage or otherwise disrespect graveyards, grave markers, and other funerary items. Do not tamper with offerings or devotional items that others may leave at the graves of their departed ones..

7) If circumstances place you in a house of worship, be a good guest.

8) Do not interfere with, impede, harass or otherwise abuse people going to or coming from a religious activity.

9) Do not trash religious items.

10) In a house of worship, do not go onto the altar, dais or shrine. Do not touch any altar items. Stay where you belong.

If we like having freedom of religion for ourselves, then we must respect the religious freedom of others. We do not have to like or respect their beliefs. However, we do have to respect their right to hold those beliefs and express them. We might not understand their beliefs or rites or religious customs. That is not cause to tamper with them. Likewise, it is in bad taste to ridicule them in public.

Part of our expression of our own dignity is in how we respect the rights and sensibilities of others.

If you want to know how absolutely foolish it looks to behave badly in matters of other religions, look at the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests. Few things look as ridiculous as those people with their silly signs, haunting a funeral.

Heathens and other Pagans have gotten a hard time for a thousand years. We know how it feels to be on the bad end of it., For that reason alone, we should know better than to do it to others. If you don’t like something, don’t do it to someone else.


Chaplaincy and the Greater Good

I currently serve as chaplain to a mainstream organization. This is new ground for those of my religious trend: Heathenry, also known as the Old Norse / German religion. It falls under the umbrella of Paganism. I’ve been writing down some of my thoughts about it. I do not see myself as a trend setter, but as someone stepping into a role that our people have not had the opportunity to fill previously.

This experiment in chaplaincy came quite by accident. I filled in for the chaplain once at a wake. My invocation was so good that I ended up with the job. That was over six years ago. Three years ago, I was asked to take an additional position as chaplain at the county level.

I have always had something of a feel for interfaith work. I have also run the gamut of religious experiences. One might say I have been “…from Alchemy to Zen and back again…” The idea was not to look for a new path. I just wanted to see how it felt to experience a little of the many traditions I had come across. Spirituality has always fascinated me. There must have been something guiding my path, because I managed to get the tools, knowledge and experiences needed to move forward.

Chaplaincy is different. In my experience, a chaplain is not so much a spiritual leader as a generic spiritual presence. He leads prayers at meetings and events, does invocations at wakes and funerals, and if needed, brings a little comfort to members and their families. The chaplain is not a substitute for an individual’s own clergyman.

I have experience as a substance abuse counselor. I used to give talks on spirituality to addicts and alcoholics. They were a tough audience. Talking one on one, I had to be able to put things in the perspective of the individual. That mean knowing just enough of the formalities, lexicon and nuance of monotheistic religions to translate spiritual ideas into a language that they could understand. That is a lot easier for a Heathen for one very specific reason.

I am part of a religious sect that does not proselytize. We do not actively seek converts. Personally, I am not interested in attracting people to Heathenism. If they want to come, fine. I will help if they ask. Working with troubled people gave it another perspective. We’re not trying to lead them to Allfather. We are just trying to lead them out of the quagmire and onto solid ground. From there, the journey is their own. That may entail using the lexicon of their respective religions to get them from Point A to Point B. Once they get there, my job is done. The journey to point C is their responsibility. Their choice of spiritual path is really none of my business. I have succeeded if I get them to the point where they are able to make that choice on their own.

Without having to proselytize, we can bypass religious preferences and get right to the goal. The chaplain’s job is a service to all members in whatever group, organization, job or agency he serves. In my own experience, I have led prayers at meetings, wakes, dinners and other events serving a group who are mostly Christian and Jewish. Last year, I was asked by the Jewish War Veterans to do the opening prayer and benediction at the local veterans’ breakfast. That was an honor. I have also participated in funeral services, memorial services and the annual Four Chaplains’ service. These are usually no problem, though I find the Four Chaplain’s Service a grey area and have yet to fully reconcile all of it with my beliefs. I do it out of obligation in my role as chaplain.

A hazard of chaplaincy for Heathens is the grey areas, and each must deal with them himself. Heathens differ in subtle ways on religious matters, even in the same household. For instance, I do not like churches and will only attend for special family events, such as weddings or as expected as a chaplain. My wife, who had been a music major, sees churches as venues for classical music. She does not mind them.

Chaplaincy at this level can be very rewarding. I’ve made friends and had the opportunity to participate in worthy activities. On the other hand, I have occasionally come across situations which grated a little on my Heathen sensibilities. One just has to grit his teeth and let it pass. It is a small price to pay for the benefits. Keep in mind that I am still in the early years of this thing. Where it will take me is anyone’s guess.

I have to admit that most of the people I serve see me as a generic interfaith minister, though some are more aware of my personal Heathen beliefs. I have to use a lot of discretion, because in this area discretion is the better part of valor. Sometimes the line between discretion and selling out seems to narrow, but as of yet, it has never been blurred. Personally, I cannot sell out as it is not in my nature to do so. If that time comes, I will quit the chaplaincy rather than cede my Heathen integrity. So far, it has not even come close.

I will be compiling a text for those Heathens and other Pagans who may have the opportunity to serve as a chaplain.

As I have said in the past, chaplaincy is one of those roles which we can accept so as to better establish ourselves in the society in which we live. Heathens have no problem serving organizations in other traditional roles such as chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer and sergeant at arms. Chaplaincy ought to be no obstacle. Members of other religions have done it for years, so why not us? To be accepted, we need to step up to the plate.

This is uncharted territory, but my hope is that I might be able to share my experiences for other Heathens inclined to serve as chaplains and interfaith ministers.


What do you need to be a chaplain? You have to be so secure in your beliefs that you do not feel the slightest bit threatened dealing with aspects of other religions. You have to apply a generic approach to religion and use the lexicon most familiar to average folks. When using formal prayers, remember that the descriptions of God actually equate with our own Gods and Goddesses. God of Might / Power is Thor, Father God and God of Wisdom and Understanding is Odin, God of Mercy is Frigga, and so on. Most of all, you have to be willing to put your own self aside for the greater good. You are not there to promote Heathenism. Your goal is to do the most good you can. In that, you honor the Gods. I personally feel I represent the Gods, even if anonymously. I believe that serving as chaplain will be one more step to establishing Heathenism as a valid religion to the general public.


The Following are a few other things to consider:

Although there are shared aspects to the various religions out there, there are also differences. You are part of your chosen denomination. This not only applies generally to Paganism, and Heathenism, but to your specific sect. Though chaplaincy means serving the spiritual needs of all within the group, it does not mean that you regard all religions equally. You are expected to keep the traditions and rules of your particular denomination. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is an adage whose intent has its limits.

You must be aware that however you serve, you are still a Heathen or Pagan. You have Heathen or Pagan ideals and morals. In your service to others, you cannot afford to lose sight of yourself. Whether they know of your particular personal religious affiliation is of small consequence. What matters is that you know.

Like the Yew Tree, we can bend and flex to a point. However, we must always snap back to who we are.

As to other religions, you do not have the respect the belief. You must respect the right of others to believe in it. Most important is that you respect the people you serve.

Our role is not to help those under our purview to be better Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, etc. Their specific religious beliefs are something they need to take up with their own clergy. We are not a substitute for their priests, rabbis, ministers and imams.


Though the bylaws of various associations state that the chaplain is their spiritual leader, he is in fact just a servant. The chaplain’s main duty is to read prayers at meetings and other events. He may have to lead specific ceremonies, such as a memorial service for departed members. The chaplain may be called to visit members who are ill or in need. Even in this, he is not a substitute for their clergyman. The chaplain represents the organization in a capacity of moral support.


A chaplain ought to avoid theological discussions beyond superficial conversation, insofar as members of the group he serves. He is a spiritual advisor in a very limited capacity. Direct those seeking a deep discussion to consult their own clergy.


Understand that we cannot just jump out there and tell folks of the wonder of Heathenism or the joys of Paganism. Many do not understand. They have been told that their sect is the only right one. Similar sects are considered heretical to a greater or lesser degree. Very different denominations are regarded by them as wrongful. Entirely different religions may be considered as evil, according to some of their doctrines. Things that even hint of magick can startle them, even if it is essentially the same as common conventional religious practices. So can certain symbols. In some places, a deck of Tarot cards can cause concern. Leave the tools of the trade home.


If You Have Trains for the Holidays

It’s time to set up the old train set. Maybe you have an old set from your younger days. Perhaps you found al old set in the attic, or you may have inherited one. A train set can be the start of rewarding hobby for all ages. Model railroads are a great father-and-son hobby. They are also fun for older fellows looking for something to enjoy in spare time.

Do you know what trains you have? Here is a guide for you: http://www.thortrains.net/attic1.html

By the way, you cannot always go by the brand. For instance, though famed for making O and O27 size trains, Lionel at other times made Standard gauge, HO and G trains. American Flyer made Wide Gauge / Standard Gauge prior to 1942. In the 1950s it made S and HO trains. Our guide can tell you which size train you had.

Our All Gauge page has numerous resources for trains of all size, from diminutive Z scale all the way to massive Standard gauge. There are instructions for setting up trains, wiring, power supplies, track plans and layouts, scenery, and much more. The site is at http://www.thortrains.net

If you have older Lionel, American Flyer and Marx trains, we have a DVD that has PDF files of old manuals, layout books and other resources. These numerous resources cover trains made from the 1920s up until the 1990s. There is material on the DVD for HO, S, O and O27 trains. Here is a link so you ca learn more about this DVD: http://thortrains.net/ads-sales/index.html

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