It has been nearly three weeks since Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast. Thank all the gods and spirits that I live in an area which was not heavily damaged. There are some areas (like parts of Long Island) which are still without power, and a LOT of people still trying to clean up and figure out what to do next. Before I get into a little exchange I had before the storm, let me encourage all of you to continue to help the victims if you can. Give cash and don’t worry so much about getting stuff, because while money may seem unfeeling, charities are better able to put that to use than the hodge podge of what people send which may or may not be of value.
Now, I spent the week leading up to the storm keeping my eyes on the weather and wondering what might happen here. I do admit to having an interest in preparedness for such disasters, even though in this case it was not as needed. The only utility which went out here was the cable. I managed without TV for a day, it was not that difficult. But oh, the storm. I was glad for the extra food I picked up and for knowing where candles and flashlights were located. Trees near my home were snapped or uprooted, large fans flying off buildings. My employer even closed for those two days. They NEVER close. I still feel thankful that they took the step because I imagine it kept a lot of people safer at home rather than trying to navigate the roads through that mess. And I did not have to worry about what I would eat should the power give out.
Amid my preparations, I asked on social media for suggestions of what I should pick up in anticipation of the situation becoming very dire. Being in the traditional foods movement, I come across people who hold some very different beliefs from me. One person suggested that I go out and buy a shotgun.
Say what now?
Never mind that I don’t have a lot of extra money these days, or could even likely get a gun that fast. Never mind that I do not know how to properly handle and shoot a gun. Never mind that I do live in suburbia and a relatively affluent area. This is New England. I know we have a reputation for all sorts of liberalism here, but there is also a certain old school conservatism. At least in the more urban areas. That’s not something we DO much around here.
It seemed like an overkill suggestion. If the storm did not come on that strong and cause such an extreme level of damage I would have felt like I had wasted money. (Again, never mind the fact that I don’t WANT a gun in my house, unless I start to hunt on a regular basis.) But if the storm was so bad and left the area so ravaged that people were reduced to some kind of apocalyptic scenario, I would probably have a lot more to worry about than someone MAYBE coming to my door with some kind of demand.
There are people out there who not only prepare for disaster on this level, but seem to be welcoming it, wanting it to come forth. On some deep level, I don’t understand that sort of wish. If the world were to unravel to that level, I’d rather be packing hospitality than heat.
Does this seem like a strange stance for a polytheist? Someone who actively honors Gods from cultures where war was a regular part of life? Although I feel hard-pressed to think of any sort of culture on earth which has been exempt from this. But if you look further into the culture and lore of these societies, you will often find a high value placed on the virtue of hospitality.
Blessed be the givers! A guest has come in,
where is he going to sit?
He’s in great haste, the one who by the hearth
is going to be tested out.
Fire is needful for someone who’s come in
and who’s chilled to the knee;
food and clothing are necessary for the man
who’s journeyed over the mountains.
Water is needful for someone who comes to a meal,
a towel and a warm welcome,
a disposition, if he can get it, for good words
and silence in return
-Havamal, translated by Carolyn Larrington
My two main traditions are Kemetic (Egyptian) and Heathen (Norse/Germanic). Both religions cam up from people living in harsh climates. One was a hot desert, the other a land dark and cold for half the year. Anyone who would have been traveling a far distance would have not had the easiest time on their journey. Settlements could be spread over miles and the only supplies would be the ones you carried. If something happened, like an injury or weather change, the traveler could die. Imagine the above stanzas being on the minds of a Scandinavian family who has heard a knock at their door during a snowy night after Midwinter. They open their door to find a man who has walked for days without seeing a single home, much less a full village. He is cold, frost handing from his beard, and his supplies are low. In that sort of environment, who would just go out for a stroll in those conditions and have nature beat down so hard on him? He might be a traveler, or yes, he might be a criminal. But it would not likely be in the family’s thinking to consider this person storming in to take over their settlement. I can imagine them getting before the fire, wrapped in a blanket, sharing some of their stew and home brewed ale to warm him. If he were somehow a criminal, I can’t imagine him wanting to rob or harm the people who had saved his skin.
Yes, my spiritual and physical ancestors knew bloodshed. They also put a high value on times of peace, and on their communities. They needed those other people around and knew that together they could accomplish much more than with everyone working and focusing on their own little worlds. Life was rough, and they cherished the times when it was not because all too soon, those moments are gone. As modern pagans and polytheists, we would be wise to focus more on these aspects of our traditions rather than pugilism.
With the climate going through major changes, storms like Sandy may well become more common. Who knows what kind of damage may come from them. Perhaps among our supplies stocked away for such storms, we should consider a good helping of compassion along with instruction in non-violent communication and conflict resolution.