David and I were both on horseback, walking our mounts up the mountain above my farm. David and I have been part of the same Kindred for three years now, but this was his first time trail riding and I was nervous. I wasn’t worried about David—he was confident and kind with the horses—I was worried about me.
The horse I was riding was new to the farm and much larger than the fell pony I was used to riding. She’s half Belgian and it showed in her build and height. At 5’2” I’m not used to moving across the landscape five feet above the ground and the new horse was wary of the new trails, leaping deer, flushed birds, and odd smells. I knew my fears were all anticipatory, and I was creating scenarios in my head about things that could go wrong with her on the ride that had not actually happened yet. I also knew if I rode the horse scared, she would feel that energy and act doubly cautious. Time to pull it together, woman!
Avoiding getting to know the mare was a choice based on comfort and not growth. So I saddled up and rode. Once I was holding the reins I let out a sigh of relief and took on the more-important and pleasant job of sharing the trails with a new rider. David did so well and looked as if he was born ready to sit on top of a thousand pounds of draft animal. The sun was out, the weather pleasant, and the views mighty. I let out a sigh, hoping I was worthy of the luck to enjoy this day without danger. I leave that to my deeds and ancestor’s watchful eyes.
As we rode along field and trail David was taking in the experience and chatting with me about the morning. He had driven up to the farm from Troy (a city south of the farm near Albany) to meet some local Heathens who had just moved to the area and were curious about our Kindred. The young couple brought their three children and enjoyed some coffee and donuts as well all got to know each other. I was glad David could be there to help answer questions, but also proud to have a Heathen welcoming committee ready for others in our faith.
Finding a tribe is hard. Making time for anything social or spiritual outside of the regular work of career and family, even more so. But all had gone smoothly and it was encouraging seeing a young family out trying to connect with their co-religionists.
When I find myself in moments of self-doubt, it is our stories, myths, and heroes I turn to. How hard is it to get up on the back of a new horse when Tyr placed his hand inside the mouth of a giant wolf? How challenging is it to get up on a groggy and slow Monday morning and head back to work when Thor traveled across great reaches to reclaim his hammer? And if my work is words and illustration and I feel creatively blocked, I know to stop and head outside and hope a splash of the mead of poetry might come my way.
If this seems silly, that’s okay. I am well aware that stories are not the same as hard work and experiences, but those stories are what ground me, and they help me feel stronger in moments of doubt. Things like deadlines, skittish horses, or lazy days. I think, as Heathens, we are attuned to those stories. Not just because of any love of myth, but more because we know how those myths came to us. We only know of Mjölnir, Skaði, or Sköll because of the countless generations behind us. The people who carried them across oceans and cities. Our myths have lasted and to share them even in a small corner of my heart while a fellow Heathen rides beside me on a mountain top in modern times is heartwarming as a fire at dusk.
So look to the stories and turn to them when you need inspiration or feel alone. The fact they are still available and being told in 2017 is proof of their merit and of the people who brought them to us. It may get you on a new horse or through a Monday in a cubicle – either way, they are good and they are ours. You are never alone when you know an old story.
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