Instead of my usual Myth Monday, I wanted to post about something that has been on my mind lately. Something that tugs at me so much I can’t keep quiet about it anymore. That “something” is the need for people to understand that emotions of all sorts are part of who we are, and that the idea of shoving away emotions is not a religious concept under any path. The attitude of never openly expressing these feelings that aren’t always pleasant is not only unhealthy, but not what the gods showed us. No matter what anyone tells you, NO PATH actually said you can’t feel and have these emotions. Their interpreters may have, but they themselves did not. And for the life of me, I can not figure out why in the Pagan and Heathen community especially, people try to pull the tough guy “man up” attitude, or the “only positive thoughts” mindset. News Flash…NONE OF OUR GODS DID THAT! Fear, Sadness, Depression, Pain, all of these things were expressed by the gods.
Fear is one of those emotions that many people tend to get mocked for expressing. Especially among some groups of pagans and so-called Heathens who try to impose their “man-code” on religion. There is no rule that says you can’t be afraid. Being a man does not mean you can’t be afraid. In fact, you can’t have courage if you aren’t afraid. We hear the saying all the time, “Courage is not the lack of fear, but being willing to face it”. So why shun people for having fear? You can’t have it both ways. Rushing ahead without having fear would be dangerous stupidity at its worst and a lucky win at best. Not courage. Fear is what makes us take precautions to stay alive. It’s a natural response. Did the gods fear? Yes they did. In Greek myth, Zeus was afraid of the Goddess Nyx so much so that he wouldn’t even enter her cave to go after her son that, under the circumstances, he had the right to be mad at. Imagine all-mighty Zeus chasing down someone and then saying “He tried to help my wife kill me.. but I’m scared of his Mama, so we’re good”. The Norse gods had fear too. In Grimnismal of the Poetic Edda, Odin says that his ravens fly out over the earth every day, and he fears they won’t return. People debate over what the ravens represent in that particular stanza and what it is he is actually afraid of losing. But whatever the case, the one thing that remains the same is that he admits he fears them not coming back. When the Aesir gathered up Loki and Angrboda’s three children, it was because they feared the prophecy that those children would someday play a part in bringing them all down at Ragnarok. Then there’s Thor. On the journey to Utgard when Thor, Loki, and their companions were sleeping in the glove that they thought was a large hall, it began to shake in the middle of the night like a giant earthquake. And we’re told all of them, including Thor, were afraid and hid in one of the “rooms”. Thor did have the courage to stand at the entrance and hold the others back in case of collapse. But he was still afraid. Mighty Thor, basher of trolls, killer of giants; afraid of an earthquake. And you think its wrong for humans to be afraid? Fear is not wrong. Expressing fear and admitting you’re afraid is not wrong. The only time fear is a problem is if it builds so much that you let it stop you from doing what you need to do for what is best for you and those in your care.
Now, sadness, depression and pain are the emotions that most people feel but are afraid to share or let out. Society has pushed the idea of “get over it and keep going” to the point that there is a terrible stigma about not being good enough or strong enough if you feel these things. And yet, these are things we all feel at times. Some of us feel it more so than others. And this is not trying to say being depressed at the moment, or circumstantially, is the same as having depression. I do not want to minimize the effects of mental disorders or the importance of treating them in any way. But what I am wanting to stress is that having either is completely okay. And again, even the gods felt sadness. In one Egyptian myth, humans were a result of the sorrowful tears of the creator god falling to the earth. In Christian mythos, upon hearing of the death of Lazarus and seeing the people mourning for him, “Jesus Wept”. In Yoruba traditions, and others derived from it, Oshun is known for beauty and sexuality. But that’s not all. She dances, and sings, and flirts; but then she weeps because the world and the people in it are not as beautiful and wonderful as she knows they can be. She weeps for the world around her. In Norse mythology, we’re told that Freyja cries tears of gold weeping for her lost love. In the story of Freyr’s marriage to Gerda, we see him go into a full depressive state longing for her. He would not eat or drink or even get out of bed and do his daily routine because of this sadness. Freyja’s loss was from her own wandering and material desire. Freyr’s episode wasn’t even mourning death, or loss, or anything of that nature. It was simply a case of “I’m depressed that I can’t have that pretty woman I saw”. And yet, no one shames any of these deities for their crying and sadness. In fact, in most cases people tried to help them express their feelings and then help them feel better. There was no shame in having these feelings. It was not wrong to feel. Just don’t let it consume you to your own detriment. And even when they did get that sad, like Freyr did, the others still comforted instead of shaming. They cared and worried for them. It was not viewed as weak or wrong. Even in Christianity, negative feelings were not the “sin”, it was holding on to them to the point of acting negatively because of it that made it bad. The same is true with us pagans. There is nothing wrong with having or expressing these feelings as long as we don’t dwell on them to the point of causing a problem, and don’t harm innocent people over it. Yes it often needs healed and released. But how can it be released if you bottle it all up and don’t let it out? We as a society need to stop shaming people for these feelings. And honestly, if we let people express these feelings more often, they wouldn’t get pinned up to the point that it is so overwhelming to begin with. Often times, people wouldn’t go untreated for depression and mental disorders for so long if we, as a society, weren’t shamed for admitting that we have these emotions. So when it comes to your feelings, instead of stuffing them down, let it out. If someone shames you for it, find those who don’t. Find your people. If you can’t find anyone, go to the gods. Go to the gods anyway. Let it out. And when you feel these feelings, instead of shaming yourself for it, try to remember…. even the gods cry.