Pastoralism as a Factor in the Development of the Concept of Wod
Pastoralists in particular are subject to sometimes wild fluctuations in rainfall which can create boom-and-bust cycles in their flocks, and thus their food supply. "With highly variable rainfall (both in time and space), pastoral economies are typically of the "bust and boom" type: a "boom" when rainfall is plentiful and herds and flocks grow, and a "bust" when drought (or late winter storms in Central Asia) occurs and animals die." (Cees de Haan, Henning Steinfeld, Harvey Blackburn, Livestock and the Environment : Finding a Balance, Report of Study by the Commission of the European Communities, WRENmedia, Suffolk, 1996, Chapter 2 : "Livestock Grazing Systems and the Environment".) "More recently analysts have noted that in dry lands biological populatoins fluctuate widely between boom cycles, when rain permits rapid population growth, and busts, when drought kills the excess animals." ("Pastoralism", in Karen Christensen, David Levinson, Encyclopedia of Community, Berkshire Publishing Group LLC, Thousand Oaks, California, 2003, p. 1056.)
When times are good, and grass is green and abundant, the temptation to multiply one's herds mounts, and yet a baby boom of one lush season can easily give way to the famine of the next if feed supplies run low due to sudden drought. Life becomes preciously dependent on turbulent flows that by their very nature are not completely predictable, and thus the struggle in these cultures is to find an approach to life capable of coping with this turbulence without failing to take advantage of whatever gains may be had from it in the meantime.
A logical response to boom-and-bust cycles, stemming from survival imperatives, is to exercise moderation. Over-conservatism can be debilitating inasmuch as moderate risk-taking can yield greater prosperity, but in a turbulent environment, over-risking can too easily lead to bust conditions, yielding a paradoxical model of moderation that might be called "cautious risk-taking". This approach moderates the gambler's dilemma, whereby lucky wins motivate the gambler to keep gambling until all resources have been lost. Criminals are often subject to the same dilemma ; it has been observed many times that bank robbers might well escape detection and be well off with their stash if they did not become greedy and keep robbing banks. Moderate risk taking can yield comfortable levels of prosperity that might otherwise be unavailable, but risk-taking taken past the point of reasonable audacity easily leads to a fall.
Thus, an approach to life that is lived in good faith with wod engages and plays with turbulence through moderate gambling and a willingness to take risks at times when the time seems right, but always with an attitude of attuned caution. This resolves the paradox of how Woden, the "Master of Wod", can rule over flows as wild as turbulence, and yet advise moderation throughout the Havamal, his manual of rede on how to achieve the good life.