Cheer Past Hail
Every farmer from here back to the first digging stick has had to see some hail. No man wields the weather that spoils the crops. Thorns of icy rime from gusts of giants throw without reason from time to time. Frey and Freya say, plant, plant again. Take up seed again and renew life. Don’t allow a single spoiled harvest to wilt your stalk. Find resilience in the soil and rise again!
These are the times that faith in growing things is tested. The blights do not come from the Gods, but the endurance to see through them is. The ruining storms do not come from the Gods, but the strange, stirring hope that defies all-swallowing despair is. The venom that sometimes floats on the wind does not come from the Gods, but the good clay that surrounds and spits out venom is. These are the days one chooses to believe in clouds or sunshine. How the clouds oft roll! But the Gods say, O small things, such small and precious things, here are beams, a bridge may be built across a chasm. It is but a footstep for them. Let them lend eyes, and what abyss was shall become a footstep for you as well.
To have faith in the harvest does not simply mean to rejoice when the feast comes. It means standing on the freshly sown soil, which to the eyes looks barren out to the hedge, and before the first green sprouts appear, smelling the aroma of the cooked grain wafting up there from the soil itself. It’s taking a vow to see the season through, and beyond that season, to see the next season through.
Winters could be harsh. One had to know how to eke bitter flour from the bark of trees in time of famine, what weeds in bad years might do for potherbs, learn the taste of squirrel and mushrooms in a stew. Sometimes the frost broke early, sometimes it broke late. One never knew, and sometimes against one’s hopes. Who knew just when this year Freya might be rescued from the hands of giants by Odr? Who knew precisely when Idunn would shine her sun again from Eastern skies? What one knew is that the days when sun never came, the days when ill wights held back the spring forever, were vanquished, if one had faith in and strengthened the Gods with cheer. For strengthening them with ours when it comes to us, they strengthen us in turn with theirs when we are bereft.
When spring came, you looked at a bad winter, and you said, I made it through. And it was callous, and it was gloom, and it was hard, cold blunt on the bone, with meager on the platter and drops alone of ale, but one felt proud, for one endured to spring. One got props for standing firm in one’s woolen hose and overalls, with scrivening eyes that looked over the frost, and skeptical throughout, kept eye on spring. The All-Holy One Above, Wise Be His Name, difficult, erudite, inscrutable, far penetrating, with stamina of mind bred by many eons of dark clouds and the light that ever broke through (with brave and with battle), kept one eye on unfolding wyrd in the world, however weary or woeful, and one eye in the deep, where deeper dreams brew wisdom beneath all frost.
The tales of capture, of Freya in the tower, Frey beneath the bite of Beli, Idunn in the talons of Thiazi, said, you are not alone. Even the Gods have known their sorrow. Even harvests and life-bestunning beauty and youth that ever springs wild have felt the longing for home in the cold that you have. What faith they held in their hearts even in despair to ever believe in the sun! So might you, so might you.
Why was a feast a feast? Not for its mirth alone, grown in the sun of hearths and giddy hearts, but for its cheer carved hard by the encroaching ice, now slowly dripping in the thaw. For cheer was chiseled out in dark days, cold days, days of gloom and even ruin. It kept the head high as the breath sighed, and took another breath in again. It frowned at hail to smile at hale in spring. Oh, then, how one whipped Lenten Winter in her thin, meager rags out the village, to welcome in Summer! For cheer and mirth are mirror sides of the same coin of feast ; the warmer one, the more the other waxes. That froth in mug was frothy more for having conquered dearth ; every harvest was a victory celebration as well. How did Thor get associated to harvests? Live in a wintery clime and see how you will toast He who vanquishes the wielders of frost! Harvest was victory, as much as it was feast!
Plant, plant again. Take up seed and renew life. Every farmer has had to compost precious crops wilted from hail. It’s a hazing rite into the endurance the Gods rear up. It gives you your sinew and grit to get through to the next harvest. Throw the bitter bones as you must, and kick the unyielding dust, but then roll in the arms of Mother Earth, and pray your gnashing tears that throws mighty execrations upon the etins, and get up. Get up and take stock of what remains, eke cheer from every drop of cheer that stands, and go to tool-shed and take out your sack of seed, and ready the oxen to draw the plough again. It will be bitter, but it shall become sweet again in time. Weeds that never fail to break through soil, and Gods whose bible lives in the land and its seasons, promise sure.