My thanks to my Brother, Jim Two Snakes, for inspiring this and the series of posts following it. Thank you for lighting the Fire.
What is Prepping?
Prepping, or preparing, is both a mindset and a way of organizing oneself, family, tribe, and/or community. To prep is to be engaged in active readiness for one or many SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) scenario(s). Prepping is about gaining and using knowledge and resources so that the people, preppers, can encounter a SHTF scenario, and survive it, if not thrive after. Ideally, prepping is entered into out of hope, a desire to see oneself and others safe. Prepping is entered into so that one’s family, tribe, and/or community survives a SHTF scenario, stays safe during and after it, and thrives in post-crisis.
My Perspective on Prepping
A lot of things brought me into prepping. My upbringing, for one. My Dad was part of security both for the facility he worked at and for our region of the State. He wrote policy and what is more, carried it out. He passed on a sense of how to prepare for things, having to explain things to me since I was often his beta reader and proofreader when I became a teenager. In wanting to make sure anyone could follow directions in case of an emergency he often had to explain preparedness, and what things did and did not qualify in simple terms. Growing up in this environment helped me frame what I would run into when prepping communities started springing up sometime in the late 90s to early 2000s.
Prepping, for me, is part of my obligation to my family, tribe, and community. It is an obligation to prep as best as I am able to be hospitable and to take pressure off of my family, tribe, and communities. Think about it. In a SHTF situation, someone knocking on your door and asking for a bottle of water takes on even more of a direct and dire dimension than they would prior. I owe hospitality to those who come to my door, and without prep that is far harder to provide in a crisis. That is not to say I have to be a doormat to any Johnny-come-lately. Baselines of hospitality still apply regardless of whether we are in crisis or not. In keeping to them not only do we help to promote abundance in our communities, we also set up the basics for reciprocity between us. If you have a need I can fulfill I can then call on you for help in kind. Because I put in the time, energy, and effort, in a very realy well, I help to care for both of us.
Prepping also helps to stave off my anxiety and distress at clear warning signs I am seeing now, environmentally, politically, and logistically. I have been seeing stress signs from the shipping and logistics industry for awhile now, and prepping helps to soothe the stress I feel at its collapse. Likewise, prepping helps me to get a handle on dealing with the anxiety I feel around the ongoing climate crisis. Part of long-term prep as I do it is taking care of longer-term projects. These are things like helping to build raised beds and plant vegetables, caring for the land, and learning to take care of animals. Learning how to cull, butcher, and process my own meat is part of that process just as putting away water, food, and emergency kits is. By building up my knowledge, supply, and ability to weather a variety of storms and SHTF scenarios, I reduce my overall stress and anxiety.
Let me be frank with you: we are seeing the grid’s collapse in real time. We have seen time and again the vaunted powerful in our countries again and again meet to ‘discuss how to address climate change’ and each and every time it has been a showcase of how much C02 we can dump into the atmosphere shuttling these rich, privileged fucks around. The spending bills which have majority support in this country, which would have gone to several initiatives that directly address climate change, pollution, and infrastructure spending, have been stalled to the point where they are gutted in part or in whole. We have no idea as of the time of this writing if we are even going to get a reconciliation bill. This, when Texas suffered one of the most widespread grid collapses in a time where it could ill afford it: the middle of fucking Winter. That grid is almost wholly separate from the rest with a smattering of lines connecting it to the others and is run by a company that has direct interests in making money off of people freezing to death.
Resources that could easily be turned to preparing us to live with the ongoing effects of climate change and to reverse it in our lifetimes are now being squandered so the rich get to drive up the numbers of imaginary fucking monopoly money. We are on our own. Regardless of political background, perspective, or viewpoint, our government has made it abundantly clear time and again we are on our own. It made that point during Hurricane Katrina, and has since every natural disaster. This is absolutely nothing new to Indigenous and BIPOC communities. All have lived through it for hundreds of years. It’s only now the rest of us are getting to experience just a taste of that abuse and neglect. The kicker is that this ongoing abuse and neglect of the system, and so, our communities, will hit them just as hard too, since they’re tied into the same system.
Our elected officials and those who fund them and otherwise hold their leashes have chosen, not failed but chosen not to act. We must turn to taking care of ourselves. Municipal water sources throughout this country face contamination from a variety of sources, including PFAS and dioxane. Michigan, one of the largest sources of freshwater in the world, is also some of the most polluted in the USA with DuPont, Wolverine, and Dow Chemical operating in our State. Our just-in-time delivery systems and absolutely backwards way of sourcing, producing, processing, and delivering food has had several failures which should be abundantly clear to anyone paying one whit of attention to the supply lines. Now is the time to prepare yourselves, your families, your tribes, and your communities for disruption from the top down and bottom up. It is a fucking shame because the rich have the ability, even now at the goddamned one minute stroke to midnight, to turn all of this around.
I could be wrong. I fully recognize that. I recognize in the middle of my anger, my frustration, and yes, my despair at anything useful getting done from either our political establishment or the companies that have bought and paid for them, that I could be wrong. I do not think so.
Let us assume I am wrong. Say this post inspires every Pagan, polytheist, witch, magician, and so on that has not yet prepped for a disaster of, say, two weeks, to prep. Mutual aid networks could form, communities that were divided or have never connected could start having serious conversations on how to take care of one another in a crisis. What is lost? Some time and money, perhaps. However, should a situation arise, such as a long-term power outtage from some weather event, more supply line disruptions like those we have seen this year, or if something dire comes our way, at the least some things will be taken care of to help us weather the hard times. At the very least we will have prepped to care for those we can. It is a damn sight better than most government officials can say
If you find it hard to approach prep without severe anxiety, or if you find yourself putting a lot of thought into prep to the detriment of your life or others, then you may want to only approach prep with a trusted friend, loved one, or better yet, a community. It may even be better in such a case to talk things out with these people and develop things together so that the anxiety that can be associated with prepping is a shared load. A lot of SHTF events and our reactions to them can be hard to think about, let alone actually prepare for. There is a definite difference in feeling when something is in the abstract vs you are gaining knowledge, skills, or buying or making things to address it. Experiencing some stress is a normal part of prepping. Be mindful of explosive emotion or ongoing, lingering feelings of distress, anxiety, or obsession around the topics of prepping. Addressing these things with loved ones and/or a therapist can be a huge help. It is far better to delay engaging with prep and similar subjects until and unless it safe for you and your loved ones to do so.
Prepping takes a lot of forms, the most visible being the various kits folks put together, such as BOBs (Bug Out Bags) or long-term freeze-dried foods in food-safe buckets. However, without the knowledge, experience, discipline, and wisdom on what to use in a kit, BOB, cache, etc all that becomes is a collection of things which may make you feel safe, but when a crisis hits you may not be able to use them effectively, if at all. Having a medkit is good so long as you know how to use the components in it. If you do not know how to make a fire or boil water, then freeze-dried food may not keep you fed if you are stranded.
This does not mean equipment is not important. Good quality equipment is necessary if you hope to prepare well. However, good quality and expensive are not the same thing. More on this as we dig into specific cases.
‘Good prep’ and ‘good equipment’ is dependent on what you are prepping for, your local situation including weather and the most probable SHTF scenarios, and how many other people you have prepping with you. The more folks who are prepping the better, as each person can gather knowledge and skills as available to them, and provide coverage for those in their family, tribe, and/or community.
How does a Heathen begin to prepare?
I treat prepping as a Heathen like I do most spiritual activities as a Heathen. Take some time to prepare spiritually when you are going to be engaging with prepping. Whether it is learning a new skill or sharpening an old one, making a list, putting together a kit or BOB, or checking supplies. Start with a simple cleansing, grounding, centering, and shielding exercise. This is the basis of a very simple and quick spiritual prep. Here are some examples of each:
To cleanse, take three even breaths in, three breaths out.
A simple grounding is drawing your hands up over your body and down your body.
A simple centering technique is to say out loud what work you will engage in at this time.
A simple shielding technique is to say ‘Shields Up!’ or to gesture around your body as though you are putting up a wall around you.
Each of these are low-maintenance and simple for a reason: you want your spiritual prep to be useful in a SHTF scenario. If you have to meditate for thirty minutes in order to be spiritually prepared, that is fine to start with. It may be too long in a SHTF situation, and while this may not be as thorough, it works. The goal with this kind of spiritual prep is to be able to consistently get to a place in body, mind, and spirit together that is clear, calm, centered, and ready to engage with the task at hand. I can tell you in my experience this low-maintenance spiritual prep works. I have done variations of it before heading into dangerous situations, including car accidents and altercations at work. It is well worth putting in the time to be able to achieve clarity and focus in a crisis.
With this done, pray for wisdom, care, and skill, and make offerings to the Ginnreginn for these things. If you are able to make an offering then a cup of water, a slice of bread, or a pinch of mugwort are good ones. If you have questions or concerns, ask Them for Their input on the prepping you will engage in. Ask for guidance when you feel stuck or frustrated. Engage in spiritual accounting to be sure you are receiving good guidance, and working with the guidance well. Doing this each and every time will help you to approach prepping in a clean, calm, and collected way centered in the Ginnreginn and doing the best for Them, your communities, and yourself.
I engage with prepping as a spiritual activity itself. I first got into it in various forms when Óðinn had me begin a devotional and working relationship with Skaði. I learned First Aid, Basic Life Support, and how to shoot a bow and gun because of these two Gods, and do each as a form of offering to Them. I also offer my learning and use of healing, stabilization, and the like as an offering to Eir and Menglöð. Considering how much of the skills we can learn that reach back to the Ancestors, including frontier medicine, firemaking, and food preservation, each of these could be an offering, connection point, and a place to invite Their blessings. All the materials we use in prep are made of various vaettir, as are the shelters, foods, and waters. Getting into and maintaining a good relationship with the vaettir through prep just makes sense.
When you put together items for prepping, such as putting a bandage into a medkit, make prayers over it. Enchant each item you bring into your prep space, and treat it as sacred. It is, after all! Each preparation you make, and so, each prayer, each offering, each bit of magic you work into that preparation will be helping keep you, your family, your tribe, and community members heilagr, a word that means whole, safe, healthy, and holy.
Begin to build your lists and work to prepare in the same way most preppers do.
What are the most probable SHTF scenarios?
What are the most probable SHTF scenarios in your area? Not what occupies you with worry, and not what is being blasted at you from the evening news or whatever social media you engage with. What is the likeliest thing to provide a threat, immediate and/or ongoing, to you and your family, tribe, and/or communities? What has happened in the past? What is most likely to occur in the future? What was done to address it? What systems were under strain then vs now, and have those strains been addressed?
Engage With the Basics
Wherever you are just starting out, I heartily second the recommendation City Prepper makes:
Make a list of what you and your family need to survive. Start with at least 1 gallon of water per person per day and 1200 calories of food per person per day. If you can start by expanding that to 3 gallons of water, and around 2000-2200 calories per person per day, that is an even better start to prep. Start with the goal of getting together enough supplies to make it two weeks where you are. You can then increase the goal to a month, three months, and then a year as things go on.
When you have the resources, put together supplies needed for three days if you need to leave where you are living. A 3 day prep kit that is ready at a moment’s notice to take with you when you leave, is known in prepper circles as a Bug Out Bag, or BOB for short. If you lose your home or you are under a mandatory evacuation order, having a BOB will help ease your mind, streamline the process, and make it so you can quickly react to a changing, potentially dangerous and stressful situation. BOBs tend to weigh about 15% at most of a person’s body weight so they stay mobile. Some folks put an extra BOB in their car in addition to having one per family member just in case. We can get into BOBs in a separate post.
My recommendation for spiritual prep at the start here is to get the simple exercises above down to where you can do them as needed without much forethought. Adding prayer cards, pictures, or tokens of various Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir to your prep kits can bring comfort and connection in a crisis. I highly recommend metal pill containers, such as these or these, which you can use to carry a fire kit, offerings, and, of course, pills. They’re lightweight, hardy, and I have had a variation of the first link’s pill cases for several years without any issue. I carry tobacco, mugwort, chamomile, and stinging nettle with me in this way on my keychain. I carry prayer cards in my wallet and a leather bag full of taufr, enchanted items, in my pocket. EDC or Every Day Carry includes the spiritual things we take with us wherever we go, and that we turn to in crisis. EDC is a separate post, though, so we will leave that for now.
Make Assessments Where You Are
What knowledge and skills do you possess already that you can work with in a crisis? What do you need to develop? What would you want to develop? Are your knowledge and skills contingent on having electricity available? If so, can you learn to work without them? If not, do you have the means to continue access to electricity?
Take a look at your local communities. If you do not know your next-door neighbors, now is the time to get to know them. Talk with your Heathen, Pagan, and similarly-aligned community members about mutual aid networks. Talk with them about what they are doing for their own prep work and what needs they have. As you go along you and your community members can encourage each other to keep up the prep work, working together in solidarity. The more folks in a community who have two or more weeks of supplies on hand to handle a crisis will be better able to mitigate the overall community response to them. As with the individual prep, expanding as you can to longer stretches of time will help everyone in a community get through SHTF scenarios safely.
Mutual Aid Networks
Mutual aid networks can help to shore up where family and community needs fall short, whether it is access to needed supplies for medication, food, water, etc. This is where the networks of relationships we intentionally foster as Heathens can really shine. It is not necessary for folks to live in the same neighborhood to be helpmeets to one another in a crisis. In fact, having folks clustered in the same neighborhood can be a detriment. If an entire neighborhood is hit by a natural disaster like a tornado or the power is down in a given region for longer than two weeks then everyone in the network will have to collectively deal with the same crisis all together. Mutual aid networks that have space between them can afford multiple locations for regrouping, care, bugging out, and developing networks of communication, trade, and solidarity-building between communities in a larger or longer SHTF situation.
Something not often thought about: A lot of homes and subdivisions, especially here in Michigan where homes are being built on former farmland or swamp, do not have even a Michigan basement. A Michigan basement is an unfinished basement that is essentially a root cellar. Having access to a clean, cool, and accessible storage option like a partially, fully finished, or a Michigan basement when you live in a neighborhood with few or none of them becomes a truly valuable thing. If you have one available to you it can hold water, food, medication, and vital documents in steady clean storage, be a place to brew and/or ferment, and be a staging area for folks in crisis. The more such places where supplies and space are available to you and your community, the easier you can handle a crisis.
Instead of just making suggestions of lists, I am going to explore how I approach prepping as a Heathen. You can use this as a jumping off point for exploring your own situation and your responses to the SHTF scenarios and other crises you may face. Because this is a post on beginning to prep it will only take a quick look at short-term SHTF scenarios and how I prep for them.
My Assessment and Approach for Short-term SHTF
I live in a suburban town in SE Michigan surrounded by farmland and just on the outside of major cities in my area. I will not have the same concerns as a person living in the city or in the country. In a way, suburbia has the potential of a lot of the benefits of both city and country living, provided you have a bit of land to work with. The most pressing SHTF scenarios for us here are power outages, tornadoes, and winter storms. A complete disaster scenario in this region would be if the old nuclear powerplant nearby melted down. In Summer the main factor for danger moreso than the heat itself is direct sunlight and humidity. Most have access to water and sewer through wells or city municipalities. In some areas solar power is not possible due to tree cover, and both solar and wind power are still prohibitively expensive for most to invest in. Power outages, then, affect access to running water, heating/cooling, cooking, and other necessities of life. Most folks who have the means to acquire generators, solar and/or wind power generation, and increasingly, homeowners who can afford it are investing in Generac and similar home power systems.
Some major positive factors going for lower SE Michigan are that we do not have earthquakes, volcanoes, or hurricanes as major threats to our wellbeing. While it is true much of our fertile farmland has been built on, there are networks of small-time farmers, backyard farmers, permaculturists, and emerging networks of mutual aid networks. Plenty of folks keep chickens, goats, and other small livestock.
Since our most likely SHTF scenarios for SE Lower Michigan are loss of power, winter storms, and tornadoes in that order, those are the first scenarios I will prep for. I will need two weeks of water, food, medicine, and toileting supplies. In a power loss or winter storm situation I will need to have ways to keep food from spoiling and ways to keep warm. I need to keep an eye on the weather, and have an area for the family to evacuate to in case of a tornado.
A lot of my advice here is going to echo other preppers such as City Prepper and some emergency advice from FEMA and other government organizations. Since this is at least some folks’ first exposure to prep, I want this information to be accessible here. So, when getting into prep you will want your first concerns to be oriented around the most probable short-term SHTF scenarios. You will want is access to safe water, enough food to last through the crisis, and ways to keep safe and warm until access is restored. Assume a two-week window where you will not have power, and make plans for taking care of your needs for water, food, and shelter accordingly. Once you have prepped for this, then you can expand your horizons.
Physically, prep for short-term SHTF will be the previous prep we have talked about in the Engage with the Basics. Make sure you have redundant forms of communication. Some examples would be a landline (especially since most folks just have cell phones), handheld walkie talkies, or even HAM radios, the latter of which generally requires a license to transmit over legally though you can listen without a license. Having ready sources of backup power that you check at least twice a year, such as a backup generator for a home, can help you and yours get through with what you need and some creature comforts if the generator can handle it. You are going to want ways of making heat and light not tied into the home’s power supply that are effective and safe. Any fires you work with should be in containers that someone, animal or kid, cannot knock over if you turn away your attention for a few moments. Bundling up with blankets, and making sure you have some Visqueen or other similar kind of quick weatherpoofing if insulation of the home is less ideal will help conserve heat in colder times. Working with open windows and air circulation, and if able doing less during the heat of the day will help mitigate the heat.
Mentally, prep is going you are going to include engaging in activities that keep your mind at ease. Whatever keeps you relaxed and ready to go. The physical preps help pave the way for this, since it is hard to think if you are worried about where you next meal is coming from, and hard to read or relax at night in a pitch-dark house. If you can keep a discipline that involves your mind, body, and spirit, such as regular meditation and/or exercise, it can help reduce stress and keep up morale. It can also give you a sense of rhythm to days and weeks that you could be stuck at home. That discipline will help keep you mentally well and better able to handle both the drudge, bordom, and/or the unexpected that come your way. In all likelihood with a two-week or less disaster most of us will still have to go in to work. In many cases that will mean having to put in a lot of overtime, so prepping can help ease anxiety and make things easier for family members who are going to be stuck inside for the duration of the crisis. Part of the beauty of having a two-week prep ready to go is that it can save you a lot of hassle in the moment when the power goes out or roads are closed. If you have the things you need ready at hand there is less anxiety or confusion about what to do -you just do it. You also will not have to deal with panic buying or struggle with lines at the places that are still open in a crisis. Having taken the time to prep, you and your loved ones will be in a good position to financially be better off too, since you won’t have to deal with price gouging or extra shipping costs if you find out you really need something.
Spiritually, prep is reaffirming and continuing the relationships with the Ginnreginn and loved ones you have already. It is also engaging in the spiritual disciplines such as those explored in Engaging the Basics, which will help keep you spiritually prepped. The mental and physical prep help pave the way for this, and the spiritual prep here reinforces them in turn. Rather than being separate preps, think of each as being part of one prep. Algiz, with its three branches coming from a single trunk and its meaning of protection, is an excellent Runevaettir to work with. Sowilo is also a good Runevaettir to work with, with its three segments and meaning of victory. Spiritual preps beyond this would be making taufr for keeping the home and family safe.
Where to Go From Here?
The beginning steps of prep are not the place to be prepping for climate change or political upheaval. This is the starting place where you look at your most likely SHTF short-term scenarios and prepare for them. As you go along the prep you do for one level of SHTF scenario will stack into the next.
As a Heathen, I approach prepping at times as a spiritual discipline, others times as service, and other times as solidarity with my loved ones. By engaging in prep I know what to do with my hands, heart, and soul in a SHTF scenario. In doing prep I better equip my loved ones, my family, my tribe, and my wider community to weather a crisis. By approaching prep as duty, service, and/or solidarity this places all my prep work into a pro-social perspective that seeks to honor the Ginnreginn.
One of the ethics we Heathens and polytheists in general reliably share is that of hospitality. Prep is a form of engaging in hospitality for those in our care, and those who may find themselves at our door. By working out of a desire to engage well in hospitality, I seek to do well for myself and others. By choosing to act and empowering others to do prep in the same spirit of hospitality, cooperation, and building up, rather than tearing down or competition, like a fire in darkness, I seek to light other fires.