Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire
— Robert Frost
At the time of writing, 22 different wildfires in Northern California have burned 217,566 acres, killed at least 40 people, and destroyed over 5,700 buildings, including entire neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa; an alarming departure from past wildfires, which have mostly affected rural areas. Over 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate and the smoke caused “the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area.” It is common sense that California’s prolonged drought exacerbated many wildfires, but last winter’s pouring rains were no relief, for they too abetted the intensity of the current fires by encouraging the proliferation of annual grasses, which have already died and turned into a fuel source. The fires have also burned the primary wine and marijuana-producing region of California, a region indisputably ruled by the god Dionysos, blackening the skies and bloodying the sun with the ashes of grapevine and cannabis. But Frost’s poem and the current fires bring a different set of powers to mind as well.
In the history of European Paganism and Polytheism, it is known that numerous Pagan concepts, gods, spirits, and ideas remained part of the people’s psyche even long after the beginning of the conversion process. While these figures did not necessarily retain their original religious place and spiritual function over the centuries, many managed to nevertheless survive by being carried on, if not through religious traditions, then through popular culture. The Norse-Icelandic sagas are a good example of this phenomenon. Even though there likely weren’t any Pagan Icelanders around after the 11th century, their descendants kept on compiling, adapting, and writing down tales of Þórr, Óðinn, and countless Pagan heroes all the way to the 20th century. While these figures had left the purely religious sphere of the Icelanders’ worldview, they nevertheless remained latent characters about which tales were told, and even created, until being finally spiritually and religiously brought back in the late 20th century.