Monday, May 9, 2011

The Whiskey of Spirit: Viking Religion and Sacred Foods

Part of my work with the Powderhorn Cultural Wellness Center is uncovering the root-culture practices of my ancestors – discovering the ancient rituals and practices that have contributed to who I am today. This research also forms the background of my upcoming fantasy novel, 'In the Company of Stones.'

This post is Part III of a series looking at what the Norse-folk ate; how, when and why they ate it; and the spiritual significance of their foods:

The Raw Barley of Research: The Viking Diet
The Ale of of Culture: Viking Festivals and Food-ways
The Whiskey of Spirit: Viking Religion and Sacred Foods

Eating is one of our most primal connections to the natural world. There are many reasons to eat besides nourishment and pleasure. Food are eaten to mark belonging to a tribe of people, to take in and harbor the spirit strength of an animal, to celebrate or commemorate an aspect of a deity. Foods might also be eaten as physical or spiritual medicine.

Viking-cam photo of ancient ancestress preparing kålrot.

Bodily nourishment may given by raw foodstuffs, but spiritual nourishment is found in the intentional ways that foods are consumed. By eating with full awareness of the plant or animal's intimate connection with nature, and gratitude for the sacrifice that makes our nourishment possible, food is blessed with spiritual potency.

When the Vikings shared food offerings with the gods, the gods accepted the devotion, and 'tasted' the intentions and good will behind them. The gods left the material remains behind for the Norse-folk to relish – in that way, the gods' potency was absorbed into the food, and material substance became spiritualized. The devotional process became an exchange of good will between the gods and man.

Gods like Frey and Freya, Odin and Thor, Heimdall and Frigga were not the only spiritual beings the Vikings worshiped. Unlike our belief that land is merely a source from which to extract wealth, the Norse considered the land to be hallowed and filled with sacred spirits. 

The álfar (elves) and landvættir (land-wights) lived in the wild places, inhabiting boulders, mountains, groves and streams. The álfar were semi-divine, magical beings not bound by physical limitations. They were associated with fertility and healing. The landvættir protected and promoted the flourishing and fertility of the land they belonged to. Norse-folk who passed away were also believed to 'die into the land.' They became ancestor-spirits that lived on in their grave mounds, as another form of landvættir.

I imagine the Norse land-spirits to look like the subjects of Terri Windling's paintings.
The álfar, landvættir and ancestor-spirits were capable of offering protection, luck, guidance, and healing. If offended, they were also capable of inflicting great harm.

To bridge between the spirit world and human community, the Norse offered the gods and spirits food and drink. The Old Norse word for such sacrifice is blót, which meant 'to strengthen.' These gifts of nourishment were freely given to the gods, álfar, landvættir and ancestors, to encourage them to be well disposed toward the living.

This reciprocal relationship between the Norse and the spirit-world should not be mistaken as a form of commercial exchange. Rather, food-offerings were an ongoing practice of hospitality and neighborliness. By sharing gifts of food with their gods and spirits, the Vikings acknowledged forces larger than the human community and strove to be in right relationship with them.

 A Norse chieftain leading a blót to Thor.

As mentioned in the previous post, there were 'reasons and seasons' to the types of foods offered to the gods.

However, no food consumed by the Vikings carried the same freight of spiritual meaning as the sacrificial offering of horse flesh.

In my research into Viking culture, I've found no other practice that seems more alien. Yet this is exactly the kind of culturally specific detail that brings a story alive, and takes the reader into a different world.

Icelandic horse, descendant of Viking fjord horses. Too dang cute to eat, IMHO.

To the Vikings, the horse was a magical and spiritually powerful creature. At a time when roads were rare and land-travel was very difficult, the horse's mobility gave it a supernatural quality. Although not referred to as a land-spirit, in many ways the Viking horse's nature as half-wild and half-domesticated made it a liminal, and spiritually powerful creature.

Its speed and strength made the horse the ideal mediator in and between all of the Nine Worlds of the Norse cosmology, from Asgard (in the heavens) to Hel, the land of the dead. Saga sources even mention horses as the means of transport to Valhalla.

Odin's steed, the mythological horse Sleipnir, was said to travel between Earth and Sky. There are stories in the sagas in which Odin himself rides Sleipnir into Hel. Sleipnir as the 'horse of death' becomes a vehicle of shamanic flight, a horse conveying the shaman from the heavens to the underworld and back.

Runestone depicting Odin riding Sleipnir.

Domestically, the horse was valuable to the Vikings as a pack, plow, and war animal. The ability to afford a horse sacrifice demonstrated you had great wealth and standing in the community. To sacrifice a horse to the gods, land-spirits or ancestors was the greatest gift you could give. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the hoped for gifts in return.

At festivals such as Winter Nights, Jul, or Midsummer, horses were slaughtered in sacrifice and the meat was served to participants. Eating horseflesh served a sacramental function, the power of the horse mediating between the eater and the spirit-world. Its ceremonial consumption strengthened the bond between the community, land-spirits, ancestors and the gods, particularly Odin.

One prominent site of horse sacrifice is Skedemosse on the island of Oland in the Baltic. More than 100 horse remains were preserved in the bog at that site.  Of note is that only the heads and feet of the horses were preserved, attached to the skin.  As several bone fragments show traces of marrow extraction, it is believed the rest of the horses were consumed at sacrificial feasts.

A firsthand account of sacrificial rites in Hedeby, by the Arab traveler Ibrahim al-Tartushi indicates that bits of sacrificial animals were impaled on poles in front of the houses so that neighbors would know a sacrifice had been made. It's likely that these public offerings were the hides, heads and feet of the animal, as found at Skedemosse.

After sacrifice, the hides were hung as an offering.

Horse finds at sacrificial sites show no traces of blows to the head. Some reports describe horse fighting or racing before sacrifice, which roused the heart. Death would have been by stabbing and exsanguination, the blood collected in a vessel. As described in Heimskringla, a bundle of twigs would be dipped in the collected blood which was then sprinkled on the altar, the house or ship, as well as on the participants in the rite.

There are no records describing the emotions of Viking participants in horse sacrifice and blots. It is difficult to understand how my Viking ancestors steeled themselves to perform such “awe-full” deeds. I can only try to imagine the seriousness of the undertaking, the liminal sense of stepping outside of ordinary reality into Sacred Time, the feeling of 'taking in' the power of such a magical creature, the sense of holy sanctity involved with receiving the protection of the horse's blood.

In contrast, 21st C arm-chair Vikings who shout 'Meat! Meat! Meat!' when they come to the table fail to realize that for them to eat, a living creature must die. For them, eating is profane consumption, not sacred communion.

There were social and political implications to diet as well. Diet can say 'who we are NOT,' as well as 'who we are.'

Our own culture's refusal to eat horse meat is not that dissimilar to the Muslim or Jewish avoidance of pork. In all three cases, the refusal of a food is connected to a religious taboo.

During the process of Christianizing the Germanic peoples, in 732 A.D. Pope Gregory III forbid the eating of horse meat to the newly converted. The practice had been a Heathen sacrificial rite, and was now taboo for Christians. Diet promptly became a determiner of religious identity. Those who ate horse meat were Heathen and proud of it, and those who did not, were Christian.

In the Saga of Hakon the Good, the Christian King Hakon attempted to avoid the sacred horse sacrifice. But the Heathen farmers he ruled over pushed back. They believed the horse sacrifice and feast was necessary to ensure the protection and health of their land, and was necessary to confirm Hakon's status as King. The farmers withheld their fealty until the Hakon acceded to their demands, and ate a piece of horse liver.

Although horse meat has been touted as a sweet, rich, superlean, and soft meat, closer to beef than venison, the taboo against eating it carries down to this day in most English speaking countries. Eating horse meat has even become abhorrent. Horses are viewed as pets, working animals, and intelligent companions – and also sentimentalized in a way that would be as alien to the Vikings as horse sacrifice is to us.

Our identities as a people are implicit in our diets.

There is a marked cultural difference between a people who must beseech the spirits of the land to yield up the means to survive, and a people for whom eating is a profane act, who simply take whatever they want from the land.

For the Vikings, offerings of food to the spirit world sanctified what was consumed. Food offerings were a reaffirmation of their connection to the ancestors, their gods, and the land itself.

If you want to know more, here are some of the sources I've relied on for these posts:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Ale of of Culture: Viking Festivals and Food-ways.

This is the second of three posts concerning the Viking-era foods research begun for my upcoming fantasy novel, “In the Company of Stones.” I believe that the material culture of a People says as much about them as written records. And I've come to understand the culture of my own Nordic Family of Origin much more clearly in the process.

I've discovered that food is so much more than mere fuel. It's a very primal thing, connected to our deepest natures. Refined by the processes used to cook it, and the ways and reasons it is eaten, food and drink express cultural values.

Celebrations where food is eaten in community strengthen the bonds between individuals. Viking noblewoman presenting an ale-horn with drink to oath-bound warriors, a bonding rite.

 The Norse diet was tied both to the seasons and to the yearly calendar of their religious festivals. When specific foods are eaten in a seasonally defined cycle, those foods express culture. They become foodways.

In Minnesota, we have our own ritual food-ways, our own seasonal festivals celebrated with seasonal foods. In August, it's the State Fair ritual of eating anything-you-can-get-on-a-stick. (I've even eaten alligator that way.) In November, Thanksgiving brings us pumpkin pie, cranberries and roast turkey. Christmas holidays bring Christmas cookies, egg-nog, and either turkey or ham. Our February Valentine's ritual involves chocolates. May is the time for fresh greens straight out of the garden, and fish after Fishing Opener. And the 4th of July is a barbecue festival.

If you compare our own ritual food-ways with those of the Vikings, it's much easier to understand the rhythm of the 8th century culinary calendar.

The Viking food-cycle began with the festival of Winter Nights, a seasonal turning point that occurs in mid to late October. It is the last harvest festival, and the first of the ancestor festivals. Winter Nights marked a time of turning inward to the community and re-connecting with the deceased.

By the onset of winter, the sheep milking season has run its course. Since it takes feed and grain to overwinter animals, Norse-folk had to decide how many cattle and sheep they could afford to feed when pasture wasn't available. The rest were slaughtered, smoked or pickled for winter storage. At this time, animals were also sacrificed as a way of asking the Elder Kin (Norse Gods) and protective ancestors for a good winter season.

The blood of the sacrificed animals was collected and used to ritually sprinkle the altars and people in a ceremony called a blót (pronounced 'bloat'). The meat was then ritually shared in communal feasting.

(Picture of the Lofotr Viking Center. This is site is where I draw most of my inspiration for Halfdan's Hall. Some day I hope to visit here.)

Once harvest season ended, the time of eating stored foods began. It included pickled or smoked meats reconstituted in stews with peas or beans or root vegetables and herbs (split pea soup with smoked ham, anyone?); both sweet and savory porridge; skyr and cheese; and barley flatbreads.

The Nordic winter diet was also heavy on dried fish.

Cod drying at Lofoten.

The next major festival season was Jul (pronounced as Yule), at the time when the sun is least visible. It marked the time when the sun begins to return – the Midwinter Solstice. During Jul, food offerings were made to the Elder Kin and ancestors, asking for good crops in the following year.

Since pigs were slaughtered from November to December, Jul feasts included pork. The traditional English 'Boar's Head' feast is a continuation of the Norse sacrifice of a pig to Freyr, the god of the harvest, planting, growing and fertility. This gift of food was meant to implore Freyr to grant an easy winter and a favorable new year.

 Freyr, with his many attributes.
Many Jul practices have continued on into our time, such as eating ham at Christmas, or gifting each other with special foods. In my family, gifts of chocolates, walnuts and oranges still arrive in my Christmas stocking. Some families still leave out a plate of cookies for Santa the Jolly old Elf on Christmas Eve – a holdover of the Viking food-offerings to the land-spirits for good luck in the new year.

The further out from harvest season, the leaner the Vikings ate. As winter wore on, less fats were available to season food, and the more heavily dishes relied on fillers. Without enough nourishing, high-energy foods, winter could become a lean time of hunger and famine. Then foods like the inner bark of birch trees might be pounded into flour, and used to extend meals. A fortunate, and well run homestead would have laid in enough foods to sustain everyone through winter.

 Lean and Hungry Vikings Looking for Fresh Meat

As winter waned and summer approached, many different minor festivals were held in parts of the Viking world. This time marked a transition point, the end of the ancestor festivals, and the first of the agricultural festivals. One such was the 'Charming of the Plow' – blessing the plow used to furrow the fields. Some would plow a loaf of bread into the fields for luck and as a gift to the land spirits, asking their blessing on the crops.

With spring, the Norse diet began to shift from the consumption of stored foods to fresh grown or fresh caught food. The laying season for domestic fowl and wild birds was spring and summer, so eggs became available. With the end of winter storms and bad ice conditions, fish could be fresh caught. The first of the cold weather greens like cabbage would come in. Winter stores of smoked or dried meats would dwindle at the same time that hunting waterfowl, and fishing became easier.

By Midsummer grain stores and flat-bread made from the previous harvest would be running low. Mineral rich greens like nettles and lambs-quarters, and treats like berries would be added to the spring diet, as well as early bean crops such as broad beans.

In May, sheep's milk becomes available after lambing season. Available...but not necessarily easy to get.

Four horned sheep, introduced to the Hebrides by Viking settlers.

The third major turning point of the year was Midsummer Festival, when the Norse-folk made wishes for a good harvest of barley, rye and oats. This was a victory feast, a celebration in hopes that the Viking entrepreneurial activities of trading and raiding should bear fruit as well.

As the year turns, we come back around to the first of the harvest festivals, and Loaf Feast -- the time when the grain comes in. This is the time of abundance, the time when the diet is the most varied. Apples, hazelnuts and walnuts are harvested, the winter's store of flat-breads baked anew, and porridge grains are fresh and plentiful.
You can imagine how the character of the Vikings as a People was shaped by their food-ways. Awareness of the seasons and their affect on the diet led the Vikings to plan ahead for lean times. The need to exercise foresight and creativity to insure full bellies shaped Viking culture just as surely as easy, fast and universal access to foods shapes our own.

In harsh northern climes, the Viking virtue of Hospitality was paramount. You shared what you had with guests as a form of mutual aid. Mutuality and reciprocation ensured your own survival in times of trouble.

Nordic mutuality is a trait that found later expression in many places, including formation of upper midwestern farmers cooperatives in the early 20th century. The ancient necessity to cooperate and insure each others survival continues to find expression in today's Scandinavian welfare model economies. (Norway has been rated as having the highest level of Human Development by the U.N.)

Even today, no woman of Scandinavian descent will allow a guest to cross their threshold without asking 'can I get you something?' The Viking virtue of Hospitality still holds sway.

In each case, cultural patterns are an outgrowth of ancient, land-based foodways.

The next, and final post in this series will be on the connection between foods and spirituality in Viking culture. I'll see you then.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Raw Barley of Research: The Viking Diet

This is the first in a series of three posts about Viking foods, the patterns of Viking food-culture, and the connection between food and spirituality in the Viking diet. This series began as research for my upcoming novel “In the Company of Stones,” an historical fantasy set in 780's Denmark.

No fantasy-land bread-cheese-stew for my characters.  I want to feed them the real thing.

First off, Vikings were not the size of houses, like this guy.

Or like this local Viking. Dude, could ya lose the horned helmet? Puh-leeze?

Vikings this size aren't heroes, they're targets. This pair are the results of the American diet, heavy on High-Fructose Corn Syrup, refined carbs, and fatty meats.

REAL Vikings tended to be a lean, rangy lot. Why?  The Authentic Viking Diet! Contrary to movie images of bloodthirsty Vikings gnawing on the severed limbs of their victims, or Dark Age Vikings munching gravel by the side of the road, real Norse-folk ate a surprisingly varied diet of healthy foods.

What the Norse had in abundance was fish, and lots of it. They ate shellfish, perch, pike, whitefish, common garfish, roach, rudd, bream, shrimp, haddock, flatfish, ling and  mackerel, smelt, eel, salmon, cod and herring. Wild game included deer, elk, bear, boar, squirrel, reindeer and hare; wild birds and their eggs; fish and marine mammals including whales.  The Norse also kept domestic chicken, geese, and ducks for meat and eggs, as well as livestock including cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.

 (Image courtesy of the professional Vikings at

Even though they lacked canning and refrigeration, the Norse had many options for preserving perishable foods. Methods used included drying fish, baking grains into flat-bread and storing the rounds in the rafters; smoking meats and fish and hanging them in the rafters as well; conversion of milk into cheeses, soured butter, and skyr, a yogurt-like soft cheese. (Rumor has it that skyr is available at Whole Foods, although I've yet to find it.) Vikings also pickled boiled meats in crocks of 'spoiled' or soured whey, in which the lactic acid in the whey would prevent further bacterial spoilage.

What would it be like to eat meat pickled in sour whey all winter? How glad would you be for spring to arrive? (I imagine Viking women throwing their husbands out to go hunt fresh game as soon as the snows stopped.)

Although the Norse didn't eat Western Hemisphere foods such as potatoes, corn and tomatoes, their diet was quite complex. Grains were largely barley, rye, and oats, as wheat did not do well in the short northern growing season. For vegetable proteins, they ate beans and peas, hazelnuts and imported walnuts. Pot-herbs included loose-leaf cabbage, endives, docks, cresses, nettles and lambs-quarters; root vegetables including onions, parsnips, turnips and scrawny white carrots; flavoring herbs such as dill, mustard, parsley, thyme and horseradish; wild fruits such as apples, pears, cherries, sloe-berries, cloud-berries, lingonberries, and wild strawberries. The staple drink was ale made with malted barley, sometimes flavored with sweet myrtle. They also drank apple and pear cider, honey-mead, and imported wines.

With far-flung trade routes extending to Byzantium, Vikings imported spices such as cumin, coriander, pepper, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, grains of paradise, ginger, cardamom, aniseed, and bay leaves.

The Norse husfreyja (housewife) had all the best stone and iron-age tools to cook her family's meals.

 (Repro utensils photo courtesy of
Liquids were poured into a suspended animal-skin sack and then heated by dropping hot stones in with the liquids. Foods were baked by heating small stones in the open cooking fire and then rolling them into stone ovens to heat the interior. The most common method of cooking food was boiling it in iron cauldrons hung over the fire. Iron spits were also used to roast meats, and flat iron pans were used to bake breads in the fire.

Despite the limitations of a cool climate and Iron Age technology, the archaeological evidence shows the Norse consumed enough nutrients to be tall, straight – and one presumes, handsome.

 (Image courtesy of the Saga Exhibit, Pearlan, Reykjavik, Iceland)

Research as led me to conclude the Viking diet was far healthier than our own. Our Norse ancestors ate lean proteins like fish or grass-fed cattle. Their carbs came from whole, unrefined grains. Sugars were unheard of, with the exception of wild raw honey.  Raising or catching your own food also takes a tremendous amount of calories – some estimates of the calories needed for labor at a Viking homestead run up to 10,000 calories a day.  It would have been difficult for a working Viking to 'bulk up.'

So were Vikings giant, muscle-bound men as depicted in fantasy literature? No. Were they lean, mean fighting machines? Mmmm – maybe. Lean and combative? Yes.

Mean? No. But that's a tale for a later post.

For a more exhaustive breakdown of Viking foods by location, see:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Credits Page

We're often told, as writers, to 'write what you know.'  Write from experience.  For me, that means For me, that means embodied, physical experience – not just academic learning.

I've been fortunate enough to be greatly assisted in my research by the Powderhorn Cultural Wellness Center, in Minneapolis, MN.  PCWC offers culturally centered kinship building, identity development, ancient wisdom, and cultural knowledge/competence classes. This work includes knowing and reclaiming our ancestral identity, values, concepts, principles, stories, myths, and spiritual practices.

For me, that means re-learning the folk-ways of my Norse ancestors.  Engaging in hands-on learning of  pre-Christian, pre-colonization folkways. 

At PCWC, I've learned to sing 'lokkr,' and read the rune-patterns formed by the branches of trees.  I've learned how deeply ancestral patterns inform my sense of time, my physical need to withdraw in the winter. I've learned the difference between cyclical and linear time – how marking the year with agricultural festivals grounds me, centers me, even at a time of profound change.

I've also been studying 'Völva Stav' with Kari Tauring.  Stav-work means stamping on the ground with a staff, and banging on the staff with a 'tein,' (a beater), creating rhythmic accompaniment to songs, chants, galdr, lokkr. Stavving can also be used as a 'sonic driver' for shamanic journey-work.  I've learned that coordinating my body to stamp a staff on the ground while standing upright in a trance is a very strange sensation!

I have also been fortunate enough to participate in the Runehof Asatru community. There, I've attended Blots, learned to card and spin wool, and how to engage in relationship with the Land Wights. I've learned to bake Viking era 'ash-cakes,' as well as making heavy winter socks by nalbinding (1 needle knitting.) I've even learned to leave a cup of coffee and a bit of oatmeal on the altar for my ancestors.

As well, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Society for Creative Anachronism for 20 years of embodied learning. There, I learned that walking through dewy grass makes the hem of your gown miserably cold and clammy against your ankles.  I've learned that complicated line-dances can build to feeling united, like a single being with one soul and multiple feet.  I've also learned that, after combat, men smell really, really bad.

These are the kinds of details that one cannot learn in a library.  Writing the kind of novel that draws a reader in, and transports them to another world requires more of the writer.  It requires embodied knowing.

In this blog, expect philosophical musings, journey-work reports, writing tips, and commentary on the intersection of Nature and Old Norse folk-ways. Much of this blog will be driven by the physical learning driving my novel, In the Company of Stones, an historical fantasy set in 780's Denmark.  Some future commentary may also be driven by ideas I find, trudging to the library, flashdrive in hand.

But much will not.  My keyword is – immanence.

TTFN -Karen-

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pennsic Runestone Project

I came across something touching today: The Pennsic Runestone Project. Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism will be erecting a 9 ton stone in memory of those members who have passed before. A community carving project, members will be able to carve a section of the stone with artwork.

Unlike any other media, stone memorials present a permanent witnesses to lives lived, a thousand years ago. No doubt, a 9 ton stone will present a permanent witness to our lives, a thousand years from now. But what will people make of it?

It's an interesting thought how future archaeologists might interpret a runestone in Butler, Pennsylvania, with carvings in memory of Thorbjorn, or Leif Ivarson. Our digital media won't last that long, neither will newspaper obituaries. Our houses, or skyscrapers won't be around too inform future archaeologists. And our current inhumation techniques don't leave bones and grave goods to examine.

But that SCA runestone will still be standing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

An Animist's Response to Fukushima

Yesterday, over brunch at the house of an Elder from the Powderhorn Cultural Wellness Center, the discussion turned to what an animist might make of the radioactivity leak at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle. There's a spirit for each rock, a house, a spirit for the Mississippi river, and even a spirit of our pancakes. In Shintoist Japan, such 'kami' or spirits are traditionally associated with places, but can also be affiliated with craftsmen's products like swords, or even humanoid robots. (Another story entirely!)

I had to question while nom-ing my pancakes, "Well, what about that Fukushima reactor? Was that 'vengeful kami' at work? How the heck would you pacify the spirit of a nuclear power-plant gone rogue?" The idea conjured images of a radioactive Godzilla stomping whole prefectures flat.

It appears that, yes, indeed, Shintoists might attribute such natural disasters to vengeful kami. Kami are basically benevolent if their places are honored with shrines, festivals and cleansing. Kami are also considered to be the spirits of the unquiet dead, and natural calamities are often considered to be the vengeful spirits of political victims.

Knowing Japan's history of oppression in mainland China in WWII, the idea brings up all sorts of possibilities.

It could be that the Fukushima plant would lie under the auspices of the Kami of Earth, Sarutahiko Ōkami. Archetypally, the 'spirit of earth' really has been offended by lack of proper attention ("ceremony") paid by Japan's nuclear regulatory agencies. Quoting Bloomberg News: “One of the reactors in the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant may have been relying on flawed steel to hold the radiation in its core, according to an engineer who helped build its containment vessel four decades ago. Mitsuhiko Tanaka says he helped conceal a manufacturing defect in the $250 million steel vessel installed at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 4 reactor while working for a unit of Hitachi Ltd. in 1974. " To a kami, this might speak of inattention to "cleansing" and purity.

OK, then. There's a pissed off, radioactive kami running loose in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures!

"So," I asked, "how does one placate the evil spirit of a power plant?"

Apparently there are placation rituals, developed over a thousand years of earthquakes, tsunami, and natural disaster. Some involve recitation of the Lotus Sutra, dedication of a shrine, or performance art.

The animists at brunch assured me that Shinto priests were, no doubt, already engaged in such placation rituals, not to worry.

Still - it wouldn't hurt to chant the Lotus Sutra, in the direction of the Land of the Rising Sun. myōhō renge kyō