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One tendency I’ve noticed in ADF, and broader American-centric Paganism is a misuse, based on misunderstanding, or sometimes laziness of the term “Norse”. Especially with the older material on the ADF website, the rituals labeled “Norse” have phrases in German, with deity names in anglicized Icelandic. Also featuring the goddess Nerthus as Earth Mother, who was worshiped by continental Germanic peoples not “the Norse”.
Actual definition of Norse– of or relating to people who spoke Old Norse in Scandinavia, and traveled and/or settled in other areas of the world, their culture, traditions, literature etc.
Norse is not the same as–
Norwegian– From Old Norse developed two branches, East Norse- Danish and Swedish and West Norse- Icelandic, Norwegian and Faroese.
Vikings– Norse people who farmed part-time, and went trading and raiding in the summer during the Viking Era. Most Norse people were not Vikings, but because of the popular image (we can especially thank Wagner’s operas)
Nordic countries vs. Scandinavia– Just read this
Any Germanic culture or a Pan-Germanic mishmash– When we look at historical and literary sources for Germanic cultures, that spans everywhere from the Anglo-Saxons, the continental Germanic peoples (who often aren’t easily distinguished from the Celtic peoples- the Romans divided them with the Danube river) to Iceland and Scandinavian countries.
Other terms to sort out-
Teutonic– this is sometimes used, especially in older sources to refer to Germanic peoples inclusively or Germans specifically. Originally referred to the Teutons, a Germanic tribe mentioned by Greek and Roman writers. (More here)
German vs. Germanic– the Germanic language family, of or relating to people who speak Germanic languages and their cultures. German– citizen of modern Germany, or earlier historic chunks of land that later became Germany, sometimes used to refer to German-speaking populations around Europe and other parts of planet Earth.
Northern Tradition– I see this used to refer vaguely to Germanic polytheistic/animistic traditions, usually with a Nordic slant, and sometimes with Saami stuff added in for good measure. (Which seems rather rude, considering the erm, prickly relationship between Saami folks and non-Saami Finns, Swedes and Norwegians.)
A couple weeks ago I returned from Minicon, a local science fiction/fantasy convention to find yet another online Pagan/polytheist tempest brewing. Concerns of fascist infiltration and accusations were flying about. Interestingly, there is a similar issue going on with WorldCon and the Hugo Awards, with a particular faction pushing a political and ego-based agenda. People were a bit concerned, they were annoyed by these particular factions. But they were also laughing about it. Several long-time fans commented that not long into the future, this would become part of the history of fandom, and be just as ridiculous as the arguments between L. Ron Hubbard and Isaac Asimov. There’s a bunch going on, but at the root of it, are some people who are afraid of change in the overlapping fandom communities. Surely, the quality of science fiction must be going down if it’s not all stories starring straight white men who rescue alien princesses. Or something. And there’s other folks working for inclusion, but we don’t always agree how that inclusion or equity should work. Some people want more protection and safer space from opinions and people who they find threatening, while others worry about freedom of speech and behavior.
We have a lot of the same debates in Pagan and polytheist communities. And frankly, a lot of this is going on between a small percentage of people who participate in online discussions/flamewars and attend public events- both in regard to fans and Pagans. What is actually happening in your local community? If you don’t have much of a local fannish or Pagan community, well you have some other sort of community, pay attention to that, and even if you do have smaller specialized communities, pay attention to the broader community as well. You’re a part of that, too.
If we give into fear, whatever we feel threatened by wins. We become more isolated, we give up hope. What we’ve worked for falls apart.
What are you passionate about? What drives you to practice your religion, or your fandom? What do you value? Who around you shares those values, locally, regionally or from afar? How can you collaborate with them to make your project a reality? Whether it’s an anthology, a series of public shrines, a panel or workshop at a convention, or maybe you’re not an idea person, but someone else inspires you, how can you help them? Who is also passionate, but isn’t included as much in your community? Older, younger, disabled, rural, no/limited internet access & transportation. Who are we missing and how can we bring them in? Seriously, with all that on our plate, we don’t have time to worry about fascists!
1 Criticize from within– criticize the other on the basis of something you have in common- the safety of your neighborhood, the education of your city or district’s children
2 Look for goods in conflict (Good Thing 1 vs. Good Thing 2 rather than Good vs. Evil)
3 Count higher than two
I remember a keynote at by John Michael Greer, the ArchDruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, in which he mentioned a great contribution of Druidic and Celtic thinking is seeing things in threes- triads. Both the medieval Welsh and Irish had many triads that poets and scholars used as mnemonic devices for proverbs, virtues and other associations. Greer suggested this as a sort of antidote to the destructive binary thinking in Western cultures.
4 Doubt– “the concern that my views may not be entirely correct—is the true friend of wisdom and (along with empathy, to which it’s related) the greatest enemy of polarization.”
7 Keep the conversation going
I had a fabulous time at Paganicon 2016. Northern Roots Grove and several other Druid groves & orgs hosted a party suite and decked it out to look like a forest. The others were Whispering Spirits Protogrove, ADF in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dancing Waters Protogrove, ADF in Onamia, Minnesota, and the Oakdale Grove of the Reformed Druids of North America, and Rev. Amy Castner, the ADF Upper Midwest Regional Druid was there too, along with Rev. Melissa Hill of Cedarsong Grove.
On Friday I went to a long workshop put on by Shauna Aura Knight about Designing Intensive Rituals. I’d gone to two of her workshops last year and was impressed- I highly recommend her workshops, rituals, books and artwork! She was trained in Diana’s Grove Mystery School and also has worked with Reclaiming. Ecstatic rituals with multi-layered chanting that leads people into trance is very much her style.
Then I hung with various people, finding the folks I met the previous couple years that I know from the Cauldron Forum- Vieva, Veggiewolf, the Kemetic from Little Canada whose name I can’t remember sorry! and Jenett Silver.
Then I went to Vieva’s presentation- Ramifications of Pantheism. If everything is sacred or divine, what implications does this have? How do we live our lives as co-creators of the universe? Vieva has her own pantheistic philosophy, FlameKeeping, but this was more broad in focus to get people thinking about what it means to hold a pantheistic worldview. One idea I took away from it is that in pantheism, there is no Us vs. Them.
Alright, a little thing during my issue with Hopkins University happened and while I was basically going through one of the worst experiences of my life, being illegally fired from my job but before being raided as repercussion for talking about it, a post had happened across my personal FB timeline about Blackthorn Hoodoo Blend teas, […]
One of my values is *sovereignty* and that means respecting the rights of individuals, as well as different traditions and cultures to speak for themselves and define their boundaries. That includes Wicca. Some Wiccans are polytheists. They have explained their polytheism, though they shouldn’t have to, only to have *some* (not all) polytheists explain this away.
This not mean that I accept everyone who claims the label polytheist as polytheist- I have an inclusive definition, but it still has limits, so the word doesn’t become as watered down and meaningless as “pagan” has. Words can have some fluidity in meaning yes, but we need some degree of shared meaning in order to communicate. I wonder a bit if the adjective might be more helpful than the noun. I also like the Anglo-Saxon “manygodded”- it’s a description, not an “ism”.
I just added this to my Inclusive Polytheism post- since it seems some folks need a reminder-
- Polytheists do not all adhere to any one political ideology or party, apart from most likely, supporting religious freedom and impartiality towards a variety of religions and non-religious people. (As for separation of church & state- this may very by country)
Granted, there are polytheists out there that have political/ideological and theological beliefs and practices that I have serious moral objections too (racism, sexism, homo/bi/transphobia et al) But I’m not claiming their polytheism isn’t genuine just because I disagree or don’t want to collaborate with them.
There are many religions like Wicca that include polytheists in their midst, but aren’t *only* polytheist by definition. Other examples-
A theistic Satanist or Luciferian might be a henotheist- who focuses worship on Satan or Lucifer within a framework of polytheism, or a more general polytheist.
Buddhism is often depicted in the West as the Super-Rational Atheist-approved No Gods Here! religion/philosophy, but in spite of it tending to be less worship focused, deities, buddhas, boddhisattvas (who are more like saints) and ancestor spirits are honored. There’s also some overlap with Hinduism, and Shinto…and I will just let more knowledgeable folks explain this more.
There is a lot of disagreement about whether polytheistic monism (as found in Hinduism, some types of Neoplatonism, some kinds of Wicca) counts as “true” polytheism. Honestly, I am mostly just sick of the hostility of this debate. If theology nerds want to hash it out in a civil fashion, OK great.
One of my fellow members (indeed a founder!) of Clann Bhride, a devotional Brighidine order I belong to, is Chris Scott Thompson, and he has a well-put together explanation of polytheistic monism here on Patheos- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Agree or disagree respectfully with his theological views or his scholarship- in any case, he knows a lot more about Neoplatonism and Hinduism than I do, but more importantly to me anyway is that he’s a great person who does a lot of good work for his communities and his Gods/spirits/ancestors. We have a quite diverse membership in Clann Bhride and hold these Nine Elements in common, but there is much room for interpretation. Devotion, ethics, and fellowship are to us what matter.