Posts tagged ‘Asatru’

Winter Solstice Podcasts

I was going to make a list of my favorite Druid, Celtic, Irish, Pagan, Heathen podcasts, however since it’s almost the solstice, for fun I’m going to list winter solstice/holiday season episodes. I have only listened to a few of the holiday-specific episodes, and I’m making comments as I go. So far I have a review of the Kindling the Hearthfire Yule 2017 episode.

Story Archaeology– this is a team effort between Isolde Carmody, an Irish archaeologist and Chris Thompson, a professional storyteller.

Midwinter Special: Craneskin Bag: a Santa’s Sack of Gifts from Irish Mythology

A Crock of Cobblers: a Holiday Special 2014

New World WitcheryEp 21 Winter Lore 2010, Yuletide Cheer/Greetings! Ep 38 2011Ep 47 2012, Ep. 58 2013Ep. 70 2014 Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Ep. 85 2015, Ep. 103 2016, Ep. 104 Yuletide Fear (ghost stories) Ep. 120 2017 Cheer, Ep. 121 Fear,

This is about magical and esoteric traditions and folklore unique to the New World, there are interviews and discussions with practitioners from many different cultures and traditions. And to be clear, this is broader than Paganism, I would say that magical traditions in general regardless of origin, have the commonality of an animist worldview.

Kindling the HearthfireEp. 8 2017 This is an ADF Druid centered podcast begun by folks in the ADF Pantheacon party suite. First part is music, poems, invocations for the season, there’s a talk by Rev. Rob Henderson about holidays that can be celebrated in the Hellenic & Roman traditions- since their seasons are a bit different than us northern folks are used to, then there’s info about the Vedic hearth culture, the Indo-European root culture of Hinduism,  and a section on cooking, including an Indian recipe.

Heathen TalkEp. 22 Yule 2015 – Discussion of Yule, the Wild Hunt & Mannerbunde. I am going to note that the folks on this show have some very specific ideas about Heathenry that not everyone in Germanic polytheist religions share, they have a very tribal, cultural focused take on heathenry. With that in mind, it’s a great show.

Celtic Myth Podshow– retellings of Irish, Scottish, Welsh and other Celtic myths, legends and folktales, and Celtic music. This show is on hiatus but episodes are still on the website. Christmas Music Special 2009, Ep 22 Christmas Wish 2010, Ep. 32 Yuletide 2012, Ep. 38 Winter Music 2013,

 

 

 

 

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December 14, 2018 at 2:50 am Leave a comment

Crossing the Danube: Celtic & Germanic differences

Whenever I go into Heathen or Asatru spaces I joke silently to myself that I’m metaphorically crossing the Danube, the river that the Romans considered the rather arbitrary division between the  continental Germanic and Celtic tribes. Similarities and differences between Celtic and Germanic groups are sometimes over-emphasized or downplayed, in addition to of course intra-Celtic and intra-Germanic cultures having those problems. This adds up to create some misunderstandings between these two cultural/linguistic families including in the religious aspects. I will discuss the general spectrum of Celtic paganism, polytheism and Druidry, and get into a little that is specific to Celtic Reconstructionism. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Decent Celtic information has tended to be more obscure than decent Germanic information (at least Icelandic sources!) , in spite of often being more popular among Pagans most easily available information was up to not that long ago. Frankly, I’m amused what Heathens angrily denounce as being fluffy, the amount of fluff they have typically had to deal with seems so minor by comparison to the Celtic side.
  2. I know many Celtic Pagans/polytheists and Druids that are also at least partially involved in Norse/Germanic traditions whether for reasons of ancestral/ethnic heritage and/or spiritual inclination. We also sometimes have spouses who are Norse/Germanic by culture & spirit, and the household may to some degree combine the two, particularly with ancestor honoring. Folks who primarily identify as Heathen or Germanic/Norse polytheist seem to be less frequently eclectic/syncretic or dual/multi-tradition. Though I am seeing an increase in that, especially with the Religio Romana.
  3. How historically gender-egalitarian- or even “matriarchal” or “feminist” nature of Celtic cultures were gets exaggerated, while the not-so gender egalitarian-ness of Germanic cultures gets exaggerated. They both were mixed bags for the status and treatment of women- patriarchal overall, but women especially higher class women, had more rights than most of ancient Greece or Rome. This also varies by time period, specific culture and so forth of course.
  4. The warrior path gets over-emphasized in a distorting way among Germanic folks, and particularly in some types of British Druidry, Celts somehow become pacifists..like say what *where* are you getting this from? When really being mostly farmers and herders with a few aristocratic warbands was for the most part what both the Celtic and Germanic tribes did.
  5. The conversion to Christianity of the Irish, Scots and Welsh at least was more peaceful than that of most Germanic peoples I’m aware of. That doesn’t mean we’re happy about it, but that Celtic Pagan relationships with Christianity & Christians is overall less hostile. You see more overt syncretism between the two, and a spectrum between Celtic Paganism and Celtic Christianity gets referred to as Celtic Spirituality or Celtic Wisdom generally. Though there are shared customs, sacred sites and local spirits honored by both Christians, Heathens and secular folk in Germany, Austria, the Low Countries and Nordic countries and by their diasporan cousins. I certainly don’t see Heathens celebrating the patron saint days of their homelands!
  6. There is more Celtic Reconstructionist (particularly historical) overlap with general Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft and Druidry both Neo-Pagan & fraternal/ceremonial magic influenced types as compared with Asatru and Heathenry, which has roots in some places in folk culture & custom revivals and to some degree in occult/magical orders, though that influence seems to have lessened over time. Much to its chagrin, Celtic reconstructionists have had more difficulty in differentiating themselves from broader Paganism as compared with Heathens, who have been quite persistent in their distinct identity.

June 5, 2018 at 7:52 am 3 comments

Comments on Why I am Not a Heathen

I reblogged Pagan Church Lady’s Why I am Not a Heathen essay But of course, being me I have to add my own commentary. I am not sure whether I’d identify with the label Heathen or not- I generally call myself a polytheist- the details vary as I figure out my path. I tag my posts about Germanic/Norse religion with heathen, heathenry and asatru partly just to add another voice for inclusive, non-asshole Heathenry.

Rejection of NeoPaganism

I have generally found more friendly attitudes from Heathens who interact with broader Neo-Pagandom. Their friendship and cooperation does not necessarily mean being “fluffy” or “eclectic” just as when I go to an interfaith gathering, that doesn’t mean I suddenly decide I’m going to start observing Buddhist or Muslim traditions.

I most definitely respect the choice of Heathens and Heathen groups to choose to engage and work with other Pagans or not. I think there are various good reasons for doing so. I can also understand why many Heathens feel they don’t have much in common with non-Heathen Pagans or even simply feel excluded by Pagan festivals, Pagan Prides and other entities that are very Wicca-centric. Many other polytheists and followers of other indigenous/folk/tribal religions feel similarly.

It would be enough to simply state- “As a Heathen, I don’t consider myself/identify as part of the broader Neo-Pagan communit(ies), here are some reasons why…” and list some relatively neutral reasons of differences in values, focus etc. I do see those sorts of explanations from some folks. But even more often, I see a list of generalizations with undertone of “Eeew- we’re not like Those People!” A caricature of promiscuous, nudist, hippies is then painted- while on the other side, a caricature of gun-toting redneck Heathens  is painted by some Pagans. Rather ironic- considering both Pagan and Heathen mean “redneck/hick/hillbilly” in other languages. In any case, obviously these generalizations are very harmful to all our communities, so I ask that we try to get to know & judge each other as individuals. I admit that I can be very judgmental myself and make assumptions about other people’s character, beliefs and behavior based on their appearance, the bumperstickers on their car and so forth. So this is a learning process for everyone, I am no exception!

Dismissal of UPG/Spiritual Experience

I most definitely consider the Eddas, Sagas and so forth to be useful sources of information about Germanic and Norse mythology and religion. But they are not The Lore- Holy Writ from On High as Handed to us by the Gods! The Eddas, in particular are Norse myth skaldic Christian fan fiction. Actual folklore, by definition is information (lore) handed down orally by the folk, the common people, not attributed to any one person. Just as we’ve gotten literary interpretations of legends of King Arthur and his knights from Malory’s Le Morte de Arthur and secondary or tertiary historical sources from Geoffrey of Monmouth, we have literary interpretations of Norse mythology and history written from particular viewpoints by authors of Sagas and Roman dudes like Tacitus. Is Snorri Sturluson a better source for the original myths than say, Wilhelm Wagner? Yes, definitely. But that doesn’t make the Eddas holy writ. To develop any revived polytheism into a living religion we need to come up with our own folklore- we are the folk- the common people. We can use texts as guides and templates, and hold them up against our own insights and experiences. But ultimately, we need to create lore ourselves- for our time, for our lands, for our people. Likewise, Heathens in Europe tend to draw more heavily from the folklore and customs of their respective nations, even if those customs don’t go back to preChristian times. We can too. But we live in different climates, different terrains, with different cultures. So we need to adapt accordingly.

My additions- Black & White Thinking– Whenever I attempt to join an online Heathen group, before posting I have to learn not just the rules of moderation, but all the unwritten rules of this particular cadre of Heathens which I learn by lurking and carefully poking thru archives before I dare make a post. Which authors are good, which are “fluffy”. Whether patrons or fulltrui, let alone godspouses are a Real Thing ™ Whether using runes, magic and seidhr is a legit part of Asatru/Heathenry or assumed to be a fluffy Wiccan influence. Whether certain beings/deities/spirits are off-limits or not. Whether exhibiting any sense of compassion and mercy is hospitality or “Too weak and Christian”. Granted, Pagans across the board are quite capable of black & white thinking, and engage it quite avidly, but I don’t typically see the same level of uniform judgment about *every single spiritual belief & practice* My Lords and Ladies!

A Stupid, Crazy Level of Ableism Pagans, not being any exception to our broader cultural influences are once again quite capable of every sort of ism- racism typically manifests as clueless, well-meaning “we’re all human/I don’t see color” platitudes and micro-aggressions, sexism typically as gender essentialism and Truly Liberated Women will, of course sleep with me! Homophobia and biphobia are typically not tolerated, but transphobia definitely rears its head especially in the name of “safe spaces/rituals for women”. Ableism is most definitely present in various forms. But damn, among Heathen groups online anyway- I found the ableist insults and assumptions to be so constant as to be intolerable. Other isms, while present, I could learn to dodge, but I found ableist crap in pretty much every Facebook heathen group I have joined and left, notable exceptions are the Urglaawe/Braucherei groups, ADF Heathens, and a couple of local Heathen groups. Lokeans, while they vary broadly are also generally more inclusive of most categories of excluded people- I consider them a slightly different category however, since not all them identify as Heathen. People act worse online in general, but I notice particular sets of obnoxious traits among online Heathen groups, atheist/skeptic/humanist groups, Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s) and right-wing libertarians- rampant ableism (under the guise of intellectual snobbery/superiority- anyone who disagrees is stupid/retarded/crazy) machismo, and dominance by white male heterosexuals who raise a hissy fit if anyone ever mentions the concept of privilege, and loudly claim how oppressed they are by Social Justice Warriors. I agree that some nonsense that goes on in the name of “social justice” online is pretty ridiculous, but they can’t distinguish between that and everything else. (Yes the irony of that subtitle was intentional)

The Racial stuff– well, that you already know my opinion, and I have been informed by certain Heathens that I’m apparently “obsessed” with race, motivated by white guilt, “cultural Marxism” and other interesting accusations. It seems I’ve violated some social norms of their communities by not minding my own business. Well if speaking out against racism violates the norms of your community, I definitely don’t want to be a part of it. Clearly I share values with some Heathens and not others, but once again that is the same with every other community I participate in.

May 15, 2015 at 4:36 am 1 comment

X-rated Religion: Sexual Ecstasy, Mystery & Social Boundaries

Replying to yet another great article by Shauna Aura Knight about sexual ethics in Pagan communities: Sexual Initiation, Consent & Rape

Speaking as an ex-cult member myself- I am going to say that I am against sexual initiations (or sex between teachers/clergy and students/laity) period. There was enough authoritarian manipulation from the leader of my group without sex being involved- I shudder to think about what would have happened if it did. Sometimes attraction does happen between students & teachers/clergy (of similar/appropriate ages!) but they need to be responsible adults and hold off on pursuing sex or romance until they are no longer in that power structure. In Minnesota (my state) law therapists and former clients are allowed to date/have sex after a few years of ending their professional relationship, if I am not mistaken. I think we should have a similar ethical standard among our communities, even if we probably couldn’t make it a law. I’m not sure about sex in ritual in general- it should be approached carefully, done for specific reasons (not “just because”) I really think we have swung too far to the anything goes hippie moral relativism and there’s huge range between that and insisting everyone is either strictly monogamously partnered or a Vestal virgin. It’s due to that mentality that we convince ourselves we need to be “tolerant” of people like the Frosts.

I am both a Druid & a Heathen, and while both are fairly broad umbrellas that include many viewpoints, neither cluster of traditions really has much of an emphasis on sex in ritual or magic. Some Heathens & Druids may choose to practice sex magic, especially in relation to ecstatic trance or spirit-work, but on the whole both Druids & Heathens are not really focused on heterosexual polarity or the “God & Goddess as a cosmic battery” in the way Wicca sometimes is. I’d also like to add, that on the whole polytheistic cultures of the past tended to be more sexually conservative than we are now, simply due to lack of reliable contraception, and the high risks of childbirth and infant mortality. Likewise, situational male homosexual behavior often occurred especially among young unmarried men because of the tight control over young women and separation of the sexes*. Mystery cults that focused on ecstasy- whether sexual, drug-induced etc. were sometimes repressed by the dominant social hierarchy for being disruptive to the social order. Witchcraft & Wicca are modern forms of mystery cults/religions, and likewise there are mystery cults and liminal or social/spiritual outsider associated practices within modern polytheistic religions or exist as traditions/religions unto themselves. But on the whole, both Druidry and Heathenry tend to focus more on the practices of the “ordinary” layperson.

(*Note: I am especially thinking about Greek, Roman and Near Eastern cultures here)

November 19, 2014 at 12:28 am 2 comments

Gender Equality: Why Heathens Can Do Better

Listen to/Watch this awesome speech by Emma Watson to the United Nations about the launch of a new campaign: He For She. Please signal boost the speech, rather than the nasty responses to it! This unique campaign seeks to end gender equality by boosting the support of men and boys for the movement. As Ms. Watson addresses, many people have mis-represented feminism as being about elevating women over men, and hating men. She refutes this and discusses the many ways patriarchal gender roles are damaging to both men and women. Ms. Watson’s message is for the whole world, but after seeing a link to it on a Heathen discussion forum, I couldn’t help thinking of how her message connected with Heathenry and Germanic (and Celtic) based values.

To give a little background for those who might reading this from feminist/social justice communities, Heathenry is an umbrella term for revivals of Germanic polytheism, with specific branches such as Asatru, Vanatru, Anglo-Saxon Heathenry and so forth. The Heathen community tends to be pretty distinct, spiritually and culturally from the broader category of Paganism, though the two sometimes do work together on projects for religious freedom, festivals and so forth. Due to the emphasis on the Goddess(es) and women as witches, the gender ratio among the general Pagan populace tends to skew more towards women, whereas due to the emphasis on macho Viking warriors, Heathens tend to have a gender ratio that skews male.

*spoiler alert* Emma Watson ends her speech the line- “Ask yourself- if not me, who? If not now, when?” This very much ties in with heroic morality. (Which is also expressed in the Harry Potter novels/movies!) This is not the idea that everyone can be a hero, but to at least strive in that direction.  We can all do our part to make the world a better place, and to be the best you can. I realize that there are many issues debated by feminists and advocates for gender equality that not all Heathens or Heathen organizations are going to agree on, even if we as a community choose to make gender equality more of a priority, both within our religion and in our broader societies. Still, I think there are some principles here that tie in well with broadly held Heathen values.

*Flexibility of gender roles “An Asatru man will not be ridiculed for running a household, nor will an Asatru woman be looked down upon for being the primary wage earner.” “Our ancestors were also able to acknowledge when exceptions needed to be made for men or women that were acting outside of the normal roles for their times. Women were known to go on raids as warriors, though rarely. Men were known to raise the children, and act as the frithweaver for the family, though not as commonly as women.”- The Standing of Heathen Women

*Industriousness- and fair rewards- Equal pay for equal work. For that matter, so much of the work women do is unpaid and not valued enough by society as “productive” work. Taking care of children, elderly and people with disabilities and doing housework are all worthy and important tasks. Let’s think about how can we change our view of this work so that it seen as more valuable, and both women and men who do it are better rewarded, and can get jobs that can support them, yet still allow for time to do these things.

*Access to education- Heathens like their book learning, and we want everyone to have access to knowledge and wisdom- men and women, boys and girls. Many of us are concerned about the role dominant religions play in our public schools, especially in the teaching of history, science and sex education.

*Respect for women’s bodies and sexuality (and men’s!) Clearly though we may joke about how awesome the Vikings were, we don’t consider their behavior acceptable. Stealing, destroying villages and raping women? Obviously those are not honorable actions! Personally I think we should have less of a focus on the idea of “rape culture” but rather, sexual violence and abuse in general, regardless of the genders of the perpetrators.  A major way in which men’s sexuality is distorted both by anti-feminists and some feminists is the implication that men cannot control their own sexual desires, that they are monsters that women and children should fear. We do not have the idea of shame of the body and of sexual pleasure that other religions sometimes do. We believe in enjoying (responsibly!) all that life has to offer.

*Openness to Intuition & Emotion (this is my own addition, though somewhat alluded to in the speech)

Asatru fora often sound suspiciously like Christian fundamentalists have invaded, except people are arguing by hurling lines from different sagas at each other to support or refute a point rather than Bible verses. Women are definitely guilty of this too, but the general tone of this sort of debate is that of a macho, intellectual pissing contest. Sorry, boys. Faith isn’t logical. Certainly logic and critical thinking are important tools in scholarship and philosophy. One thing to note is that we have much less lore available about our goddesses, and roles of women in our religion. Having a more open-minded attitude about personal revelation (UPG- seriously we need a better term, folks!) can help our religion regain gender balance.

*Postscript- After writing most of this post, I read several criticisms of Ms. Watson’s speech by Black feminists and others who have pointed out its lack of intersectionality, implications of heteronormativity and being less than forthcoming about the fact that men benefit from patriarchy, it isn’t just this Bad Thing that makes them hide their feelings etc. I definitely now see the limitations, and we can certainly call into question how relevant her message was for the entire planet in the way she framed it.  However, when you are pulling your hair out as a white woman trying to teach Feminism 101* in a white male dominated subculture like Heathenry, many geek communities, the atheist/skeptic/humanist communities, her speech seems to be a good vehicle to get some important messages across. (*and anti-Racism 101, Trans 101, Ableism 101…)

References:

Speech by Emma Watson to UN General Assembly

The Pentagram and the Hammer– a comparison of Wicca & Asatru

The Standing of Heathen Women– Heathen Kinship of Houston

Why I’m Not Really Here for Emma Watson’s Speech on Feminism at the U.N. by Mia McKenzie- I will admit, I had to read this essay more than once to really “get it”, and I’m still working on “getting it” in a broader sense…

October 16, 2014 at 3:49 am 1 comment

Gods of Hollywood vs. Gods of Asgard

I wrote the previous post to survey what all is included in the large umbrella category of “Pop Culture Paganism” and what within it I personally find to be of interest. That does not mean I am giving my stamp of approval on every type of PCP-ism that exists and everything that each PC Pagan says or does. That would silly. Heck, even in more specific traditions/organizations I belong to like ADF, I certainly don’t agree with all of my co-religionists on everything and share all their individual beliefs and practices. 

Anyway, Lovemydane brought up an issue that is a major point of contention among the Asatru/Heathen community- the depiction of Thor, Loki, Odin et al. in Marvel comics.  I haven’t read any of the Thor comics or seen any of the movies so I can’t comment on them too directly. However, I do enjoy watching Oh My Goddess! an anime series (based on manga) that draws inspiration from Norse mythology. The main character, Belldandy (Japanese rendering of Verdandi) works for a “Goddess Help Line” which is accidently dialed by Keiichi Morisato, a shy college student. Belldandy appears in his dorm room and tells him that she will grant him any wish he makes. Befuddled by this gorgeous woman claiming to be a goddess, he thinks it’s a joke and wishes that she will stay be his side forever. She stays on Earth, realizing that she has created a contract with him that she is bound to fulfill. Later her sisters, Urd and Skuld show up.

Those of you who are familiar with Norse mythology know these three sisters as the Norns, the powerful Goddesses who decide the fates and  of humans by measuring and cutting the thread of life- and Wyrd. The cosmology of Oh My Goddess! is very different from Norse cosmology, and bears an obvious influence from Christianity- the universe is divided into Heaven, Earth and Hell, Verdandi, Skuld and Urd and others are under the authority of the Allmighty One (Odin- with some Jehovah influences) whereas in Norse myth, there are 9 worlds, and Odin, while powerful cannot determine Wyrd as the Norns can. Likewise, in Greek mythology Zeus is subject to the power of the Fates/Moirae. Watching this anime is just a form of entertainment, a purely secular activity though I find it interesting and fun to compare with what I know of Norse mythology. 

So, what if someone were to watch Oh My Goddess! and decide that they want to worship Belldandy, the character as a goddess. Would that be a problem? Well that depends. If they decided to completely base a religious practice off of the show and manga, it could be a rather unbalanced and shallow practice, because the media are designed to entertain, not to do all the things religions are intended to do. But that would be a problem for that one individual and would not really be anyone else’s business. Now if this person decided that Belldandy was the same as Norse myth Verdandi, and Oh My Goddess! cosmology/laws of the universe trumped Norse mythology, and was more “real”, “valid” and called themselves a Heathen/Asatruar and came into a Heathen forum, or offline in-person blot with all of these ideas, or tried to explain to the public (or just their friends/family) that what they’re doing is actual Heathenry, then yeah. Those would all be major ethical violations of Heathen community norms of piety and hospitality and we would be right to be offended. 

  On the other hand, there some people who initially come across Norse or Greek mythology references in pop culture and get interested in learning about the originals. It might just remain an intellectual/aesthetic interest for them or it might develop into a religious practice. If they come into a forum and mention that their interest was piqued by Hercules, Xena or Marvel comics, we shouldn’t attack them for it, but we should check to make sure they understand the difference. In works of fiction that draw on history, people will often put in a disclaimer that this is a work of fiction and not historically accurate. However they do not have that responsibility with mythology. (This movie not approved by Homer or Snorri Sturlson!) We can be offended when they get our mythology “wrong” but I think it’s better to just see as a different, alternate mythology. 

So if you want to worship a pop culture version of a deity, do you have ethical responsibilities to a community that worships a more traditional form of the deity? (Which you may or may not see as the same being, but they probably don’t) Yes, you do. You have the responsibility to not misrepresent yourself or your religious practice to the general public, the Pagan public and that specific community. As long as you do that, the more traditionally-minded polytheists ought to leave you alone. 

For more on the Marvel Thor issue:

Worse than Breasts & Melanin by Kvasir amongst the Gods

August 15, 2014 at 9:42 pm 1 comment

Other Models of Heathen Ethics

I found some more models of Heathen ethics that could possibly be part of my Self-Care Virtues project, Harrison K. Hall has an excellent series of posts, beginning with an examination and critique of the Odinic Rite’s Nine Noble Virtues. He comes up with his own list, the Ten Guiding Tempers, which are designed to balance each other out.

Heathen Ethics Part 1: Nine Nearly Useless Virtues

Commentary: Personally, I think *most* of the virtues can be good principles depending on how they are interpreted- unfortunately all too often they are interpreted in a very “might makes right” manner. The main problem as I see it is that this set is rather unbalanced and incomplete. Several concepts, like “discipline and perseverance” are very close and arguably redundant. Self-Reliance, Discipline and Industriousness have to be *seriously* modified and qualified for people with disabilities, and all too often are used to shame them.

Part 2: Racism & Heathen Taqiyya

Taqiyya is a “loophole” in Shiia Islam that if a Muslim’s life is in danger for revealing his/her beliefs, the person can pretend to be a non-Muslim (and violate the faith) without being guilty of blasphemy. I understand the point he’s making here about the hypocrisy of racist Heathens. But  I thought use of “taqiyya” would be more directly relevant in the case of Heathens who pretend to be Christian out of fear of discrimination.

Part 3: AFA’s Nine Noble Virtues (the “honor is better than dishonor” one)

“The best of the bunch, to my mind, is “Realism is Better Than Dogma”.  It’s probably the only one of the virtues that I can appreciate without conditions, because it balances two things that can both be considered valuable in the right circumstances.   You can use tradition and scripture…but all things being equal, chose the most pragmatic option.”

Part 4: Social Consequence

Hall makes the point that following “traditional” Heathen virtues have different social consequences and impact in a as a tiny minority in a non-Heathen modern industrialized society than in an ancient Norse feudal/tribal society.

“If you are willing to weaken the entire strength of a community for the sake of your own ego?  You shouldn’t belong to a community.  You can be Heathen, Asatru, or whatever; these aren’t terms that any one person gets to bestow upon or remove from another person.  A community, however, requires a certain amount of sacrifice for the greater good.”

Part 5: Modern Virtues

OK, so if this other stuff isn’t working, what factors should we consider in constructing modern Heathen ethics?

1) Anthropological Sources Cannot Be the Primary Source for the Material

I think we should look at history to help give us an idea of the worldview of our spiritual ancestors, but being too wed to the past makes it difficult to make it relevant to modern realities.

2) No Mystic Hangups– ethics aren’t mystical, there don’t need to be nine of them

3) Nothing Included that Speaks to Politics and/or Racism, One Way or the Other

I think if we construct our ethics carefully enough, anyone who is actually honorable won’t be using them to justify some form of oppression or discrimination. If they are, then why the Hel are they in our community?

I also think ethics definitely have political implications, but what those implications are and what policy ought to be pursued as a resulted should be left up to the individual.

Part 6: Taking it Back– discussion of the “We Are Our Deeds” concept

Part 7: Ten Guiding Tempers

Part 8: Your Ancestors, My Ancestors

Aren’t all of our ancestors sacred and worthy of reverence?

Other Heathen/Germanic Ethics Models

Urglaawe Virtues– There’s a great article here (it’s on a PDF, didn’t want to give a direct link so people didn’t get a “surprise download”) about contemplating the virtues of Urglaawe, the Pennsylvania Deutsch Heathen tradition on the 12 Nights of Yule.

Rokkatru Ethics & Values– I realize Rokkatru, the tradition/path that focuses reverence on the Jotuns, may or may not be considered “Heathen” but I think it’s worth a look.

Further analysis of these ethical systems will be forthcoming, for now I will continue working on the lists I began with!

July 29, 2014 at 3:58 am 3 comments

Tiptoe among the Tulips, I mean Heathens

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What, me fluffy? (Photo of bunny rabbit in Viking helmet & shield.

So I signed up for a Asatru/Heathen group on Facebook, and I was reading thru their long list of rules, which hey, I do appreciate it when the rules are specifically laid out- and that is well-moderated. Unlike in person interactions where I may have to figure them out the hard way! But I was just thinking, Wow, I think hanging out with all these Lokeans and Vanatruar online has kind of “corrupted” me, at least as far as the No UPG Thanks, We’re Serious Asatru Recons are concerned.  (This is the part where y’all get the chance to cackle!) I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, if they want to focus more on scholarly stuff in that group, and don’t want to get sucked into UPG arguments, fine.

Celtic Recons sometimes have a reputation for being anti-UPG, but the information we have available on Celtic polytheism is even more limited than what we have of Germanic traditions, so at they very least we have to be open to different ideas or we won’t have much to go on. Not to mention, every now and then some scholar will come out with a paper saying so-and-so wasn’t historically worshipped as deity. If someone has been worshipping that deity, and connecting with them and having experiences, it seems ridiculous to drop that practice based on the direction of current scholarship, which might change when the newest journal comes out. Same with Germanic religions- it was mentioned in the rules that discussing the worship of beings who are mentioned in myth but have no historic cult is verboten. Umm, that’s a lot of gods…I kinda wondered if that really was about Heimdall, Baldur, Skadi? Or someone else with red hair….

I pretty much consider myself neutral as far as the Loki/jotun worship issue is concerned, which is kind of like trying to be neutral about abortion among feminists or something…my partner (who’s agnostic, but familiar with Norse mythology) said to me once “Isn’t worshipping Loki kinda like voting for the Pro-Ragnarok party?” “Maybe so, I said. But everyone loves a rebel, particularly pagans!”

So no, I’m not going to say that honoring Loki & co. is a good or bad idea (heck, some people have rather dubious reasons for worshipping Odin…) mostly I’m just bugged by the obsessive Lokean-bashing that goes on among some heathens. I also notice that the most vocal about this, frequently use ableist, homo/transphobic language in their bashing, and seem to be more frequently (though not necessarily) associated with the folkish wing of Asatru. Hence I will be avoiding the AsatruLore forums…  I also have made the acquaintance of many bloggers/posters who have behaved courteously to me, and share many interesting and thoughtful ideas in their writings who are Loki-worshippers. Are there other Loki-worshippers who behave badly? Yes, I’m sure there are, just as they are badly behaved worshippers of every deity.

As for Vanatru, I do not necessarily label myself as such, but I do find that many Vanic identified folks are a lot friendlier, more open to new ideas, but often still scholarly. They tend to have a less of a Macho Viking Warrior mentality- a mentality which I think is very unhealthy, and also more reflective of modern projections of what some people want the ancient Norse to be, and the bias of the limited information we have on the religion.  Even people who don’t specifically call themselves Vanic/Vanatru, but happen to have one of them as their patron, seem to be friendlier.

I don’t care whether your spiritual practice is totally something you came up with yourself, or based on painstaking PhD. level research. If you behave honorably and politely, and treat people who are different from you and disagree with you with respect, and don’t put up with racists/sexists/homophobes/abusers etc. in the name of “frith” or “what will the neighbors think, let’s sweep this under the rug” then I will consider you a worthy person to discuss ideas with, whether online or offline- maybe even a friend. And I’ll tell other people that when they talk about you behind your back.

I don’t want to get into these arguments. I’ve had enough of many of the same ones among Celtic Recons. I will just be careful where I go, and what I talk about. Much like life outside the Internet.

(Oh and for the record, I’m pretty sure both major American parties are Pro-Ragnarok, at least as far as their policies are concerned…)

July 24, 2014 at 2:42 am 1 comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Intro

Over the years I’ve studied European polytheistic religions, and their modern revivals, I’ve seen many different views of ethics- generally focused on lists of virtues that have been presented. Sometimes they can be seen as “one-size fits all” when they are very much subject to interpretation. I’ve realized that we all need to tailor our philosophies and practices to the current situation we are in, mine currently is trying to take care of mental health issues and prepare for seeking employment again, once I am more balanced. I am not trying to promote an easy way out, a “pick and choose” morality that is most convenient. I am still considering this in terms of how these virtues fit into their original cultural worldviews as well as how they fit into our own. One thing to keep in mind, is that the texts we have were all written for elite noble warriors, by poets trying to flatter their lords to earn their keep, or by Christian monks with their own perspective. Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of people were just trying to survive on subsistence farming and herding. They were not literate, and they were not socially important so their stories are not written down. They might’ve enjoyed listening to stories around the fire of brave heroes fighting giants and dragons, but they could relate more to their own stories of how Uncle Thorvald fought off that bandit many winters ago, or how Aunt Sigrid somehow managed to feed all of her children after a bad harvest. And how their fellow villagers banded together to help all of them survive.

We have those stories too, but sometimes we are too ashamed to tell them, because our culture tells us that we are always supposed to be able to help ourselves, and that is the same message we get from interpretations of Celtic and Germanic cultural values that leave out the “it takes a village/tribe/family” part and seem to have a modern bias. Consider that the Nine Norse Virtues were written by the Asatru Folk Assembly in the 1970’s United States,  and while they did take inspiration from the Havamal and other Norse texts, I suspect there was a modern socio-political reaction to love/freedom/peace/anything goes hippie philosophy that was common at the time, as well as a reaction against Christianity. (Similarly as with Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan!) Also in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many white Americans were trying to figure out who they were, culturally since their cultural and political dominance had been challenged, what it meant to be “white” had changed. Europeans also faced this as they watched colonies in Africa and other lands fight for independence. Sometimes this was taken in the wrong direction, certainly the case with AFA. We are still struggling to figure that out.

References:

Ar nDraiocht Fein’s Nine Virtues

Celtic Virtues by Alexei Kondratiev, Celtic Reconstructionist

An Irish Mythic Model for Celtic Virtues by Erin Johnson

Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru by John Yeowell & John Stubbs-Bailey of AFA, adopted by many other Asatru/Heathen orgs since then

Vanic Virtues (unsure of origin)

Six-Fold Goal from Edred Thorsson’s A Book of Troth

Books: The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers

July 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm 6 comments

Exploring Heathenry

For a long time, I’ve been a Celtic polytheist/Druid and a Hellenic polytheist, and while I still have an interest in the Greek gods, I feel the context of the culture is much too foreign to me, though I have tried grounding more in American culture. I’ve long had an interest in Heathenry/Asatru but dealing with 3 cultures just seemed like too much! But I think I will it explore it more, and put Hellenic stuff on the backburner for now. I also have been realizing that while I can certainly re-embrace my Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish) heritage, study the language, and so forth, I am really much more grounded in an Anglo-German cultural worldview.

After the looong Pagan definition post, I decided to untangle the various traditions labeled “Heathen”, “Germanic”, “Norse”, or just “Northern”. I understand there is a lot of confusion on the Internet about what is what, and I try to take a neutral stance by going by how different groups seem to identify themselves, so we can clarify what is typically considered part of Heathenry, and what isn’t (like Norse Wicca). Plus I could pigeon-hole into the Pagan Blog Project by started the title with “Odinism” for O. Which is funny, because that’s a term I don’t see people use all that often.

I started on another section about Germanic-based magical/esoteric traditions, since they are often practiced outside of a Heathen religious context. I’d heard of Pow-Wow magic before, the healing charms and hex signs of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (not Dutch!)- the term they use is Deitsch, but noticed some time ago that there is also a revival of Heathen religion surrounding it- Urglaawe, based on German folklore in the area. It would also be cool if I could find Minnesotan and Wisconsin takes on German folklore, for more local adaptations.

Another more unfortunate motivation for my interest in Heathenry, is that I am really fed up with all the racism that infect certain parts of it. We have those problems in Celtic and other European traditions as well. On the Hellenic side, I don’t generally have to deal with it, because the people in that tradition that advocate Greeks-only are pretty only communicating in Greek, as far as I know. So while that is certainly NOT my primary motivation, it has become even more of a concern since the shooting last April in Overland Park, Kansas.  After that happened, I wanted to write letters to local activist groups explaining the religion and that it is NOT what we are about- but I wasn’t part of the “we”, so I did not feel that I could do that.

 

July 19, 2014 at 2:44 am 1 comment

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