I had a nice chat with a young man who has felt the pull of heathenry. He’s an interesting person who isn’t of the traditional northern ethnicity and some things I said on this blog he felt that he could relate to. I heard this from another reader, which suggests maybe the gods are looking for some folks with a little more brains–who are willing to question things and apply logic and deductive reasoning to it as well.
I Don’t Have All the Answers
I’ll be the first person to say that I don’t have all the answers, but I do know where I can at least find answers to questions to the best of my ability. I am not the only person who has talked to the gods (I’m feeling kinda like I’m a crazy person here) — in fact, I’m really not that special and don’t hold long conversations with them. I’m sure you could find someone who claims they have been skin-ridden (Xians call it “possessed,” but it encompasses different degrees), practice seidr,or who has studied all the Eddas all the time. So, I’m not the one who has this shit completely wired. But, I do try to use logic and reason here.
Science and How It Fits In with Heathenry
Understand that science is the way we investigate the world. It isn’t a belief system, which is what religion is. Our ancestors have a common heritage, whether we are northern European, southern European, Asian, or African, because humans nearly went extinct at least twice that scientists can figure out. So, in the past, we were all pretty much fighting for our survival, and also sharing a similar culture. We needed to understand how and why things happened, and whether inspired by the gods or not, we came up with explanations that our limited understanding of the cosmos could explain.
So, our stories from our ancestors were first told in the oral tradition and then retold over time. These eventually became our myths and legends — even the ones about the northern gods. There are similarities in many of the gods — the Celts, Polish, Norse, German, and Saxons all had similar gods. Some had the same names; some did not.
But something interesting happened when those stories got written down. Many were written by historians and monks in a society that had been converted to Christianity and had been Christian for at least 100 to 200 or more years. It is natural that they would interject Christian thought into the stories, so you have to use your brain to decipher what is heathen versus what is Christian. And sometimes, it’s not clear.
Think of the stories as metaphors for the universe and the world. Think of the gods as forces that can be expressed through the laws of physics. That means that we see the gods in everyday things: the storms and lightning as Thor; the fire as Loki, laws of the universe as Tyr, etc.
Using Science to Decipher Our Heritage
That being said, we can look at what archaeology has discovered and what geneticists and other scientists have discovered or what new theories they might have. We can then figure out what our ancestors may have known. We already know that some stories, especially fairy tales, go back thousands of years.
I’m really not convinced magic exists. But at the same time, there are things within my life that defy explanation. My connection with animals. Dreams that sometimes come true and my ability to know about things before they happen (never the winning powerball numbers!). And yes, my occasional conversations with gods. I’m more likely to try to come up with some other rational explanation. But just because we don’t understand the mechanism involved at this point doesn’t mean there isn’t a scientific reason it works the way it does. Am I talking to the gods? If I’m dealing with a metaphor for things, maybe they’re just in my mind. Or maybe I am talking to them. Who knows?
If I am wrong and I’m a crazy woman, well, at least I’m sticking to science when it comes to choices. I figure that if a god is telling me to do crazy shit, then I’m probably crazy. Logical, intelligent choices make more sense. And my gods agree with me, so I’m good with that.
Some Interesting Resources for New Heathens
I was asked point blank what I will recommend when it comes to heathenry. Here are my recommendations:
- The Icelandic Saga Database. Look, you’re going to be getting into this stuff. Might as well get your information here.
- The Agora from Patheos. Some useful blogs here.
- Norse Mythology for Smart People. Oh yes!
- Surlalune Fairy Tales — now, don’t get annoyed here. These tales are often folk tales that have been handed down orally from generation to generation for thousands of years. Includes tales from northern cultures
- The Asatru Community. A nice group of folk.
- The Cowboy Havamal — just because.
- Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes I like this book.
This is not a perfect nor exhaustive list. Just some areas to poke around. Maybe you’ll find something you like there.