A Facebook friend and a well-known Heathen has announced that he may convert to Catholicism, or is at least considering it. While I can’t speak for his motivations, as a former Catholic, I can understand the appeal that the Church has for people, especially Heathens. At the same time, I can understand why Heathenry and paganism woo away Catholic followers. At some point, every Heathen must ask themselves if they’re in the right religion and whether they fit in. Although I have my reservations about Catholicism, I wish him well and I hope he finds what he seeks.
Anyway, that got me to thinking about those who are thinking of becoming Heathens. There are plenty of reasons for becoming a Heathen, but there are also many reasons for not choosing this religion as well. It’s not for everyone, nor does it try to be. Unlike Catholicism and other Judaeo-Christian religions, it does not purport itself to be the only religion whereby one can attain “salvation” and the others are going to eternal damnation.
I wonder sometimes what draws people to Heathenism. Heathenism isn’t for the Marvel fanboys or fangirls who fallen in love with the Thor movies or comics (or the actors therein) and expect the gods to behave like that. (Although there are Marvel fans among Heathens.) It isn’t for the white supremacists, though we seem to have our share of them. It isn’t for the people who are looking for a god or goddess who will come to their rescue the first sign of trouble. It isn’t for the person who wants to create spells and potions regularly. While we do have our share of “magic” — and I have a tough time labeling it as such — we’re not the put together a love potion or money incantation type of religion. It isn’t for the people who are looking for the all-knowing, all-powerful god of the Judaeo-Christian religions. It’s not a place to insist on whites only, or Northern ethnicities only, or require that what and where you were born makes a difference as to what religion you should follow. It is not a place for Nazis.
At the same time, it’s not for the people who want an excuse to drink and party. (Although drinking and partying is certainly an aspect of our religion.) It’s not SCA or a reason simply to reenact reconstructed rituals without belief, although there are plenty of recons and other Heathens who believe and don’t believe.
Lastly, It’s not a place to bully other people who have differing viewpoints. I add this sincerely because even if you disagree with my above statements, that is your right to disagree. I’ll caveat my statements to exclude the white supremacist and Nazi bullshit. Since white supremacists and Nazis are inherently bullies, we have no room for them.
So, Who is Heathenism For?
I’ve talked a lot about who isn’t suited for Heathenism, but perhaps I should talk more about who is suited for Heathenism. It’s surprising flexible, allowing for many different folks with different ideas.
Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors, and Wights
Heathenism is for those who hold reverence for the ancient gods and goddesses of the northern religions. Heathenism is for those who wish to revere their ancestors. Heathenism is for those who believe in wights, elves, and trolls. It is for those who hope to gain understanding of the past by learning all they can about those who were Heathen before us.
Heathens can be agnostic or even atheistic when it comes to supernatural entities, may believe in them fully, or maybe choose somewhere in between. They may look upon the gods as actual beings or as metaphors. Heathens may have a personal relationship with the gods or a god, or may never have had a single contact. Heathenry is often flexible because there is no Asa-pope to make pronouncements. Although we have the seidr and runecasting, so-called “magic” is extremely limited. A more magical form of paganism is Wicca.
Heathens aren’t looking for the gods to solve all their problems. Rather, they look to the gods for moral strength and aid. When the gods help them out, they are grateful. They will offer gifts in exchange for help. Unlike the Christian god, the Heathen gods expect you to handle your own problems without running to them all the time. While there are no Ten Commandments of Heathenism, we do have the Nine Noble Virtues, the Havamal, and rules against oathbreaking. We expect other Heathens to act honorably.
For the Community and Individuals
Heathenism is for individuals and community. In the past, community was important because without it, an individual could not exist. Today with all our technology and the scarceness of Heathens, most Heathens are solitary practitioners. Despite this, there are some Heathens, most notably recons, who insist that you cannot be a solitary practitioner. I would argue that I and the majority of Heathens out there have proved otherwise. Most of us still rely on society and others — few of us are capable of living without any outside help — but the lack of Heathens, or those we wish to associate with, are few in number. That’s why like many things, Heathenry has changed. It must change, because we have changed. Just as we don’t condone human sacrifice (except those few loony-tune, fringe idiots who do condone it), we don’t have to be a group-or-nothing religion.
Heathenry Celebrates the Seasons and the Past
Heathenry is close to nature and celebrates times such as spring, planting, harvest, and the equinoxes.
We celebrate our ancestors who have gone before us, and the land spirits who guard our lands. We have many holidays and days of remembrance for those who have gone before us and for those gods and wights who are helping us.
Heathens know that the gods and goddesses consider humans as one species and do not look at “race” as a means of determining who is worthy. There have been Heathens of other ethnicities who have joined Northerners as Vikings. We have historical records and even genetics to prove that.
I hope I’ve given you a picture of who Heathenry is for. It is for anyone who is looking for a religion that embraces these principles. If this sounds like a religion you would follow, certainly, Heathenry is for you.