Apparently, I struck a chord with some of my readers when talking about soft polytheism versus hard polytheism. I assumed many of my readers were soft polytheistic, that is, looking at the gods as archetypes and forces of nature, and not necessarily physical beings. Apparently, I was wrong. Many of my readers do indeed look at the gods as physical beings.
Some Caveats About Beliefs
Before I get into the whole soft polytheism versus hard polytheism arguments, I need to reiterate my beliefs here. As I’ve said previously, I tend toward a soft polytheistic belief of archetypes. However, given that I have dealt with the gods directly, I believe that the gods can take human-like forms. (They are, after all, gods.) I also believe that our gods go by many names and manifestations, but they are the same gods. At least, in this Universe.
How Far Down the Rabbit Hole Do You Want to Go?
Having said that, I don’t necessarily have an issue with your beliefs if you want to go the hard pagan route. It’s just I know that proving the stories we tell in the face of science gets to be difficult at best. Unless you really believe that our world hangs off of a physical tree and humans were carved from wood, I don’t think you and I will have much to argue about. If you want to go down that rabbit hole and believe everything in our stories is 100 percent true, despite science proving it isn’t, I suggest you go in your corner and maybe find some Christian fundamentalist friends to argue with. What you believe isn’t logical and I won’t be able to convince you to the contrary.
If you’re a hard polytheist in the strictest sense, you tend to accept our stories at face value. That the Moon and the Sun move across our sky, rather than the Earth revolving around the Sun and the Moon revolving around the Earth. That there really was a cow that licked the brine from Ymir and the gods, thus creating the first pantheons. That Odin along with his brothers slew Ymir and fashioned our Earth from Ymir’s bones. This is more fundamentalist than anything, and again, since you really believe that, nothing I’m going to tell you is going to make a difference.
I would bet, however, that most hard polytheistic Heathens are a mix of this hard polytheism and soft polytheism. You like the creation tales, but you at least accept the current explanation of how the Universe came into being. Maybe you’ve resolved that in your minds, and maybe you haven’t. Maybe you just don’t know what to believe.
Blending Myth and Fact
Now, if you believe our gods manifest themselves in physical forms, that’s fine. I’m good with that. I believe that they can and do, but I also don’t believe that Asgard exists in our dimension. I tend to accept string theory as well, which if our gods exist in physical forms, they possibly occupy more than the three dimensions we live in. In this case, we may have a tough time seeing them. It could just be that our wights may also inhabit those dimensions, affecting our existence without necessarily seeing them in their full forms.
With the exception of some clueless wankers, most people believe the Earth is round, that it revolves around the Sun, and that stars are simply other suns, some very much like our own sun. Our sun is a relatively ordinary star, too, with the exception that it is the only solar system we know of that has life. That may change because not only are there are trillions of stars, but there are galaxies with trillions of stars in them. The Earth formed some 4.54 billion years ago and not 6000 years like the new Earth creationists would have you believe. I’m pretty sure that the formation of Earth wasn’t from a frost giant named Ymir, unless you’re willing to believe that Ymir’s bones were some primordial matter that came from the death of another star. Given that our star is a second or even third generation star, we can look at the stories and deduce that maybe our creation stories are one big metaphor. Or maybe they’re just a way for people to explain how things came into being.
Whence Our Religion Came
Heathenry is a product of our ancestors combined with communication with our gods and curiosity about our world. It came from a more ancient religion that our Proto-Indo-European ancestors worshiped. Those ancestors’ predecessors practiced a form of animism. The interesting question is when our gods revealed themselves to our ancestors.
I would argue that given the overall similarities of certain religions, we have to assume a Jungian collective unconscious was passed down throughout history. No matter how different other ethnicities seem, they have similar stories that run throughout their folklore. To a certain degree, one could argue that it is because our brains are wired the same, and I’m not going to dispute that. But I do suspect that all our ancestors had a shared experience at one time. Think about it. We know that humans nearly went extinct at least twice. Could this be the time when our gods stepped in to help us?
That, of course, is purely speculation on my part. I have no clue if that really did happen, but it does make for some interesting ideas.
But I digress…
Getting Back on Track
Soft polytheism tends to look more at the concepts of the gods as archetypes. In it’s extreme form, it’s closer to atheism than a religion. I would not consider most soft polytheists in that group. Many are pantheists, which allows the worship of other gods, and it equates the universe with the gods. I sit more comfortably in the pantheistic version of Heathenry, because I believe that the universe and the gods are the same. My belief is our gods go by other names in other religions. I chose our gods not only because I am most comfortable with them, but because I have had interactions with them by those names.
I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Let me know your beliefs in the comments.
I was reading the pagan forums on Patheos the other day and I thought about how Heathens are underrepresented there when it comes to pagans. And then I started thinking about how much of paganism is really geared toward the Wicca crowd and maybe the Celtic crowd, if they’re lucky. So, I started thinking about why Heathens (to paraphrase what Rodney Dangerfield used to say) don’t get no respect. To this end, I’ve come up with five reasons why Heathenry isn’t represented in paganism more often, but I bet you can come up with more, if you put your mind to it.
Problem 1: We’re Tiny, Relatively Speaking
If you want to talk about a religion that has few numbers, Heathenism and Asatru are pretty small as a world religion. Sure, there are a few census that suggest we have maybe 100,000 to 200,000 Heathens in the world, but seriously, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Consider the 800 pound gorilla in the midst (pun intended) of Wicca. Wiccans may make up about 2 million in the United States alone, and who knows how many in the world? It’s easy to see just by that number why Heathenry is a footnote when it comes to paganism.
Problem 2: Association with Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and Folkish Organizations
Many Heathens aren’t racist, folkish, or white supremacist. But not all of them. One only has to take a look at the Neo-Nazis and the Odinists who support a whites-only mentality. Other groups such as the AFA have excluded other ethnicities and the LGBT communities within their Heathen form of paganism. Even though a number of very good Heathens and leaders within the Heathen community have denounced this behavior, we see time and time again Internet and news stories featuring Heathens as bigoted, racist, and anti-LGBT.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Just because you don’t count those folk as “true Heathens” doesn’t mean that the rest of the world shares your opinions. You can say “not my kindred” all you want, but the reality is the rest of the world is judging you. Plain and simple. If you don’t denounce them, everyone is going to take your silence as tacit agreement.
Heathenry isn’t for bigots. Even our gods didn’t stay within their own kind when it came to their kindred. Our gods took in Jotunn, Vanir, Light Elves, and humans. Many gods had Jotunn, Vanir, and Light Elf consorts and lovers. Hel, even Loki mated with a horse.
Problem 3: Our Magic is Minimal
When Thor and Tyr called me to Heathenry, I was relieved to find out that magic played a minimal role in the religion. That being said, a lot of people are more attracted to magic than I am, which is presumably why people are more attracted to Wicca than Heathenry. Oh sure, we have the runes and Seidr, but what else? Maybe skinriding? We don’t usually do magic in the form of spells or enchantments.
Our magic is through our gods, ancestors, and wights. (The fact that I’ve never seen a wight is irrelevant.) Many Heathens believe in the gifting cycle with gods and wights to obtain what they want. Some use Seidr, runes, or other forms of Norse magic. Others will blend in forms of magic from Wicca. Reconstructionists and others derisively call those who add more magic from other religions “Wiccatru.” More on that later.
So, people who are looking for magic tend to bypass Heathenry and go for something like Wicca that enables them to worship our gods while still adding magic spells. Hmm.
Problem 4: We’re a Stuck Up, Exclusive Lot
When a person first looks into Heathenry, they’re often met with people who are quick to deride and denounce that person if they don’t immediately join the recon trolls. In fact, you’ll find a bunch of misogynists and Asa-popes telling people how to practice Heathenry. When the person balks (as they rightfully should), the trolls start calling them Marvel fanboys (or fangirls), Wicctrus, or Lokeans (never mind that being a Lokean is a choice and not an insult). So, a lot of people with less commitment are going to leave and go elsewhere.
It stunned me when Tyr and Thor contacted me. But I knew what I had experienced and even when I entered the ugly world of the Internet recon trolls, I knew I was right to stay and deal with them. You see, the gods contacted me and (presumably) not the Internet trolls, so the trolls didn’t deter me. I just had to figure out a softer landing spot, which I eventually did. And I started writing The Rational Heathen just to put down my thoughts and feelings, not to mention some of my experiences. Apparently it resonated with some of you because you’re still here with me.
Problem 5: We Don’t Agree on Much and UPG is often an Ugly Word
A big problem in Heathenry is the overall ambiguity of our beliefs. We really don’t have a lot of stories to go on — not like the stories we have from the Romans and Greeks about their gods and goddesses. Islamic and Roman historians as well as Christianized northern peoples who lived two hundred years later wrote down all of our stories. We only have one depiction — and a Christian one — of the Irminsul. We have tales which refer to other stories which were never written down.
So, in light of the lack of evidence, there’s a lot of conjecture. And with conjecture is also Unverified Personal Gnosis or UPG which many people don’t take into account. Some Heathens are outright hostile to UPG as well. So, there is no consensus on what is correct and what isn’t, except among the different factions between themselves. That division and the accompanying hostility turns people away quickly.
So, there you have it: the five reasons why Heathens don’t get no respect. Do you have some thoughts about why Heathens don’t get no respect? I’d love to hear it in the comments.
Ah, the Heathen life. The Rational Heathen has goats, which means spring kids, and the insanity that brings. If they all had lived, I would’ve had ten Kids on the Block. Yeah, bad pun, deal with it. Right now, I’m down to seven and as bad as having a 30 percent attrition rate is, it beats out the really bad year when I lost all the kids due to various aliments.
I Hate Spring, and Here’s Why
Here in the Northern Rockies, the weather is typical spring. In other words, the weather sucks to pull goat babies out of the butts of pregnant doe goats. Temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night and the days can soar as high as 40 or 50 degrees. And it alternately rains and snows. And melts. And makes everything muddy. And I mean everything. It sucks, especially for newborn goats who really have no defense against the weather. So, even though it is Freyr’s season, it is a real pain in the ass for someone like me who has livestock. I’ve been spending most of my time awake and going down to the barn every two to four hours to check on the does. So, it means long nights.
Around here it’s been guess and by golly when they actually were bred. That’s my own fault because I got a new goat buck who was just a kid. So, I left him with the does so I could be sure they would be bred. All this winter, I watched the does balloon with babies and waited. One of my best goats had twins, only to have them succumb to pneumonia. Then, the kid train started. I had four does deliver in two days. Eight kids total.
One didn’t survive despite my ministrations. It happens, but I take it personally every time. No idea what killed him. If we had decent goat vets out here, I’d consider a necropsy, but the last necropsy told me that I had a healthy, dead kid. True story, that.
It’s Not Easy
Right now, I have seven kids with a couple being somewhat sketchy because they had bacteria infections. I’m treating them will all the medication I can muster. Kids born during mud season are just about guaranteed to have some illness. What’s more, I have one who is a quarter of the size of the others and who has a birth defect that a kid last year had. Same mom.
The mom doe goat in question is about as disappointing as they come. Her first kid was born with two long back legs and died within a day. The second kid from last season had a fused toe joint that curled the hoof under the leg that made him very lame. He survived only to die of bloat. The little doeling is a runt and has one leg where the toe joint has somewhat curled and is twisted a bit. Two different unrelated bucks; same doe. To make matters worse, I can’t milk that doe because she is wild in temperament despite the handling, and she drinks off herself. She also drinks off her mom.
So today, we slaughtered the doe goat and butchered her for meat. Not what I would prefer, but either you make it in my herd or you don’t. I can’t afford another pet goat, especially one with a bad temperament. Her kids, if they survive, won’t be bred. Since their father was a cashmere buck, I’ll be keeping them for fiber (wool).
Spring and the Heathen
Despite my obvious dislike for the season, Heathens in the past looked forward to spring. Sure, it meant lambing, kidding, calving, and planting seeds, but what it really meant was the onslaught of winter was finally over. I suspect that many people and livestock went into survival mode in the wintertime. Even with winter grazing, livestock couldn’t really forage for food as they could in the spring and summer, so either had to be sold, slaughtered, or had to be fed. This meant that you could only keep the animals you could afford to feed or the land could support. This also meant you had to keep your breeding stock and hope that the critters made it through the winter.
Spring was the return of life, and therefore the return of food for our ancestors’ livestock. New kids, calves, and lambs meant an abundance of food for the next winter, if they survived the harsh realities of an early spring. Livestock was typically smaller than modern day’s version, so they didn’t need near as much to eat as their modern counterparts, but they didn’t produce as much either. I suspect the goats from the past were hardier than those we have today. Those who didn’t survive didn’t pass on their genetic code.
Kids and the Modern Heathen
As a modern Heathen, I am slightly more self sufficient than city dwellers, living a semi-subsistence lifestyle. But even I must use modern technology to keep my animals alive during this topsy-turvey time of spring, here in a land with unpredictable weather. We get warm and cold spells, rain and snow, and of course, wind that threatens any young creature’s life. I look at the deer around the house and am amazed that they live as long as they do with the same weather, predators, and diseases we must endure. It is a true testament to life that despite adversity, wildlife thrives.
I have three crates full of kids that need to be hand raised. I have five goats who need to be milked. I’ll get about two gallons of milk a day — enough to feed the little ones with some addition of cow juice. I’ll also bring hay up to get them started.
A Lesson I’ve Learned
If there is a lesson to be learned by this, it is that our ancestors had hard lives. They didn’t have the antibiotics and other medicines I have available. They probably sweated over their livestock as much as I do, or even more, because they couldn’t just go to the store and buy a package of hamburger if it didn’t work out. Each dead kid, each failed milker, and each failed crop put them one step closer to starvation.
It gives you an idea how far we’ve gone as a species. Even our poorest people in first world countries fare better than that. There are enough food pantries in my area that can prevent hunger for those who do not qualify for food stamps or SNAP benefits. The Heathen then relied on their family and kindred to prevent starvation, but it could be a closely run thing. So, even though I pay homage to the ancestors, quite frankly, I’ve had enough of a taste of their lifestyle to know that it’s harder than it appears. At least I’m unlikely to starve if I lose any more kids.
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.
I got in a conversation with another pagan on Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and he had a different outlook on the whole Christianity versus Paganism argument. It hit me as having some merit, so I’d thought I’d explore it more in depth.
The person who put forth this argument to me was a Heathen and a Gnostic. (Let that sink in a bit before dismissing it outright.) His basic argument was that Christianity at its beginning had nothing — no holidays, no formal sacraments, etc, — so it took from other religions. In fact, it took so much from pagan religions that the pagan religions actually triumphed. I’ve been mulling it over for some days and while I don’t think it’s entirely correct, I think it has some merit to at least think about.
Christianity at its Core
Christianity is, at its core, a death cult. It focuses not on rewards in the here and now, but after one dies. It even focuses on the gruesome torture and death of their god. While I think that knowing where you’re going when you die is important, I think that this life is just as important on how we live. Yes, Christians do focus on how well behaved they should be because they will receive a reward in “heaven,” but honestly, it takes a fear of eternal punishment to behave correctly? Think about that for a bit.
The major holiday that Christians have recognized since its inception would be Easter, that is the day when Christ allegedly rose from the dead. We know that Easter arose from the Passover festival, around which Christ was allegedly crucified. Easter follows Passover. But we know that it took the name Eostre, and it may have borrowed the pagan trappings of festivals during that time, presumably to make it more palatable to the audience.
Yule and Christmas
We do know that Christmas was pretty much taken from pagan midwinter festivals, celebrating the celebrating the god of agriculture for a full month starting a week before the solstice. We know that Christmas wasn’t instituted until the fourth century CE when the Church thought to take those midwinter festivals and sanction them.
return of the sun. While us Heathens can lay claim to Yule, we aren’t the only ones that had midwinter celebrations. The Romans had Saturnalia, which was spent
The Puritans actually banned Christmas (and the saints) because they recognized the pagan origins. For about 25 years England under Oliver Cromwell made Christmas illegal. That joy was brought over with the Puritans who made Christmas illegal. Such was the control of the Puritans that anyone found in Boston exhibiting the Christmas spirit during the years 1659 to 1681 could be fined. What a great bunch.
Incidentally, the Christmas tree came into vogue with Queen Victoria, taking the customs of her husband’s homeland. The Christmas tree popped up around the 17th century in Germany have its, …ahem, roots in paganism.
Plenty of pagans have pointed to Odin’s ride, Slepnir’s eight legs changing into eight reindeer, and other similarities, that suggest Odin is Santa Claus, so I don’t need to go through that argument.
Harvest and Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving, itself, is more of an American holiday that was celebrated in New England for some time before Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863. George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, thus putting it on the table, so to speak, when it came to having a national day of thanks. A quote from History.com:
Image by Magickal Graphics
“As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.”
We have our own celebration of Harvest Home, so saying that Americans “invented” a harvest festival like Thanksgiving isn’t truthful. Now, we did put our own spin on it, but in the end, it is the celebration of family and home, as well as harvest.
The Days of the Week
The months are named after Roman months (gods, Caesars, and numbers), but the days of the week were Roman names changed to our gods, with the exception of Saturday because people probably thought Ymirday might not catch on. (Yeah, I know the story is that there’s no German equivalent to Saturn who was an agricultural god slain by Jupiter, but that’s another story for another time.) So, when we say we’re meeting someone on Thursday, we’re meeting them on Thor’s-day.
Saints versus Polytheism
Becoming Polytheistic was easy after being Catholic for me. Any religion that allows veneration of saints actually lost to the polytheism. Even the Episcopalians have the saints and the time I went to an Episcopalian mass proved to me that they’re Catholics without a pope who allow divorces. We know that some saints were actually gods that got incorporated into the ranks of saints to make the religion more popular (such as Saint Bridget). So, yeah, in some Christian religions, we got some of the gods and goddesses in.
Catholics will tell you that they do not worship saints. That is true at the highest level, but the line gets mighty blurred with the veneration of Mary and other saints.
So Did Heathenism Win?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I would argue yes and no. In the long run, we still have the Christian god, complete with all the stupidity that has subjugated women, condoned slavery, and given us plenty of hangups due to the “do this or you go to hell” mentality. I’m not saying that heathens were morally superior as we had slavery and human sacrifice, but most of us are willing to make the change in the right direction.
By the same token, we got our holidays and other pieces infiltrated into Christianity. People who celebrate the holidays are often celebrating the secular holidays rather than what their church would like them to celebrate. Sure, they keep Jesus in Christmas, but seeing as the whole nativity scene is pretty much made up, and seeing we really don’t know much about the historical Jesus, or even if there was one, we can call it a myth and be done with it.
What it does say to me is that Heathens can celebrate those so-called Christian holidays and feel good about putting their own spin on things. At least, that’s how I look at it.
Added for Clarity:
The point the person made was that arguing whether or not to worship Christ was irrelevant because basically Christianity took all the trappings from pagans anyway. We can argue semantics, but that was his point. I was willing to consider his belief and came up with a yes and no observation. I rushed the conclusion, which perhaps I shouldn’t have done, but I wanted to get the piece out, late as it was.
That being said, I think he does have a point. Is it Heathenism under another flavor? No. Our gods are not revered, although one might be able to point out some obscure saints the Church may have created to appease Heathens. Is Christianity the same as it was when it was conceived? No. It is mostly pagan with the foundation of the Abrahamic faith. Depending on your beliefs in Asatru and Heathenism, you can argue that what parts of paganism was added is superficial. Maybe so, maybe not. I just found it an interesting opinion, and one I couldn’t completely dismiss.
Well, okay, that was a shocker. Sometimes I need to be reminded that the world really is weird and sometimes despite my statement being The Rational Heathen, I find something I can’t explain. This time, it’s wights.
How This All Started
I’ve been reading quite a bit from the Atheist Republic and finding that I have a lot in common with those unbelievers. I’ve never pretended to be a devout religious fanatic, which is why when I’ve communicated with Tyr and some of the other gods, I’ve felt like, well, a poser. You see, I’d call myself agnostic in a heartbeat — except for that. Today I was feeling pretty ambivalent about the gods and was about to say something on a private Facebook group about it, and when I hit enter, the words vanished.
None of my other posts had. Just those. Tried again. Poof.
|The Wights’ opinion and a Doctor Who Reference|
I wrote “Okay, I was going to talk about my indecision about going back to atheism and the wights blew my words away. If they don’t behave themselves, I’ll threaten to call down Thor.”
I hit enter. The only thing that appeared was Okay.
I edited the post and began to wonder what the fuck was going on.
Do the Wights Really Listen?
Well, crap on toast. I don’t know what to think about that little interchange. As a friend put it when I bemoaned why Tyr would even venture to approach a near atheist, she said “he must like a challenge.” I guess that’s true. I don’t know why Tyr would consider me, but I have some suspicions. And I’ve been surprised at some of the allies he’s picked to help me. Maybe the wights are just part of that group of allies.
I kind of wonder since I did a salt ritual recently to clean out the bad wights if the good ones have stuck around and are trying to keep me heathen. You have to wonder when your computer only acts weirdly when you write about them or question your own heathenism. It doesn’t fuss when working on other more intensive projects. Just saying.
My Atheist Leanings
Some days I feel like maybe it’s all a delusion and I really need to accept that there are no gods. I think that maybe I’m just giving myself consolation by thinking there are entities greater than ourselves that can help us through life. Otherwise, life gets scary if we really think we’re on our own.
I can’t help but wonder if this was the rationality in looking for gods and wights. It’s a big scary world when we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves. That being said, I get weird shit happen when I question it. It’s like the gods set up those pesky wights to keep me in line.
I’ve still been losing critters, but not at the rate it has been. Of course, some of it is just plain bad luck. Some of it has to do with diseases. I think it is funny when I start writing about wights, they pay more attention. Maybe that’s the way heathenism works.
Oy! — did I step in this, or what? Today I had some Christian missionaries show up (I suspect Mormons) who wanted to talk with me about their god. When I said “no,” they wanted to leave materials with me. I told them “no” again. Basically I was annoyed as Hel because I was looking for deer to hunt and their presence did nothing other than scare critters away.
But I had already started this post before they showed up, and I’ve been thinking about my Christian roots and also how some pagans and heathens are willing to keep the Christ in their lives. I believe strongly that while the intentions are good, this idea is at best misguided. Here is why I think you can’t be heathen and Christian. Come to think of it, I really don’t think you can be Christian and anything else.
Yes, yes, there are signs that in Iceland, for example, people mingled the two religions with the wolf cross, but I think it was more of a heathen hold out and not actual dual worship. As Iceland became more Christianized, having a Mjolnir that could be mistaken as a Christian cross was probably more for blending in than worshiping both the gods and the Christian god.
It’s not that the Aesir and Vanir forbid worship of the Christ or the Abrahamic god. I suspect that if I had a discussion with my patron god about it, he would probably tell me that I could do whatever I wanted on that score, but the whole idea is kind of folly. The reason is simple: the god of the Abrahamic religions doesn’t want people to worship anything else. While I do not “worship” my Aesir and Vanir gods, per se, I do have a close relationship with them that I did not have with the Christian god. I will not abandon them because they do not abandon me. That is the definition of my relationship with my gods. Yours may be different.
I have plenty of proof to back up that the Abrahamic god does not suffer any other gods, and it is all in their bible. Old Testament or New Testament, it doesn’t matter. You worship other gods and you’re out. Just the statement in Deuteronomy 6:14 should give any pagan or heathen pause for thought:
“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. 14“You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, 15for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.…”
Well, okay then. The New Testament says similar things such as:
1 John 5:21
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”
We know that Christians consider any other gods to be idols and not real gods, as though heathens worship the images they create and not the god whose image is supposed to suggest a likeness.
So if you’re a heathen, you’re worshiping demons in the eyes of their god. Another heathen wrote about the very same thing in this blog. So, if you’re really set on worshiping a god who hates your guts, despite your good intentions, that’s your business.
St. Boniface and Thor’s Oak
Perhaps the most telling of what Christians think of the heathen gods is demonstrated in the story about St. Boniface and Thor’s Oak. Boniface showed up in a town in Hesse and took an ax to the sacred tree. How much of the story is propaganda and how much is reality leaves much to conjecture. (For example, the Catholics claim that children were sacrificed to Thor.) Regardless, we do know that Boniface did take an ax to a sacred tree of Thor and built a church to St. Peter from the wood. Many sacred groves were destroyed because of Christians.
While I am in no way for something as heinous as human sacrifice, I do have to point out that history is often written by the victors. How much went on is probably exaggerated. Talk about sacrificing children and most rational people would say that the religion was evil that did it. But that is another topic for another time. My point with Thor’s Oak is that it shows what lengths Christians will go to to eliminate other gods. So, when you worship their god, you align yourself with those who would destroy your gods. Does that even make sense?
Did Christ Even Exist?
This is a sticky subject but one I’m willing to go out on a limb about. I suspect that Christ is a made up construct for the budding church. There were no written accounts of Jesus during the time he purportedly lived. The Gospels, even the earliest one, Mark, were written a hundred years or more after Christ’s purported birth. They contradict each other in terms of facts. What’s more, no pagan or writer contemporaries of Jesus Christ wrote about him. We can see that Tacitus was writing in the second century and not during the time of Jesus. Josephus wrote about Christ somewhere around 75 CE, but his work may actually be later work of Christians. This is all assuming that Josephus was even around during Christ’s life.
I can go on and on about this, but I think this is going to wait for another day when I feel like tackling it. All I can say is that if you do follow Christ and the Aesir and Vanir, perhaps I’ve given you something to think about.
Welcome to The Rational Heathen!
First post for this blog, so I think I better at least have an introduction and some sort of explanation as to what this blog is about. I’ve been meaning to create a blog about my journey into heathenism and Asatruism, but for a long time, I wasn’t sure what to call it.
Some Background About Me
My name isn’t really important, but you can call me Tyra Ulfdottir, if you’re so inclined. My religious experience started as a Roman Catholic Christian through my family. I soon became disenchanted with it after reaching adulthood, although I had inklings that Christianity wasn’t for me. For a long time I was unaffiliated, then agnostic, and then dabbled in atheism. But the gods — and one particular god — wasn’t happy with that, and due to some pretty powerful UPGs (unverified personal gnosis), I was dragged into heathenism. As a friend said “they like a challenge.” So, they did.
My background is in engineering and science. Basically if it makes no sense logically, I get really annoyed and reject it. I have a really hard time believing in magic, but there may be some equally weird reasons for what we might call magic. Since heathenism does not fly in the face of science, it actually is a nice mix.
Why The Rational Heathen?
I supposed it’s pretentious as Hel calling this site The Rational Heathen. It suggests that I am the lone voice calling out in the wilderness of irrationality, and while that may be true, I have to admit I’m not the only one who thinks logically about things. There are Asatruar who are actually atheists but they like having a foundation in their culture. I am no longer Atheist, so even though I do hold a healthy skepticism about religions, I believe what I believe. You don’t have to agree with me. Hel, you can just take this as the rantings of a mad person. That’s okay. Really. But even though these are my opinions and my thoughts, I have come to their conclusion through logic and reason. Or, at least I like to think that.
Let’s Get One Thing Straight…
Before I go any further, understand that I am totally against racism and bigotry. I believe that the gods accept anyone and that humans are all one race. That’s right. I believe what science has shown: we’re all related and we are not different races. Don’t like that concept? Get over it. Go somewhere else. Don’t hang out here. If you’re using the Norse gods to affirm your bigotry, then you have the wrong beliefs.
So, sit back and be prepared to go on an interesting ride. I probably won’t come up with anything earth shattering, but at least I’ll have an interesting time talking about it.