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Pop Culture Heathens

Pop Culture Heathens

Quick, without Googling, name five Heathen gods or goddesses other than Odin, Thor, Freyja, Loki, or Hel.  Now, assuming you didn’t cheat, can you tell me whether they’re Aesir, Vanir, Alfar, or Jotunn? (Again without Googling.)

If the names came easily to you, chances are you’ve been in Heathenry awhile.  If you’ve equivocated on some of the races of the gods, chances are you’ve been in Heathenry for years.

However, if you really can’t name five, let alone understand why anyone would equivocate on what race some of the gods were, then you’re probably new at this.  You may have come to Heathenry through pop culture, either from watching one of the Thor movies or watching Vikings.  And that’s okay.

Neophyte Heathens and Asa-popes

The other day, I was talking to an agnostic on Facebook (yeah, you know who you are) who quizzed me about being a real Heathen.  I wasn’t really bothered by it, but it got me to thinking about the Neo-Heathens who have joined Heathenry from watching pop culture movies and TV shows about Vikings and the gods.  (Marvel springs to mind.)  I also started thinking about the tendency for certain people in our religion to declare themselves gatekeepers or Asa-popes.  Inevitably, there’s a clash between the Asa-popes and the neo-Heathens, because the Asa-popes and Gatekeepers are annoyed with the neophytes. They are annoyed that someone would show interest in our religion because of some pop culture reference.

Loki wives.  Not historical. Neo-pagans.  Neo-Heathens.  None of this is particularly new.  So, the Asa-popes discourage the newbies, and the newbies think all Heathens are asshats.

That’s Fine, Except…

That would all be well and good, except Heathens are pretty much a drop in the overall pagan pool.  We don’t have the numbers to turn anyone legitimately seeking knowledge away. (Except the neo Nazis, whom we really don’t want.)  Heathenry and all its forms (with the exception of the white supremacists) might equal 250,000 in the world.  If that.

The Good Old Days of Heathenry

Back in the good old days when Heathenry flourished and people were lucky to live to 50 years old, there weren’t any Asa-popes telling people what to believe.  Sure, there were gythias and gothis, but they weren’t connected by some universal Church. Some gods and goddesses were worshiped over others; some stories were told in some parts that weren’t told in others. When the Vikings went to new lands, they’d add gods and goddesses from those pantheons.  Or maybe they figured that the names of those gods matched the Heathen gods.  We have some artifacts that show the Christian god being worshiped alongside Thor for a time.

My point is that people back then didn’t have a single view of the gods.  Like now, they chose their own traditions and their own gods to believe in.  The concept of organized religion occurred with the growth of cities and with priesthoods looking to grab power and keep themselves within the power structure. Sure, you had shamans and whatnot doing the power thing if you were in a tribe, but I suspect most Heathens revered ancestors and tutelary spirits, with an occasional major god or goddess thrown in for good measure.

So, How Does This Work for Today?

Heathens weren’t a particular picky bunch when it came to revering gods and goddesses.  How you came to what kind of gods you worshiped was probably your own business and really not worried about, as long as you weren’t a dickhead about it.  You were pretty much considered a Heathen if you believed in the Heathen gods–as far as we know, you didn’t get singled out because you believed that Thor was better than Odin, or you worshiped Perun or Frau Holle.  Hel, our ancestors probably gave you a pass if you revered Loki as long as you were part of the kindred.  When you started identifying with Christian ideals that were aimed at destroying Heathenism, that’s when they got a bit tetchy about it.

So, when I look at where new Heathens are coming from, I shrug and think that they have to come from somewhere.  If not from pop culture, then where?  See, I think a lot of Heathens, especially recons, don’t give our gods enough credit.  Who is to say that Bragi didn’t inspire the original writers at Marvel to dip into Nordic mythology and bring Thor to life on comic book pages?  Who says that Odin couldn’t have given the mead of poetry to the writer of Vikings?  And who can say that the interest in our gods in pop culture isn’t fueled by the gods, themselves?

But It’s Not Right!

At this point, I can hear the recons screaming: It’s NOT right!  The stories are screwed up! You know, you’re right.  The stories aren’t the legend and myths, and they don’t portray the gods exactly according to our beliefs.  Doesn’t matter.  They have piqued an interest in our gods and the Heathen ways that cannot be denied.  Sure, some will become interested in the context of the movies, the shows, or the graphic novels and that’s all.  Some may blend the pop culture and the legends together.  But some will dig deeper and explore what it is like to be Heathen.  Those are the ones we need to foster.

What About Pop Culture Heathens?

So, what should we do about pop culture Heathens?  Nothing.  Let them have their fun.  Do you actually think that all Heathens were serious followers of our gods?  If they were, then why was it so damn easy for Christianity to take hold?  Christianity took hold because the powers that be declared it their religion.  The masses joined up because that’s what kept them in good graces.

So, that’s my take on the neo-Heathens from pop culture.  As usual, your mileage may vary.

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5 Reasons Why Heathens Don’t Get No Respect

5 Reasons Why Heathens Don’t Get No Respect

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.

Just Kidding (or How to Spend Your Days without Sleep)

Just Kidding (or How to Spend Your Days without Sleep)

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.

Kid Train

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.

 

 

Five Great Reasons for Becoming A Heathen

Five Great Reasons for Becoming A Heathen

Now that I’ve talked about five reasons for not becoming Heathen, the flip side is what are good reasons for becoming a Heathen. Naturally, there are people who may disagree with me, but I think there are good reasons for becoming a Heathen. Let’s get started… [READ THIS AND ALL PREMIUM POSTS FOR JUST $1.  SUBSCRIBE NOW!]

Gods Don’t Knock–Making Room for the Heathen Gods

Gods Don’t Knock–Making Room for the Heathen Gods

My life is stupid busy.  It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, nor is it something I wear like a badge of honor. Which is why it befuddles me why a god–much less several–would pop into my extremely busy life.  It’s not like I actually opened up a door, even though Tyr says that I did.

(Am I really arguing with a god?)

Information Addiction

Okay, back to something less esoteric (and I swear all this has a Heathen point, so bear with me).  The truth is that someone like me is a real information addict.  Which is why when I start writing anything, I get distracted–oooh, shiny!–and I start researching stuff that leads me to not working but instead hoarding information, and occasionally disseminating it.  Take this piece.  I had no fucking clue what to write about (a constant issue with me) and so I went to some of my favorite sites for inspiration.  Only, there wasn’t inspiration but shit that is just distraction.  Here’s a sample of my browser’s history:

  • 5+ Ways Not to Take Things Personally
  • Web Hosting Hub Review: The Good, Bad & My Experience
  • Brainjunk and the Killing of the Internet Mind
  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload
  • Popular–Wordpress Plugins
  • Between Two Worlds: My Journey With Hekate
  • Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News
  • Lift Weights, Eat More Protein, Especially if You’re Over 40
  • The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week

     

Chances are your browser tabs are loaded in the same way. You’re constantly reading shit other people (including the Rational Heathen) have put out there and have about the attention span of a gnat–oooh,shiny!*

Why We’re Internet Addicted

Humans are, by nature, dopamine addicts.  Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy, gives you that sudden rush during orgasm, and causes you to get high if you take drugs that interfere with the natural chemistry of your brain. (Some drugs cause the brain to produce more dopamine; some drugs inhibit the recycling or reuptake mechanisms.  Some really powerful drugs do both, but they’ve got their own risks, like death.) Dopamine causes us to chase after those adrenaline highs (because dopamine is also a precursor to epinephrine and norepinephrine) and it causes us to become thrill seekers. It’s what causes us to hit the feeder bar, as it were, to get that really good feeling again and again.

Internet addiction, by nature, does similar damage to the brain as cocaine.  When we learn something new, guess what?  We get a shot of dopamine.  So, when we’re bombarded with things we read, learn about, feel, etc., we get hits.  But we’re often getting those hits on a fast and furious basis and not in a natural sense.  So, we get artificial highs from hits off our phone, our computer, and our tablet.  But it’s work, right?  (Yeah, I have a million justifications why I have to be playing Castle Siege, too.)

The problem is that even bright people tend to use their time for dopamine chasing and not things that actively enrich their lives. I mean, how many times do you check your Facebook posts, your chat rooms, your email, and your text messages a day?  How many times do you have to look at your phone?  This is not life.  It is not living.  It is certainly not living as a Heathen.

I’m not saying if our ancestors had these tools that they wouldn’t have fallen into the same trap.  On the contrary, they did use psychoactive substances, most likely alcohol and mushrooms.  Those who had contact with the Middle East probably had access to opium poppies.  Did these substances allow the ancestors to see the gods?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I’ve known Heathens who swear they have met the gods after getting drunk or smoking weed.  Having never experienced that, I don’t know if it was the weed or alcohol, or whether it was the lack of inhibition that enabled them to connect to the gods.

The Gods Don’t Knock

Thanks to Magickal Graphics

Occasionally I get inspirations from the gods when I’m on the computer, but it’s rare. More often, however, I’ve heard the gods when I’m not linked into the dopamine feeder bar called a computer. It’s because when I’m on computers and smartphones, I’m too tied up chasing that next hit. It’s when I’m away from computers and other distractions that I can finally listen.  And that is when they often talk to me.  Quietly, and in their own way.

I’m not saying that happens every time.  Sometimes I just get silence and nothing else. But the gods don’t knock and ask to speak to you.  You must be ready to hear them.  You can’t hear them if you’re always getting hits from the dopamine feeder bar.  Eventually, you just kind of numb out to everything.

But What About Drugs?

At this point, you’re probably asking “what about drugs or mind-altering substances?”  As much as I’m against illegal drugs (for various reasons, having had first hand experiences with addicts and the damage they leave behind),  I’m not going to lie to you and say that you won’t be able to have a conversation with your chosen deity.  Our ancestors used mushrooms and alcohol, (certainly to channel their inner berserker), and quite possibly to commune with the gods. However, I think the cost of using them to elicit possible contact may be greater than you’ve anticipated.   For one thing, the types of drugs used back then are nowhere near the potency of today’s illegal drugs.  Even marijuana (which I don’t think the ancestors used) was less potent than it is today.  Meth and heroin, for example, are much stronger than what was available in the Viking Era. Then, there is always the “bad trip” and the always nasty side effects of mushrooms such as the toxic Amanita muscaria or fly agaric, purported to be the mushrooms the berserkers used.

There is a Better Way

I’ve been doing a lot more research on meditation, since it is my chosen path to the gods. Although it is touted as an Eastern discipline, I suspect that our ancestors may have used it to focus on the gods as well. It is a way to train your mind that just about anyone can do.  It has the benefit of being able to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and give you greater control over your mind and body without feeling like you’re into self-flagellation. If anything, it’s actually quite relaxing.

 

If you’re looking for a book on the subject, I highly recommend Dan Harris’s Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book.  I picked it up because I loved the title, but it is a good place to learn how to do it.  Also, if you do buy it from the link, I get a small amount of compensation which will help support this blog.

Other Ways to Connect with the Gods

Obviously there are many ways to connect with the gods besides meditation, drugs, and unplugging.  One is to go to the places that they are and just listen.  I’m talking going to a natural place and just sitting quietly awhile.  Do you hear Thor’s voice as a spring storm comes up?  Do you feel Skadi’s touch when the wind whips through the trees as snow falls?  Do you feel Tyr’s presence as you look into a starry night’s sky?  Does Sunna embrace you on a clear day?  There are many places to feel the gods and their powers. I suspect that if you don’t hear a god, you might connect with a landvaettir, which might be just as rewarding.  My point is that our gods seldom look to contact us, unless we open ourselves for that contact.  That’s why I recommend keeping yourself open and aware.  You just might connect with a god or goddess.  Maybe not the one you intended to connect with, but one that you need to hear from.


*Actually our attention span is less than nine seconds, which is less than a goldfish’s attention span.

Rokkatru — Or the Other Side of Asatru

Rokkatru — Or the Other Side of Asatru

I read a post over on Huginn’s Heathen Hof and that made me think about Rokkatru, that is, the worship of the Jotunn and other denizens which are not part of the Aesir or the Vanir.  I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit, since once of my gods is the goddess Skadi, who has been included in the Rokkatru faith.  For this reason, I’d like to explore the Rokkatru side of Heathenry and whether it fits in with Heathenry….READ MORE of my PREMIUM CONTENT for Just $1.

Wiccatru — Or Should We Take Another Look at the Other Pagans?

Wiccatru — Or Should We Take Another Look at the Other Pagans?

I ran across this rather interesting post on Patheos entitled Wicca: A New Major Religion, and yeah, it got me thinking.  If Wicca could be considered a major religion, are we doing Heathenism a genuine disservice by not occasionally courting it?  Here are my thoughts and why we may want to consider a bigger tent when it comes to our religion.

The Article and Why the Numbers Might Be Important

If anything, the article reaffirmed my belief in the big tent model when it comes to Heathenism.  If the numbers are correct (and I suspect they might be), we need to treat our pagan brethren with a little more respect.  The tl;dr version is that Wicca may have, by low estimates, around 2 million practitioners in the United States, making it the third largest religion in the US, after Judaism.   (Atheists and agnostics make up a larger percentage than Judaism, but since they are not a religion, they aren’t factored in.)  Now granted, when compared to more that 300 million people, that may not seem like many, but the reality is that 2 million votes can sway an election quite handily.  Which brings us to Heathenism.

Heathenism by the Numbers

I’m not going to tell you that the numbers I give you are definitive. For one thing, no one has done a completely accurate census and counted every single Heathen on the planet.  The current census counts were done on a strictly volunteer basis and most required some sort of participation in social media.  That being said, the Norse Mythology Blog came up with a number 16,700 in 2013. This seems a little low to me, undoubtedly because I suspect that some Heathens, for whatever reasons, don’t bother answering polls.  I suspect the number is bigger because the piece I wrote, The Gods are Not Your Bitches, got a whopping 13,062 views.  Now, granted, some folks may have gone back and reread it, and some folks may have read it who were not Heathen, but the idea that one of my posts reached nearly all Heathens is ludicrous.

I’ve seen likes on various Heathen groups on the web, and have seen numbers in the 60K to 100K.  That to me seems more likely with a guessimation of maybe 150K to 200K total Heathens in the world at the top end, when you count crossovers from Wiccans and goosestepping moron Odinist Nazis.

Why We Need to Ally Ourselves with the Wiccans, or My Big Tent Belief

So, for argument sake, let’s say we have about 100K to 200K Heathens worldwide.  Personally, I think it is around 100,000, but let’s go with that bigger number, for argument sake.  That means that we maybe have a tenth of the numbers Wiccans have, if Wiccans have a conservative 2 million in the United States alone.  And our numbers are worldwide, not the United States, alone.  So, we have 2 million people who could easily be on our side because they’re polytheistic.  Granted, they worship all sorts of gods and goddesses, but the reality is that they could strengthen Heathenism if we let them.

I’ve proposed this big tent belief in an earlier post which has met with some derision from the recon segment. Wiccans are not our enemies here.  In fact, you’re likely to find allies from Wiccans who worship Freyja and Freyr, or any of our other gods and goddesses.  We can find more Heathens there who will help us politically when it comes to issues we have.  Plus, if we’re inclusive, we have a lot more Heathens who can help shape Heathenry.

To Those Who Want to Exclude Wiccans

Those who want to exclude Wiccans, even though they worship our gods, are being shortsighted.  Heathenry should be open to bringing in others, not just those who are willing to do the homework and speak the gibberish some Heathens do. We need the Lokeans, the Rokkatru, and yes, even the Wiccatru.

Why?  you may ask.

Do you really want Heathenry to stay small?  Do you really want it to be taken over by racists?  Do you really think it’s a good idea to stay exclusive and not inclusive?  Look at the Wiccans.  They really don’t have a lot of dogma, and thus have big numbers.  Maybe Heathenry could learn something from Wiccans.  And Hels bells, I don’t even believe in magic.

I’m Not Eating Your Word Salad

I’m Not Eating Your Word Salad

This is a bitch session.  Get over it.

One thing I really have issues with is the need by certain Heathen “scholars” to use pretentious words.   You know whence I speak.  We’re talking arch-heathens, thew, frith, grith, innangard, praxi, and whatever other words they’ve come up with. They may be saying something important, but their need to come up with fanciful wordage just kills me.  It’s word salad, plain and simple.  And it needs to go away.

Arch-Heathen Circle-Jerking

I’m sure you’ve read other people’s blogs and know exactly what I mean. It’s like the writer fell in love with the mishmash of terms and threw them together in some sagely sounding bout of verbal diarrhea.  The ideas aren’t particularly complex, but the writer has decided that obfuscation is better than writing clearly.  What’s more, because they’re using those oh-so-big words, they’re sure they sound extra important, even if most of the audience doesn’t understand them.

Most of the time I look at what they say and groan.  Dudes, you are not sounding intelligent.  You’re sounding pretentious as Hel. It’s like an arch-Heathen circle jerk. The moment you start throwing this crap at me, I dodge and split.  I have other things to do with my time.

You’re Not Faulkner, and Certainly Not Hemingway

William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway were literary opposites to the point where they insulted each other frequently. Hemingway was a reporter and knew how to write.  Faulkner went through the dictionary, hoping to send his readers there. (I’m more of a Hemingway fan than a Faulkner fan.)

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” — Faulkner on Hemingway.

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” — Hemingway on Faulkner.

The truth is those Heathens who think they’re sounding smart actually sound like my dog when she barfs.  They aren’t Faulkner, and they sure as shit aren’t Hemingway.

Ignoring the Basic Beauty of Anglo-Saxon

What I find odd is these so-called scholars have ignored the basics of the Anglo-Saxon language.  Most of the simpler words we use today are from Anglo-Saxon.  The big, ostentatious words are usually Latin-derived. Occasionally, they use archaic words borrowed from Old English or German. Aren’t there better, easier to understand words available?

As a professional writer, it’s my duty to write for maximum comprehension.  That means I write clearly so most people can read what I write. If I try to sound collegiate, it takes away the writing’s clarity.

Most of these people writing word salad aren’t scholars or writers. I have a Masters degree and a Masters certificate, which at least puts me in the post graduate league. I’ve studied Latin and Anglo Saxon in college.  And I am a professional writer with more books published than many of you have in number of years.  So, I think I’ve got a sufficient reason to gripe. Many who talk the talk are amateurs; albeit, some are talented ones.  They don’t have the necessary training in logical thinking or deduction. The moment they start with the word salad, I know whom I am dealing with. And it ain’t pretty.

You Have to Wonder…

Part of me wonders if maybe the lofty, lurid, purple prose is an intentional subterfuge.  After all, if people don’t know what in the Hel you’re saying, it’s hard for them to dispute it.  And if it sounds lofty, then doesn’t it make sense that some people might like to parrot it? Hmm…Got to wonder about it.

As a follower of Tyr, I know that what I say doesn’t make me popular with some people.  But just once I’d like for all the word salad junkies to step back and speak plainly.  Who knows?  You might actually win a convert in The Rational Heathen.

(Nah…)

Are You Genuine? Heathenry as an Adult Choice

Are You Genuine? Heathenry as an Adult Choice

Saturday I went down to the food bank to drop off some eggs from my chickens. They had been
laying up a storm and there was no way for me to use them all up or sell them before they went bad.  So, I went to one of the many food banks we have in the town nearby and dropped them off.

Eggs and Christians

It happens that this is a food bank run by Christians.  You go in there and chances are you’ll hear some talk about Jesus.  I expect that.  But what I didn’t expect to hear was one of the folks saying that they were helping the poor “because they love Jesus.”

I almost asked, “Would you still do this if Jesus didn’t exist?”  But I didn’t feel like taunting the people who were helping me out.  After all, I was under their roof.  But it did get me thinking.  Would these people really operate a food bank and help the poor if their god didn’t promise some sort of reward, i.e. eternal salvation, for it?

This is the problem with being a follower of Tyr.  You get lots of uncomfortable and unpopular ideas.

Are They Giving Because it’s the Right Thing to do?

To me, the whole idea of helping the poor because they expect a reward in return seemed disingenuous.  I mean if you’re helping the poor because your god commands it and not because you genuinely care about other human beings, you’re basically a fraud. Granted, you’re a fraud doing good work, but you’re expecting something instead of being as altruistic as you claim to be.  Now, one can argue with me that the motivations really don’t matter; it’s the actual act of providing food to poor people that makes the difference.  And you’d be right to a certain extent, because people can’t eat intentions. People eat food. But by the same token, it helps to understand what the motives are because it may be the difference between feeding people and not.

My Intentions aren’t Pure, Either

I’m not saying my intentions are lofty. To be brutally honest, I had too many eggs and I hate to see them wasted.  I also will take a tax write off, if I can find the slip they filled out for me. I suppose I could have used the eggs to feed my dogs or even thrown them out, but as I said, I hate wasting things and if I can’t use the eggs, I’ll give them to people who will use them. But I don’t expect an eternal reward over just being nice to other people.   I suppose one could argue that I am helping those within my “tribe,” and I am just offering help to those in need. 

Ethics of Reciprocity (or the Golden Rule)

No doubt you’ve heard Jesus’s proclamation to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  That “Golden Rule” is actual a version of Ethics of Reciprocity and all religions generally have their own versions. Even ours.  We should treat people the way we want to be treated. (Or don’t be an asshole.) The reason is pretty clear–if everyone is nice to others, we all get along.  Look at the way we’re told to treat travelers: we are to open our homes and treat them well. We hope to have that same treatment should we travel.  In earlier times, those who traveled needed hospitality in a dangerous world. While our world isn’t quite as dangerous (at least in developed countries), hospitality in a strange place is welcome.  It is a form of Ethics of Reciprocity.

Which Came First: the Christian or the Eggs?

Getting back to the whole Christian thing, I really had to wonder what kind of people I was dealing with.  If these people did acts of kindness only because their god commanded it, what kind of people did that make them? Would they act another way if their god didn’t tell them to behave?  And what if they found out I was Heathen and not Christian?  Would they change their behavior after finding out?

There are other food banks around town, some run by Christians and some that are simply nonprofit without any religious affiliation. It happens that I was in town on a day when the Christian food bank was open and the unaffiliated food bank was closed.  To me, it didn’t really matter what the affiliation was as long as it went to someone who could use them, but you see, the unaffiliated food bank volunteers didn’t necessarily work in the food bank because a god dictated it.

Heathenry as an Adult Choice

One of the things I like about Heathenry is the lack of divine handouts of rewards and punishments. We really don’t have a code of conduct that commands us to behave, although the Havamal highly recommends certain behaviors. It makes sense that our gods want us to act like adults, rather than kids who need to be afraid of a punishment if we don’t behave.  Adults usually don’t expect gold stars when they do something nice, nor they expect external damnation for being shits. Now, if we break the law, there are certainly punishments, and there are certainly consequences to our actions, but that is usually handled within our interactions with other people. You act like a shit and people will behave negatively toward you. You behave and act nice, people are more likely to be positive.

I guess the upshot to this very long–and getting longer–post is that Saturday I got a really good look at the differences between Christianity and Heathenry– besides just the monotheistic versus polytheistic mindset. As a follower of Tyr, I’m pretty transparent in my motivations; Christians, however, do nice things because they’re earning brownie points with their god (assuming he exists). While heathens can be sneaky and crafty, one of our big no-nos is breaking oaths.  Christians, however, have a whole slew of commandments where many believe if they just believe in Jesus, they will be forgiven.  Their commandment to not “bear false witness against thy neighbor” generally means to not lie, but oaths seem to not exist, except perhaps in marriage.  And those can evaporate into thin air with divorces and annulments.

Perhaps it’s a matter of being genuine. I spend each day trying to live honestly, so when I see duplicity, it sort of gets on my nerves.  It’s that Tyr thing again. 

Has Religion become Irrelevant?

Has Religion become Irrelevant?

Has religion become irrelevant? This is an odd question for a Heathen to ask others who believe in our gods, but it is a serious question.  Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time are probably rolling your eyes and sighing because I came from fairly agnostic to almost atheist beliefs, only to be yanked into Heathenry by a few gods.  Don’t get your panties in a wad; I still consider myself a Heathen.  But this question of Has religion become irrelevant? echoes this pronouncement by the National Geographic.  So, like most things that I write, I’m going to be trodding on some toes here.

The Fastest Growing “Religion”

The fastest growing religion in developed countries isn’t a religion at all. It’s what those wankers who compile statistics refer to as “nones.”  The “nones” are those without a religious affiliation, i.e., agnostics, atheists, and those who just don’t care. They’re such a growing force that they’re considered the second largest “religious” affiliation in half the nations around the world, including the United States, the bastion of Christianity.

It’s not surprising that some underdeveloped countries and former communist countries have had an increase in religion, but overall in developed countries, religion isn’t growing.  If there’s good news to be had by the pagan religions, the non-Christian faiths have grown 1.2 percent in the United States.  That’s pretty small in my book, when you consider all non-Christian faiths make up a little under 6 percent in this country.  However, we’re looking at nearly 71 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian in some way.

Why People Don’t Believe

I read through the article and it had some interesting points. People are quick to point to science as the reason more people are leaving the churches, and they’re not entirely wrong.  As science is able to provide answers, it becomes apparent that those things that people long ago thought were miracles or impossible are actually quite explainable.  But although science had a lot to do with secularism, the ability for the skeptic to meet with other skeptics online and in person helps solidify the feelings of there being no god or gods is probably a stronger pull. After all, people usually feel closer to their gods when they are together and praying than alone. (I said usually.) It helps to have people who believe the same things you do around to strengthen your beliefs (or lack thereof). The other reason for lack of belief has to do with education. The more educated you are, the less likely you’ll believe in a deity or deities. (This isn’t to say that highly educated people don’t believe in a god or gods.  This simple shows that there is a correlation between education and atheism.)

Science, Dammit!

I talk quite a bit about science, and quite honestly, I tend to accept scientific explanations over things that are often called supernatural.  Too often people make up stories about things and they’re retold as fact, but the reality is that without critical thinking and scientific proof, it’s just old wives’ tales and urban legends.

As science and technology continue to advance, less and less natural phenomena is ascribed to the supernatural. The Earth revolves around the sun.  We do not have a sun which has a tangible chariot being driven by Sunna across the sky, nor is the moon carried in a physical chariot across the sky driven by Mani.  The sun and moon appear to move across the sky because of the rotation of the Earth. But neither are fixed.  The moon rotates around the Earth, and the sun is moving and dragging us along in the Sagittarius Arm at 45,000 miles per hour.

Does Religion and Science Conflict?

It’s easy with the talk of science to discount religion in its entirety. Religion was often used to answer the tough questions of the universe: How did we get here? How was the earth made? In much earlier times, people told stories to explain how these things happened.  They weren’t accurate or factual, but they were satisfying stories and were told by people to others in a way to understand the world around them. 

Logic and reasoning gradually took hold.  As we searched for answers, we eventually came up with theories that fit the overall evidence that we found. As our methods and testing became more advanced, we could actually accept the theories as fact, or near fact.  Stories about Odin and his brothers forming humans from trees are interesting, but we know from archaeology that humans evolved over millions of years to what we are now.

Religion and science often clashed over dogma, especially when the Roman Catholic Church held power. Heretics were often excommunicated, or worse. But facts are facts. People can claim that the world is flat all they want, but because the world is really round, eventually the truth wins out.

Is Religion Relevant?

So, the question remains is if religion is still relevant when we have science to explain nature and the physical laws of the universe. More and more religion has taken to explaining what is in the gaps rather than coincide with what we know is true.  Known as the “god of the gaps” or divine fallacy among atheists, many religious types use that as a reason for why their god(s) exist. It goes something like, “well we don’t know what started the big bang, therefore the Christian God  (or name your favorite creator god, i.e., Yahweh, Odin, Atum, Vishnu, etc) must have created it.”  It’s a fallacy because it assumes that we won’t find an answer.

If we take our myths at face value, we can say with certainty that they are wrong. The gods didn’t carve humans from trees; the Earth isn’t the bones and body of some frost giant named Ymir.  But if we take them at a metaphorical level, we begin to see the mindset and even the understanding of our ancestors and recognize certain elements in them that science postulates is true.

Let’s look at another religion, for the sake of argument. The number of miracles the Christian god has performed has decreased rapidly with the advent of cameras.  When multiple people can record video on their cellphones, it’s hard to claim supernatural occurrences.  Those who do are highly suspect due to clever video editing. They often use pseudo-science to back up claims. In other words, I suspect a large portion of their magic is just fallacy, wishful thinking, and outright falsehoods.

I use the Christian god as an example because so many in the United States call themselves Christian, but the statement holds true for pagans in general. I haven’t seen any of the M-word* that convinces me that it truly exists that can’t be rationally explained through science in some fashion.  (Granted it may be in areas such as quantum physics, but it may be able to be explained.)

That being said, I’ve experienced enough weird shit as a Heathen that hasn’t been captured on video because I don’t go around with a cellphone taking video of everything I see.  Even if I did, it happen so fleetingly that I couldn’t have picked up my phone fast enough to capture it. Some isn’t visual. Some happens in my head and my dreams.  

I suspect religion and our belief system will remain relevant largely because we’re human, and we may not be able to know everything there is out there. Even if science figures out everything about our universe, there are other dimensions and other universes out there, if one is to believe in the multiverse. If there is just one universe but it is infinite, then there is even more weirdness that we can’t possibly wrap our heads around because it is bigger than we can ever reach in billions of lifetimes.

The TL;DR Takeaway

Gods, if you’ve gotten this far on this post, I must thank you.  If you’ve skipped everything I said above, go back and read it.

So, what do I think?  I believe that the gods and probably religion will remain relevant as long as we are human. They may morph over time and may just become metaphors, or they may grow with our knowledge.

At this time, I’m willing to accept that there are other beings, more powerful than ourselves, who either set in motion the creation of our Universe, or are manifestations of the very forces they wield. We know that string theory insists that there are at least 10 dimensions, and maybe more.  Who knows what is hiding in those areas we can’t see?

Yeah, maybe it is the god of the gaps fallacy written large. But all I know was I was willing to stand by my agnosticism until Tyr and Thor pulled me into Heathenry.  At some point, you’ve got to make a decision about your beliefs.  I know I did.

*M-word = magic

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