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Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

11.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

12.
Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

13.
A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

14.
Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?

Runecasting and the M- Word

Runecasting and the M- Word

I really hate the M- word.  It suddenly puts Heathenry into the realm of Wiccan and other m(agic) based beliefs. It suggests that there isn’t a good reason why something happened.  And for the Rational Heathen, that drives me batty.

I’ve been accused in the past of being atheistic because I waffle on certain elements of our beliefs.  And yet, there are plenty of nonbelievers in the ranks of heathens, who don’t necessarily believe in the gods as people, but still wish to preserve the old ways.  And yet, I have had more encounters with our gods, and even the wights, than some of the staunch believers have.

Go figure.

About Runecasting

So, when I talk about runecasting, understand that this is my interpretation of it.  It isn’t necessarily the only way to do it.  It’s not even the right way.  But it is my way and if you can learn some things from my methods, then terrific.

Before I get started on this, I don’t consider myself an expert in the runes. I know the Elder Futhark and I cast those runes. There are other runes that are equally valuable such as the Younger Futhark, the Anglo Saxon runes, and others.  None of them are inferior.  But unless you make yourself a set, or find someone who makes these runes, chances are the runes you’ll pick up are Elder Futhark.  Which is okay.  There’s a lot more written about them than the other runes, anyway.

How I Got into Runecasting

My sister (who, weirdly enough is a devout Christian), gave me Ralph Blum’s Book on runes when it first came out when I was in junior high or high school (yeah, it was that long ago).  I dinked around with them throughout high school and college, not knowing what the Hel I was doing.  Even so, the runes had a tendency to give me consistent, true readings. As I started reading other rune material, I outlined the rules in my own mind, what the runes meant, and how to runecast.  Even now, I follow these rules when I do a runecast.

It works for me.  It may not work for you.

My Rules to Runecasting

These are my rules when it comes to runecasting.  Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), and you probably have a method that suits you.

Choose Runes that Speak to You

I’m not talking about actual speech here.  I’m talking about what feels right in your hands.  I have probably around 10 rune sets, some which I do not like or connect with.  There’s one runeset, a runeset made from hematite, that feels right in my hands. I have one runeset I totally despise that is a card runeset (similar to Tarot) that I picked up because I thought it would be different.  (Boy howdy, it was.)  I’ve been ambivalent on some wooden runes I bought. I don’t know the wood and they don’t seem to have a connection to me.  So, I don’t use them.  YMMV.  Again.

Abandon Conventional Tarot Wisdom

Don’t treat the runes as though they were Tarot cards (they’re not).  That means there is no merkstave (upside down) readings.  We have enough negative implications with some of the runes, depending on how you read them. The rune, whether you pull it out upside down or sideways, or whatever, is the rune.  However, can you read a different interpretation with an upside down rune?  You can do what you like.  I think it’s incorrect, but hey, that’s my interpretation.  Again, YMMV.

Abandon the Blank Rune

This is clearly a Ralph Blum invention, although someone might call me on this and tell me somewhere in yada…yada… lore someone used one.  Pertho is more the unknown rune, so we use that.  Someone always says to use it as a spare.  For the life of me, I don’t know how I would cut into the hematite to replace a lost stone.  I’d probably just rob a stone from another set.

Read Right to Left

Okay, I’m sure there’s no real cause for this other than learning it this way.  You can read anyway you want, as long as you have the rules settled in your mind and with the runes.

Read as Much as You can on Interpretations

This seems a no-brainer, but I would argue that you need to read as much as you can on the various interpretations of a particular rune. Even when I think I’m settled on an interpretation, I’ll get an odd reading that causes me to go back to the books.

How I Believe the Runes Work

I’m avoiding the M-word when it comes to runes, because I sincerely don’t believe in magic.  I suspect how they work is that they tap into our subconscious which pays far more attention to the world than our conscious selves. I remember having the runes come up with a positive outcome to a particularly difficult time in my life and later discussing them with a physicist friend of mine. He thought they worked because they offered only general interpretation that could fit any circumstance, and yet, I’ve hit the nail on the head more times with runes than not. So, if there’s something else going on, I suspect it’s largely subconscious.  But occasionally I’ve seen the gods intervene in the runes, which suggest maybe they have a hand in tipping the scales, subconsciously, or through quantum means.

Remember what I’ve quoted Arthur C. Clarke so many times about technology being indistinguishable from magic?

Next week, I’ll do a sample rune reading…